In the Merchant of Venice the theme Appearance vs. reality is often seen. Discuss this theme with reference to events in the play and characters such as Bassanio, Antonio, Portia, Shylock and Jessica.
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Certainly, Portia's disguising herself as Bellario of Padua, a lawyer whom the Duke of Venice calls in to decide the case against Antonio brought by Shylock, certainly falls under the theme of Appearance vs. Reality. Her deception as a man effects the rescue of Antonio as well as causing her husband, Bassanio, to be tricked into giving her his marriage ring.
Another example of the theme of "Appearance verses Reality" is the pound of flesh which Shylock demands from Antonio. Antonio surely does not think that Shylock will really try and take a pound of flesh from him, but Shylock has other plans in mind (taking an actual pound of flesh).
In the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare 'all that glisters is not gold.' The play uses deception to deepen the plot and add a cliff-hanging atmosphere for the audience. We, as watchers, learn to question and analyse appearances and to look beyond the obvious. Nearly all of the techniques of the law and philosophy are employed here, to teach us all about the dangers of not peeling back to cold hard facts. The play also teaches us about the precise nature of mathematics and language! We should be careful what we wish for - and what we promise and demand!
One instance of this theme appears in the episode involving the choice of caskets: one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead. One suitor chooses the golden casket in hopes of winning Portia in marriage. The next suitor chooses the silver casket. Both choices are incorrect, although it might appear that gold and silver would be the materials most associated with such a prize as Portia. It is Bassanio who chooses the casket which appears least worthy of Portia but which is accurately the correct choice.
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