What is an example of 'Obstacles the Lovers must Overcome' in The Merchant of Venice?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An example of the motif of lovers having to overcome obstacles in The Merchant of Venice is the relationship of the Jewess Jessica and her Christian lover. The main obstacles that lie between them are, of course, their different religions and cultures. Because Lorenzo, a friend of Bassanio, is Christian, Jessica becomes immersed in a tremendous conflict with her father Shylock who hates Christians.

Jessica is ashamed of her father's avarice and antipathetic conduct toward Antonio, so much so that she abandons her Jewish faith and steals her dead mother's jewelry. She tells Lorenzo,

Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father's child?
But though I am a daughter to his blood,
I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife. (2.3.16-21)

Using the figurative language of "a daughter to his blood," and "not to his manners," Jessica separates herself from her usurious father. An added emphasis comes to the rhyming couplet at the end of her speech. Unlike Bassanio who truly loves Portia, the motives of Lorenzo are rather suspicious. A temporary master at Belmont, Lorenzo is definitely attracted to the gold ducats that Jessica takes from her father and more than a little concerned about marrying the daughter of a "faithless Jew" (2.4.41).

Almost as though predicting the type of relationship that he and Jessica will have, Lorenzo compares his and Jessica's love to Troilus and Cressida, Aeneas and Dido, and Medea and Jason--all relationships which ended in betrayal and desertion. 

The moon shines bright. In such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees
And they did make no noise, in such a night
Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls,
And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents
Where Cressid lay that night. (5.1.1-6)

This passage has personification with "the sweet wind" that "did gently kiss the trees."  Troilus "sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents" is figurative language.

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The Merchant of Venice

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