In our edition of the Merchant of Venice, we aim to show the various contrasts between Venice and Belmont. Shakespeare uses Venice as an alternative social setting, where everything from relationships to the physical organization of the city is subject to contract, order, and law. We showcase this by inserting standardized and accessible formatting for the exchange between Shylock and Bassanio. Shylock, Bassanio, and Antonio are given the same editorial treatment, and the color of their names represents the complexity of the bond between them. Shylock, represented in blue, makes a bond with Antonio, red, to finance Bassanio's trip to Belmont. Antonio's grave misunderstanding of the "merry bond" foreshadows the bloody end that eventually catches up to him.
On the second half of the page, Belmont's grandiosity is portrayed through the neoclassical villa and lush green lawn. Textually, we aimed to emphasize the elevated status of the Portia as the Lady of Belmont and the Prince of Morocco as royalty by preserving the original spelling and punctuation. Morocco and Portia's speeches are double spaced to represent their freedom and leisurely lifestyle in comparison to the merchants of Venice.The stage directions are emphasized in gold and purple, the colors of wealth and royalty. Despite the beautiful backdrop, the pointed remarks about race reflect the underlying euro-centric conditions of social bonds in Shakespeare's plays, which is constant regardless of the physical location.
Enter Morochus a tawnie Moore all in white,6 and three or foure followers accordingly, with Portia, Nerrissa, and their traine.
Morocco Mislike me not for my complexion, 7
The shadowed liuerie of the burnisht sunne,
To whom I am a neighbour, and neere bred.
Bring me the fayrest creature North-ward borne,
Where Phaebus fire scarce thawes the ysicles,8
And let vs make incyzion for your loue,
To proue whose blood is reddest, his or mine.
I tell thee Lady this aspect of mine
Haue lou'd it to: I would not change this hue,
Except to steale your thoughts my gentle Queene.
Portia 9 In termes of choyse I am not soly led
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, B4v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Wendy Zhen and Maddie Peebles. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16). http://cacodemonshakespeare.com/comedies/merchant/b4v.
Barbari de', Jacopo. View of Venice. 1500, The British Museum, London.
Burckhardt, Sigurd. "The Merchant of Venice: The Gentle Bond." Shakespearean Meanings. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1968, pp.206-236. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt183pwv0.11. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.
Galery, Maria Clara. “Wonder, Ambivalence and Heterotopia: The City in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.” Aletria, vol. 28, no. 3, 2018, pp. 29–45. Alteria, https://periodicos.ufmg.br/index.php/aletria/article/view/18810/15772. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.
Harrington, Gary. “‘Shadowed Livery’: Morocco in The Merchant of Venice.” Linguaculture (Iași), vol. 2017, no. 1, 2017, pp. 53–62. DOAJ Directory of Open Access Journals, http://archive.sciendo.com/LINCU/lincu.2017.2017.issue-1/lincu-2017-0005/lincu-2017-0005.pdf. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.
- Antonio enters blindly into a covenant with Shylock because he fails to imagine that the revenge the usurer seeks isn't about money.
- Shylock's bond with Antonio is "merry" because it connects Venice with Belmont and allows the love between two couples flourish (Portia & Bassanio and Jessica & Lorenzo). It also echos the connection between money and fertility.
- Shylock lives in the Jewish ghetto of Venice. In "View of Venice," the Jewish ghetto can be seen at the far end of the island. The ghetto featured tight living conditions, in stark contrast to other spacious parts of the city such as St. Mark's Square, which can be seen at the forefront of the island.
- The anti-semitism in this line also points to the hypocrisy of Antonio and Bassanio. While Antonio and Bassanio consider themselves morally superior to Shylock, they are incredibly rude to him, admitting earlier in the play to spitting and demeaning Shylock. Yet, Shakespeare points out that Antonio and Bassanio associate Christianity with goodness, despite their awful behavior. The setting of Venice could very easily mirror that of London, reflecting the racism and anti-semitism of Shakespeare's audiences. It is possible that in highlighting this hypocrisy Shakespeare hoped to enlighten his audience to their own hypocrisy (Galery 30-31).
- A pun on "fair." Fair can either mean pale or unprejudiced.
- The white clothing is meant to contrast the Prince of Morocco's complexion. Race, even in a stage direction, takes center stage.
- This is the only time the iambic pentameter is broken on this page. The line is one syllable short, with nine syllables. The Prince is rushing in to his encounter with Portia and begins the interaction off-kilter. This alludes to a racial inferiority complex within the Prince. This introduction coupled with his own racial resentment "indicates that he has been conditioned by experience to anticipate mistreatment by white society" (Harrington 54).
- Morocco creates an association between Northern locations and coldness with this imagery of icicles. This is connection associates whiteness with a cold-shoulder.
- Portia name signifies her position as an intermediary between Venice and Belmont, a "port" which bridges the sea and the citadel. Portia is both beautiful and rich, therefore valuable and respected in Venice and Belmont. She embodies desirable bonds with both genders. (Burckhardt, 234)