Venice a metropolis in Northern Italy and being the capital of the part of Veneto has been known as “ La Dominante ” , “ City of Bridges ” . It is no admiration why Luigi Barzini described Venice as “ doubtless the most beautiful metropolis built by adult male [ 1 ] ” .

During the Middle-Ages and Renaissance, the Republic was a dominant maritime power, a staging country for Crusade and the Battle of Lepanto every bit good a commercial Centre and art till the 17thC. It is besides celebrated for musicals peculiarly operatic history. Venetian rules in the 16thC included a big country of the north Italian field the Dalmatian and a figure of eastern Mediterranean islands. A little mainland country bordering the Lagoon was the Dogado but the remaining of north Italian districts went under the corporate name of Terraferma.

As stated before, Renaissance literature began in Italy during the 15thC from where it started distributing around Europe. Renaissance impact varied across the continent and its thoughts influenced the Hagiographas of the clip such as the plant of William Shakespeare. However to detect how a drama creates an experience for the audience, one of the elements that should be remarked is the scene. Sing where and when the drama takes topographic point, is necessary to understand better the drama. Possibly this was the ground why Shakespeare chose Verona, Italy as it likely helped the audience to understand more his dramas.


William Shakespeare was an English poet and a dramatist ; in fact he produced several plants such as calamities, comedies, tragicomedies. His dramas remained really popular boulder clay this twenty-four hours and are reinterpreted in the diverse civilization and different political contexts throughout the universe. Two of the dramas which I will be diging in are “ The Merchant of Venice ” and “ Othello ” , both of which are per se related to Renaissance Venetian society.

Get downing with “ The Merchant of Venice ” which hence is a 16thC drama, its scenes are in Venice and Belmont from where the latter is a abode merely outside the metropolis. It is an of import drama since it is one of his chief comedies. However some bookmans province that this drama is besides one of his calamities.

Meanwhile “ Othello ” is set at the clip of wars between Venice and Turkey in late 16thC. In the class of the 16thC Venice ‘s Dalmatian ownerships were capable to Turkish invasion. The Republic possessed 2 imperiums: one maritime and the other territorial ( in the mainland ) . Of the eastern Mediterranean islands, the most of import were Crete and Cyprus, holding rich maize while being wine and sugar manufacturers. Cyprus nevertheless was lost to the Turks in 1570. Shakespeare views the events as tragic since the matrimony between Desdemona and Othello is viewed as baronial and heroic.

One of the best things about authorship is unlocking the characters that dwell in your head [ 2 ] and this is the instance in point that the major characters in both dramas had a peculiar motive since their major subjects were really likely to Venice ‘s clip during the Renaissance period.

Fictional characters analysis

Othello is the General of the Army in Venice. The Venetian authorities trusts Othello plenty to set him in full Martial and political bid of Cyprus ; so, in his deceasing address, Othello reminds the Venetians of the “ service ” he has done their province ( Act 5, S 2, 348 ) [ 3 ] . Roderigo ( Venetian gentleman ) and Iago ( Othello ‘s Ensign ) refer to Othello as “ he ” or “ him ” , they do so with racial appellation and name him names such as “ the Moor ” ( Act1 S 1, 57 ) , “ the thick-lips ” ( Act 1, S 1, 66 ) , “ an old black random-access memory ” ( Act 1, S 1, 88 ) , and “ a Barbary Equus caballus ” ( Act 1, S 1, 113 ) . These descriptions to Othello do him cold and surely non wish able to a individual like him. He is a well-liked individual but non respected when it comes for his foreign roots. Othello when going a general moves to Cyprus after get marrieding the white girl of a Venetian senator-Desdemona. He is honorable and thinks that people are honest excessively but in instance for Iago he manipulates Othello as the latter Michigans swearing Desdemona when he finally kills her.

Shylock is the successful Judaic money loaner in Venice:

“ I am a Jew Hath non a Jew eyes? Hath non a Jew custodies, variety meats dimensions, senses, fondnesss, passions ; fed with the same nutrient, injury with the same arms, capable to the same diseases, heal ‘d by the same means warm ‘d and cool ‘d by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we non shed blood? If you tickle us, do we non laugh? If you poison us, do we non decease? And if you wrong us, shall we non avenge? ” ( Act 2, S 1, 58 ) .

