What are the differences between Belmont and Venice in The Merchant of Venice?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Shakespeare sets The Merchant of Venice in Venice and Belmont, which have similarities and several differences. One similarity seen in Act I Scene i is that both are places where people may be unhappy. Antonio is unhappy in Venice and he does not know why. He denies that it is his business or love that are making him unhappy. In Belmont, the first thing that Portia says is that she is "weary" of the world. She knows why she in unhappy: she can neither choose her husband nor refuse one she doesn't want.

The biggest differences between Venice and Belmont are that while money, buying and selling and a public marketplace are the backdrop of Venice, music, stars, trees, a gentle wind, splendor and couples in love are the backdrop of Belmont. To emphasize this, Shylock makes his deal, after Antonio has enraged him, in Venice, and Lorenzo and Jessica escape from Venice and go to Belmont to start a new life of love.

It is interesting to note that one of the last things we learn about Belmont is that Belmont is where a Jewish woman and a Christian man will be given by a Christian the wealth of a Jewish man. Belmont, a seemingly idyllic place where stars look like white gold, is where unity of man and woman, Christian and Jew, and restoration of worldly respect and goods to a Jew (the wealth Antonio will pass over to Jessica is her inheritance by right of birth, anyway) take place.