English 366C, Section F01: Shakespeare's Comedies and Romances   >   The Merchant of Venice   >   Notes (2) To the previous page To the next page

The Merchant: Notes (2)

A Balance of Opposites: Venice and Belmont

Compare the structures of the earlier comedies in the course: the Shrew (two plots, two places without much differentiation); the Dream (a Blackforest cake of layers intermingled, the city of Athens and the darker green world of the forest); and Much Ado, with two plots closely intertwined, but a single consistent setting. The Merchant is structured with two plots and two sharply differented locales: Venice and Belmont.

The binary structure. . . is fairly obvious: mercy--justice; revenge--love; Jew--Gentile; the value of money--the value of relationship. And, indeed, as if to confirm this design, the play is just as obviously built up in sets of linked yet opposed pairs. (Patrick Grant)

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This page last updated on 8 October 2002. © Michael Best, 2002.