Shakespeare's the Merchant of Venice
Taylor and Francis Ltd
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of Communications and Arts
In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, when Solanio tries to reassure Antonio that the Duke will not allow Shylock to collect his pound of flesh, Antonio quickly tells his friend that he’is mistaken: The Duke cannot deny the course of law, For the commodity that strangers have With us in Venice, if it be denied, Will much impeach the justice of the state, Since that the trade and profit of the city Consisteth of all nations. (3.4.26-31) This might be seen as simply a plot device to let the play go forward in its suspenseful way, but in fact Antonio is describing Venetian policy toward the Jews of its Ghetto precisely as it existed in the late sixteenth century, when The Merchant of Venice was first performed. Shylock does the same later when he says to the Duke “If you deny it, let the danger light /Upon your charter and your city’s freedom” (4.1.37-38).