Is the title of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" an appropriate one? 

Is the title of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" an appropriate one?


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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, the title is appropriate for a number of reasons. Firstly, the protagonist in the play, Antonio, is a merchant and he plies his trade from the city of Venice. Here is where he spends most of his time and where he manages his business. When one starts reading the text, there is no doubt who exactly the title refers to. The fact that he is a sea merchant is evident from the following extract from Act 1, Scene 1, in which Antonio states:

My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year:
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad. 

Secondly, Venice forms the backdrop for most of the action featured in the play. It is here where Antonio undertakes to help his friend Bassanio to obtain a loan from Shylock, the money lender, and where he signs a bond to that effect.

Venice is also the setting for probably the most important scenes in the play - for example, the court hearing in which Shylock seeks restitution from Antonio for not having met the terms of their agreement. It is also here where Portia proves how deeply she loves Bassanio by intervening as a lawyer in disguise and, in effect, saving the life of Antonio, her love's closest friend and confidante.

In addition, Shylock, the antagonist, is also from Venice and runs his money lending operation in the city. He is also a merchant, for he trades in capital. In this sense, therefore, the title encapsulates both the protagonist and his arch enemy and is thus more than appropriate.