At the end of Act 4 in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, whose justice is served? How many perspectives can you identify?

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tinicraw's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

The one to serve justice is the one who has authority to hold it. Justice is usually issued through a court as an appendage of the state (government). The court is the office held by one who has authority by the people or state to judge between those in dispute with one another according to the laws of the land. In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, though, two separate religious factions face-off in a "neutral" court. Shylock, according to contractual law, seeks justice at the hand of the state court after Antonio cannot pay back a debt. In this case, Shylock seeks repayment which would serve justice to him for his fiscal losses. Bassanio seeks redemption in behalf of Antonio who is under the knife of justice for not living up to the contract. Through Portia's keen wit, though, (and secret biased identity) the rewards of justice are turned on Shylock when another law is broken. Shylock had no real equal chance against a court stacked with Christians. Had Shylock retained an attorney, he may have been able to fight the battle on more equal ground. Hence, anti-Semite justice was served by a gang of collaborating Christians who stack the court's seats.


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