Shylock ‘s character is villain from his really start of his being ; this is revealed through the inhuman treatment he reveals upon Christians. He is the loan shark who detests Antonio as he took advantage of Bassanio ‘s point of view by demanding him to accept the loan by allowing to cut from Antonio “ a lb of flesh ” . He is rough with the intervention he received from Antonio and as a cause he wants him dead.

Antonio is instead a sad character in fact he appears in as hopeless who can non call the cause of his melancholy and this throughout the drama devolves into a self-pitying ball:

“ I hold the universe but as the universe, Gratiano, A phase, where every adult male must play a portion, And mine a sad 1 ” ( Act I, S 1, 78-79 ) .

This grounds points out his position of love where the deficiency of a girlfriend or a household shows he is lone. Antonio is best friend with Bassanio:

“ Your worth is really beloved in my respect. I take it your ain concern calls on you, And you embrace the juncture to go ” ( Act I, S 1, 62-64 ) who supports him with loans. Antonio is a Venetian merchandiser who traded overseas yet he is obliged to accept the loan from Shylock ( Judaic money loaner ) . Antonio is left without money as his ships were destroyed in the English Channel and therefore he was left without money to pay Shylock:

“ Pray God Bassanio come, To see me pay his debt, and so I care non ” ( Act 3, S 3, 35-36 ) .

Antonio seems more likely to stop his life but so Portia intermediates by actioning Venice ‘s jurisprudence and Antonio ‘s life is saved while turning the tabular arraies on Shylock. Besides Antonio is determined to offer a lb of his flesh. Antonio terminates the drama full of felicity, restored back to wealth even if non delivered into love. Without a mate, he is so the “ tainted wether ” -or castrated ram-of the flock, and he will probably return to his favourite interest of moping about the streets of Venice ( Act 4, S 1, 113 ) [ 4 ] .

He undermines himself from prosecuting his other avocation of mistreating Shylock on take a firm standing that the Jew convert to Christianity.

Themes related to Venice ‘s society

The Merchant of Venice depends greatly on regulations and Torahs, evidently these were the Torahs of the Venetian province and the fixed regulations sing volitions and contracts. Laws and regulations can be manipulated for average intents but they can bring forth good when exercised by the right people. Portia ‘s inexplicit caging by the three coffins works absolutely in the terminal since the 1 who chooses the right coffin will win Portia ‘s manus. In fact Bassanio chooses the right coffin and this is an indicant that the pick is more an index of human nature than any individual could of all time supply. This is likewise to the jurisprudence in Venice where Shylock is the jurisprudence ‘s strictest disciple, and it seems as if the metropolis ‘s attachment to contracts will ensue in calamity [ 5 ] . But every bit shortly as Portia arrives she manipulates the jurisprudence from where Antonio is saved while Shylock had to abandon his faith. Everyone expected Shylock to demo clemency, throughout the test he asks even Portia what could compel him to demo clemency, and Portia replies “ The quality of clemency is non strained, ” clarifies what is at interest in the statement ( Act 4, S 1, 179 ) . This meant that clemency is superior to holding power or jurisprudence. What Portia promotes is a pro-Christian and anti-Jewish docket. Renaissance play in this instance shows how the character of Shylock demanded to be a scoundrel and incapable to demo compassion.

This is besides in comparing with Shylock ‘s demand in holding a “ lb of flesh ” from Antonio which seeks the attending of Shylock ‘s stiff obeisance to jurisprudence. This lb of flesh is important to Shylock ‘s soundness of the universe he lives in. He is a Jew, a money-lender therefore since money is numerical computations he demands “ for a lb in exchange for his three 1000 ducats ” [ 6 ] . The qualities of a Jew are truly apparent in Shylock by his numerical measures.

During the era of Elizabeth I, English society was seen as anti-semitic. This is due to the fact the English Jews which were barred during the Middle-Ages were non allowed to return back. The Jews description in the drama depicts really good the manner Jews in Renaissance Venice were portrayed. These Jews were seen as covetous loan sharks when it comes to money as they were evil and greedy. Similarly in Venice and other topographic points, Jews were obliged to have on a ruddy chapeau, bright ruddy wigs whenever they found themselves in pubic in order to be identified and if they did the reverse they had to confront a decease punishment. Not merely, Jews had to populate in ghetto confined by the Christians which was a shelter for Hebrews and were likely to pay their guards. Since Shylock was non a Christian but a Jew, Shakespeare lacked clemency and showed he is a vindictive Jew.

