Homework Help

What parallels, both stylistic and thematic, can be drawn between The Merchant of...

user profile pic

jcohen96 | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:26 AM via web

dislike 1 like

What parallels, both stylistic and thematic, can be drawn between The Merchant of Venice and Sonnet 94, both written by Williams Shakespeare? I need to develop an idea into a strong argument.

I already have one idea: the theme of control of one's spirit and beauty as being deserving of heaven's blessing.

It's backed up by these three quotes:

1. They that have pow'r to hurt, and will do none,

That do not do the thing they most do show,

Who moving others are themselves as stone,

Unmovèd, cold, and to temptation slow,

They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces (Sonnet 94)

2. The quality of mercy is not strain'd,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. (Portia, Merchant of Venice)

3. For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. (Sonnet 94)

I need to create a strong coherent argument and, in turn, a strong essay analyzing both the stylistic and thematic parallels between these two works by Shakespeare.

Help please!

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 13, 2013 at 7:25 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

The comparison between The Merchant of Venice and Sonnet 94 is an interesting one as it reveals Shakespeare's ability to rationalize between his subjects. In Shakespeare's era, it was essential to extol christian virtues and anything else - especially, in this context, although not universally,  the Jewish religion - was to be disregarded. The styles of Sonnet 94 and The Merchant of Venice reveal their similarities

Consider 

 The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,"

and Shakespeare's belief that there is far more to life than the satisfaction of one's own wishes. It is not sufficient to exist "to itself" and bringing pleasure to others is the main aim. In The Merchant of Venice, we see Antonio's dedication to his friend, Bassanio and whether or not there is more to the depth of his feelings for Bassanio does not detract from the fact that  Antonio is prepared to risk "a pound of flesh" to enable his friend to further his love interests towards Portia:

Commend me to your honourable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio's end;
Say how I lov'd you; speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love.
(IV, i. 268-272)

and Bassanio's response that, despite his love for his wife

........................................all the world                            Are not with me esteemed above they life (280)

The parallels between these two issues are unmistakable and Shakespeare uses the themes of self-sacrifice and self-control to make his point as long as "Lilies that fester" are not allowed to overtake intention.

We see this point when we compare Jessica and Portia's dedication or lack thereof towards their fathers. Again Shakespeare cleverly uses a similar technique to express and thereby extend the theme when

 For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;        Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Using the same essential quote  from Sonnet 94 for comparison, Jessica can be compared to the lilies as her resentment of her father has obviously built up with time. Portia's clever manipulation of her situation with her suitors ensures that the result for her is not the "sourest." Portia's manipulation may seem self-serving but her nurturing nature and her ability to get the best out of a difficult situation compare favorably to Shakespeare's warning about the potential for corruption.

 

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes