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The movie version of The Merchant of Venice is a drama where romance and confusion abound. I have not seen the movie but understand that it apparently follows much of the script with only a few diversions in the interests of retaining the passion and the intrigue. Hence, the themes, symbols and motifs will remain the same.
Motifs and symbols are recurring structures or objects and characters that support the themes and in The Merchant of Venice, Portia's representation of filial (family) loyalty would be the first obvious motif. Despite having a strong character and fullfilling another essential motif in her dressing as a man later in the play (movie), she feels duty-bound to satisfy her late-father's wishes in the insistence of choosing a suitor for her. The caskets are the symbol of that.
Filial loyalty is further re-inforced in Jessica's absolute rejection of the same when she readily converts to Christianity as if completely disregarding her father and disavowing any feelings towards him. What is interesting is that, in the movie, at the end, apparently the ring (turquoise) that was apparently swapped for a monkey, is seen on Jessica's finger, leaving the audience to ponder on Jessica's REAL loyalty towards her father, Shylock. The ring can therefore be seen as a symbol of that loyalty towards family.
The Law would be another obvious motif. It supports the theme surrounding the symbol of the "pound of flesh." Justice is tempered with compassion but the potential for tragedy is ever- present when
opposite value systems or worldviews
collide. Whist the Christians bestow their own virtues and the overriding theme of mercy becomes central to the conclusion, the argument between Justice for justice's sake and justice for the greater good is debated.
Another motif is used to extend the theme of mercy when Portia dresses as a man and actually cleverly resolves the issue of Antonio parting with a "pound of flesh" to settle his debt to Shylock. The "flesh"can also be related back to the concept of loyalty and "flesh and blood" and the complex relationship between Shylock and Jessica. Jessica has also dressed as a man to escape her father's house. The cross- dressing then also represents the searching to be free from restrictions that society places on people - especially women in Shakespeare's day.
The message is clear that whether reading Shakespeare or watching a movie made in the etwenty-first century, the themes of mercy, justice and family do not really change.
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