The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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Based on the play The Merchant of Venice, would you like to live in Venice? Explain your answers with detailed reference to the text.

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How well you’d do and whether you’d enjoy life in the Venice of the play would largely depend on who you were and your social status. The city is a good place to be wealthy; having lots of money would enable you to invest in various business ventures that could net you even more money – provided you have the sense not to risk too much. The city rewards those who have financial means and its laws and social structure can make for a very comfortable life if you are a man, and straight, and a Christian, and a Venetian native, and wealthy.

If you aren’t all five of those things, though, Venice can be a harsh place. Jews’ lives are highly restricted and regulated, women are not allowed to engage in most careers, including finance and law, foreigners from anywhere are looked down on, gays are tolerated provided they remain in the closet, people who are not wealthy must find work as servants with little hope of either wealth or job security. Venice works very well for the men who have amassed most of the city’s power and wealth, but finding yourself outside that privileged circle can be a difficult, painful experience.

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