It is claimed that the Moorish Ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun was an inspiration for the drama Othello. There is n’t any understanding sing Othello ‘s racial classification but the latter ‘s character was as a black individual. In fact in English Literature Renaissance, Othello was referred to as the “ Moor ” as he was a colored adult male. Besides, his friend Iago used for twice the word “ Barbary ” or “ Barbarian ” as a mention to Othello from where seemingly referred to the Barbary Coast which was occupied by the “ tawny Moors ” . In Renaissance Venice, these types of Moors existed and this is a clear illustration with the supporter Othello. One can advert besides the fact that these Moors were insulted merely for the fact of their midst lips which hence indicates the biass of European constructs of Sub-saharan African animalism. In add-on, Honigmann inquiries whether the embassador of the Arab King of Barbary, who stayed with his cortege in London in 1600 for several months and occasioned much treatment, might hold inspired Shakespeare ‘s drama, written merely a few old ages afterwards [ 7 ] .

The unsimilarity between Christian characters and Shylock is that the former value human dealingss while the others have an involvement in money devising. The Jew money-lender Shylock agonizes over the loss of money in fact he says he will run through the streets shouting: “ O, my girl! O, my ducats! O, my girl! ” ( Act 2, S 8, 15 ) . It appears that Shylock values more his money than his girl Jessica. There is a signifier of reasoning between Christians and Jews in Venetian society which is present in “ The Merchant of Venice ” drama where Shylock fluently expresses that Jews are similar Christians as they are both human existences but Antonio who is a Christian hatreds Jews simply because they are Hebrews:

“ If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humbleness? Revenge. If a Christian wrong, A Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian illustration? Why retaliation. The villainousness you teach me, I will put to death, and it shall travel difficult but I will break the direction ” . ( Act 3, S 1, 68 )

Antonio ‘s character in “ The Merchant of Venice ” though non a Jew traded overseas. This trading was common peculiarly with Jews because their part in trade was important to Venetian society. It has been by and large accepted that the Jews played an active portion in the abroad commercialism of Venice during the 12th and 13thCs, that they were present in the metropolis non merely as transients but besides as occupants. Levantine Jews with Sephardic traditions moved into Ghetto Vecchio in 1541 while the Spanish and Lusitanian Jews besides came to Venice in the late sixteenth century. The latter formed the wealthiest and comfortable community amongst the ghetto. Once traveling to Venice, several Marranos such as Spanish and Lusitanian Jews became “ Judaic ” once more. By the mid-1600s, Venice ‘s foreign trade was under Judaic custodies. The Sephardic groups gained influence and wealth in the Venetian economic system.


In both of Shakespeare ‘s dramas “ Othello ” and “ The Merchant of Venice ” , there are several cases where colored and non-Christian characters are marginalized and which are frequently depicted as victims of bias and absolute racism. This case peculiarly occurred through the usage of linguistic communication. What is amazing is the fact that the evident subjects in both dramas in the characters of Othello and Shylock are seen as sympathetic despite the fact that the other characters attribute Judaic people as being greedy and hence heartless while Moors as barbarians and brutal.

Venice was ever looked upon as a theoretical account ideal metropolis province of political and societal economical stableness in in-between ages. It was one of the flourished during the 16thC. This thought is being looked upon as a theoretical account, as a metropolis with political and societal mobility in the myth of Venice. Therefore the Republic showed that Venice demonstrated a alone capacity for endurance. The use of racial forms in both dramas leave infinite for the reader to conceive of the Venetian epoch through such characters.

  1. Barzini, Luigi, The New York Times, The Most Beautiful City in the World [ online ] , hypertext transfer protocol: // res=950CE5DD1038F933A05756C0A964948260 & A ; sec= & A ; spon= & A ; pagewanted=2 ( Last Updated on 30th May 1982, Date Accessed on 2nd December 2009 )
  2. Kirchoff, Christine, Character Profiles [ online ] hypertext transfer protocol: // ( Date Accessed on 16th December 2009 )
  3. Spark Notes, Analysis of Major Characters – Othello [ online ] hypertext transfer protocol: // ( Date Accessed on 16th December 2009 )
  4. Ibid.
  5. Spark Notes, Themes, Motifs & A ; Symbols – The Merchant of Venice [ online ] hypertext transfer protocol: // ( Date Accessed on 17th December 2009 )
  6. Ibid.
  7. Wikipedia, Othello [ online ] hypertext transfer protocol: // ( Date Accessed on 17th December 2009 )