The Merchant of Venice, A2v

Editorial note

In our reading we took a feminist, anti-capitalist approach by highlighting and annotating  language that refers to goods as women, and the link between ownership of goods and emotion. We looked at the ways in which the ship, gendered female, was spoken of as a woman, thus commenting on the objectification and ownership of women, and also how the loss of the contents within were linked by Solanio to sadness, linking emotions to capitalistic endeavors. However, we found that while Salarino, Solanio, and Gratiano link validity of feelings and relationships with monetary ventures, Antonio breaks this capitalistic mode through his depression that’s unrelated to either loving a woman (who, to his friends would be an object) or the loss of other objects.

The comicall Historie of

Vayling her1 high top lower then her ribs

To kisse her buriall; should I goe to Church

And see the holy edifice of stone

And not bethinke me straight of dangerous rocks,

which touching but my2gentle vessels side

would scatter all her spices on the streame,

Enrobe the roring waters with my silkes,

And in a word, but euen now worth this,

And now worth nothing. 3Shall I haue thought

To thinke on this, and shall I lack the thought

That such a hiring bechaunc'd would make me sad? 4

But tell not me, I know Anthonoio

Is sad to thinke vpon his5 merchandize.

     Anth. Beleeue me no, I thanke my fortune for it

My ventures are not in one bottome trusted,

Nor to one place; nor in my whole estate

Vpon the fortune of this present yeere:

Therefore my merchandize makes me not sad

     Sola. Why then you are in 6 loue

     Anth. Fie, fie.

     Sola. Not in loue neither: then let vs say you are sad

Because you are not merry; and twere as easie

For you to laugh and leape, and say you are merry

Because you are not sad. 7
Now by two-headed Ianus,

Nature hath framd strange fellowes in her time:

Some that will euermore peepe through their eyes,

And laugh like Parrats at a bagpyper.

And other of such vinegar aspect,

That theyle not shew theyr teeth in way of smile

Though Nestor sweare the iest be laughable. 8

Enter Bassanio, Lorenso, and Gratiano

     Sola. Here comes Bassanio your most noble kinsman.

     Gratiano, and Lorenso. Faryewell

We leaue you now with better company. 9

     Sala. I would haue staid till I had made you merry,

If worthier friends had not preuented me.

     Anth. Your worth is very deere in my regard. 10

Key:

Words of love/emotion

Words of value/money/goods

Words of feminization

Image credit: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library, copy G.176.16. The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. First Quarto. London: 1600.

Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, A2v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Mo Allen, Dayna Archer, and Hannah Levinson. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16). http://cacodemonshakespeare.com/comedies/merchant/a2v/.

Notes

  1. The passage starts by personifying the ship. The vessel is being compared to a woman, specifically by referring to her ribs. Throughout this passage, "her" is referring to the vessel.
  2. This can be compared to how men objectify women. The word "my" signifies possession. The vessel belongs to him just as women were seen as belonging to men. A woman's worth came from their relationship to men. Additionally, the word "gentle" is being used to describe the vessel. Women are also often characterized in this way. They are viewed as calm and subservient to men
  3. The gentleness is linked to value in terms of means of transporting goods, and this passage changes how emotion changes when value is lost
  4. Love and loss not being loss of romantic love, but loss of merchandise
  5. The word "his" again symbolizes possession. Anthonio has no personal connection or care for this merchandize aside from the monetary value that it brings him.  
  6. Love and the greed for wealth have the same effect on people and their emotions. Women toy with mens feelings, making them have irrational emotions, in Anthonio's case, sadness. The desire for wealth and power can also lead people too be irrational. If Anthonio's sadness is not related to his money, then it must be that he is in love because there is no other explanation for those emotions.
  7. Meaning gets complicated here in that Solanio equates emotion with value, so instead of sadness over the loss of loved merchandize, he assumes its sadness over a present unrequited love. However, Antonio complicates this by neither being in love nor sad about his loss of merchandize, thus disproving Solanio's views of capitalism and proving one can be depressed even as a rich merchant.
  8. Nature, here portrayedas a woman, makes act in 2 fashions--in one respect, some men will laugh when a joke isn't fully, and some won't even crack a smile even when a joke is proven to be funny. This comparison to the two-headed (and two-mooded) roman god Janus and comparison to something as sour as vinegar ties the idea of misguided emotions to feminization.
  9. Gratiano, Salarino, and Solanio all equate money with value, as shown in the language of friendship here.
  10. Potential double meaning here as dear can also mean expensive.