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Depiction of False Love and Marriage in The Merchant of Venice

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William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice has a big focus on many issues that are still prevalent in our 21st century, marriage and relational commitment being one, but it is portrayed as convenience or for an individual’s profit, instead of love. In the play, love is portrayed falsely, by the characters. They love the idea of having wealth and fame and will then “love” someone who has these things. However, they don’t have the affection that true love requires. They are more focused on their own profit rather than true love. 

One of the first relationships introduced in this play is the romance between Jessica and Lorenzo and it seems as if it is based more on what can be gained out of the marriage, than love. These two characters intend to get married and go about this process very quickly. At first whilst it may seem that the haste to get married is due to a great affection between the two of them, it is later thought that their marriage may not have been for the right reasons. For Jessica, marriage is a chance to escape her father’s home, as she is unhappy there. Jessica seems to think that Lorenzo will only like her because of her money and looks. In the play Jessica dresses up as a boy so she can escape with Lorenzo, she says, “Here, catch this casket. It is worth the pains. I am glad ’tis night, you do not look on me, For I am much ashamed of my exchange.” The casket referred to contains jewels and gold to support them in their life together. However, when she says, it is worth the pains, she is also saying I am worth the pains. She feels as if Lorenzo may get annoyed with her because of all the trouble they have to go to escape. She also feels as if he won’t love her when she is dressed as a boy, because she thinks he likes her for her looks. Lorenzo doesn’t show much preference to either side of being in it for money or because he loves Jessica. It does seem as if they are both just wanting a relationship, whether it’s to escape an unloving home, or for money. 

An example of this in the 21st century is the recently broken up couple, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth. The celebrity couple started dating when Miley was 17 and Liam was 20, in 2010. This is a similar age to when Jessica and Lorenzo most likely where when they married. Two years later they became engaged and a year later they broke up. They were then on and off again many times and even had some cheating backlash. In 2016 they are engaged again and get married in 2018. They were married for seven months before breaking up again. Lots of times the blame their breakups on being young. Jessica and Lorenzo are also getting married even younger and possibly not even for the right reasons, meaning that their relationship might end up going the same way as Miley and Liam’s, due to their rush to get married. This shows how Jessica and Lorenzo’s relationship is based more on what can be gained out of the marriage, (or what can be escaped in Jessica’s case), than love. 

One of the most important dilemmas in the play is the casket competition for Portia’s hand in marriage and how her possible suitors don’t seem to be in the competition for the right reasons. Portia’s father had designed a casket competition to decide her marriage, before he died, but Portia dreads this idea. However, she must carry it through but becomes more appalled with it as it progresses. Lots of her options come into the competition boastful and prideful. They believe that they deserve Portia based on their personal merits. The first candidate, The Prince of Morocco says, “As much as I deserve! Why, that’s the lady. I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes, In graces, and in qualities of breeding. Lots of the candidates also seem to only be in the competition for Portia’s money, fame or good looks, not because of her personality or anything that is lasting. This is quite similar to many reality TV dating shows, such as The Bachelor, The Bachelorette or Married at First Sight. Lots of the contestants on the shows are in it for fame and attention or believe that they will win as they think they deserve it. Portia’s suitors seem to believe the same thing, as if they are deserving of Portia or they are in it for the fame or money. This shows how Portia’s possible suitors don’t seem to be in the competition for the right reasons. 

Another one of the most prominent relationships in the play is between Portia and Bassanio, which also seems as if it might be more for an individual’s profit than love. Bassanio ends up marrying Portia as he wins the casket competition. Portia had been hoping that he would win and is also quite devoted to him, which is witnessed when she offers to pay back Antonio’s loan to Shylock twenty times over. Bassanio however, seems to only want to marry Portia for money or fame, at the start. He says to Antonio, “In Belmont is a lady richly left, And she is fair and — fairer than that word… Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued To Cato’s daughter, Brutus’ Portia. Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth, For the four winds blow in from every coast Renownèd suitors, and her sunny locks Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos’ strand, And many Jasons come in quest of her.” Bassanio does say that she is a good person, but he also seems to want to marry her for her money and fame. 

In the 21st century we can see this in some recent fake marriages. Some couples such as, Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau as well as Danielle Cohn and Mikey Tua. These couples pulled these fake marriages as publicity stunts or what they said were pranks. However, they did receive a lot of media attention and therefore fame after their marriages that they claimed were real up until after the ceremonies. Bassanio seems to be the same way, in that her originally wanted to marry her for money or fame. Whilst he does seem to grow affection for her, he doesn’t seem to show any real, strong love towards her. This shows how it seems as if Portia and Bassanio’s relationship is more for an individual’s profit than love. 

From these relationships and examples, it can be concluded that many of the marriages and relationships in the play are not for the right reasons. They are often for an individual’s profit and not for true love. It seems that because Venice is such a cutthroat, business-focused place, it reduces lots of the relationship to motives of profit and self-interest. The relationships in the play seem to be based on an untrue view of love. This shows how in, William Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice, there is a big focus on many issues that are still prevalent in our 21st century, marriage and relational commitment being one, but it is portrayed as convenience or for an individual’s profit, instead of love.

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Depiction Of False Love And Marriage In The Merchant Of Venice. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from
“Depiction Of False Love And Marriage In The Merchant Of Venice.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Depiction Of False Love And Marriage In The Merchant Of Venice. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Aug. 2022].
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