The Topic Of Marriage In The Merchant Of Venice

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What would happen in a marriage if there was a contract? If there was a contract present in a marriage they would be legally binded which makes them responsible for an obligation they have agreed to. These types of contracts are found in many ways from a 16th-century play called The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

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In The Merchant of Venice marriage is a sticky topic, as it’s interwoven with contracts. Disguised and spoken contracts are found in the marriages between Lorenzo & Jessica and Bassanio & Portia, yet it’s not evident that there was a contract between Shylock and his late wife Leah.

The reader might think Lorenzo and Jessica’s marriage is free of a contract. Their love story is like a fairytale as they eloped from Jessica’s cruel father Shylock. This relationship may seem like it does not have a contract, but their perfect relationship is bound with a disguised contract. While making plans to flee away from her cruel father Shylock, Lorenzo receives a letter from Jessica stating how she’s planning to run away and also explains that she will be stealing ducats and jewelry from her father. On meeting Jessica, Lorenzo declares his love to Jessica, who then implores him to ”Here, catch this casket; it is worth the pains.” this statement shows the reader that there is an exchange of salvation for money which is an unspoken deal.

In the play Belmont represents a place where matters of love and marriage take center place. Love in Belmont is considered divine, but it’s all a show. Portia and Bassanio’s love seems faultless, but Bassanio is under a contract such that if he picks the wrong casket in pursuit of Portia he will not be able to marry her and must forget about marriage in the future.”In belmont is a lady richly left,And she is fair, and, fairer than the word, Of wondrous virtues.” This tells the reader that Bassanio wants to marry Portia for her wealth and secondly for her beauty,as he mentions her richness before mentioning how beautiful she is. This proves that it’s not love at first sight, we would associate it with the fairytale land of belmont where love is supposed to be divine.”I pray you tarry, pause a day or two Before you hazard, for in choosing wrong I lose your company” this statement said by Portia proves to the reader this relationship also has a contract because if Bassanio was to do anything with the ring, portia would no longer be his wife.

Even though Shylock was a usurer and a man of bad nature he has the only type of marriage which is legitimate and which does not have a contract. Venice a predominantly male world, where contracts are the way of life, but considering with marriages it cannot be further from the truth. When Jessica eloped and traded Leah’s ring for a monkey, Shylock states”It was my turquoise; I had it off Leah when i was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys”, which shows the reader that Shylock truly loved Leah and contracts were besides the point in their relationship.The irony is that in the play Venice is a city which is governed by contracts when in fact it nurtures the only genuine love story in the whole play.

The relationship between Nerissa and Gratiano in the The Merchant of Venice is very unconventional, in the sense that they are complete opposites. Nerissa is Portia’s waiting woman and friend who is a smart lady with a sharp tongue, on the other hand Gratiano a Venetian man who is friends of Antonio and Bassanio is known for his boisterous behaviour and heavy insults. Nevertheless they are attracted to each other presumably due to the circumstances of the relationship between Portia and Bassanio. This relationship also involves a contract as Nerissa states “I’ll see if i can get my husband’s ring, Which I did make him swear to keep for ever”. This shows the reader the relationship between Nerissa and Gratiano is also a contract as Nerissa is determined to see how trustworthy Gratiano is by giving him a ring which symbolizes their marriage and love.

Both Portia & Bassanio and Nerissa & Gratiano relationships revolves around the fact that if anything was supposed to happen to the rings given to Bassanio and Gratiano they would no longer be married. Both their relationships have the same contract as Nerissa is the lady-in-waiting and is portrayed as a trustworthy friend to Portia by Shakespeare and on the other hand Gratiano, a young bristly man accompanies Bassanio to belmont.

The reality is that whether spoken or disguised or what seems to be no contracts at all, is that marriage is a contract. A marriage can be because of true love but a part of it will always be a contract. It is possible to find true love, but the reality is that a contract will always be evident in a marriage. 

16 August 2021

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