1. Discuss the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. What does their friendship reveal about their characters?
2. Examine Shylock’s rhetoric. Pay special attention to the quality of his language—his use of metaphor and repetition, for instance. How do his speeches reflect his character as a whole?
3. Compare and contrast Venice and Belmont. What is the significance of these distinct settings in the play?
4. Analyze the way that time passes in The Merchant of Venice, paying special attention to conflicts between time in Venice and Belmont. Are there any inconsistencies, and if so, how does the play handle them?
5. To what extent is Shylock defined by his Jewishness? To what extent is he defined by his profession?
6. Discuss Portia’s character. How does she compare to the men around her? Is Bassanio a worthy husband for her?
7. Discuss how the trial scene reveals a conflict between justice and mercy. Is the conflict resolved? If so, how?
A List Of Interesting Essay Topics For The Merchant Of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most famous comedies. Over four hundred years later, this play is still being studied since the plot and characters are universal. To test your student's comprehension of the major characters, themes, and motifs, use some of the following essay topics:
- 1. Some scholars feel the play should be renamed "Shylock". What do they mean by that? Discuss Shylock's function in the conflict of the play.
- 2. Shakespeare's comedies always have a happy ending. Would you classify the Final Act as happy and comedic? Why or why not?
- 3. Using textual evidence and scenes analyze the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. What does their friendship show about their personalities? Are they a homosexual couple?
- 4. A scholar once said The Merchant of Venice is as anti-Christian as it is anti-Semitic. Do you agree? Refer to specific textual evidence to back up your response.
- 5. With the exception of Queen Elizabeth, women didn't have any social power or agency in Shakespeare's time. Using the text and specific scenes, discuss the roles of the women in the play and how they were able to influence events.
- 6. The purpose of government is to ensure that society is safe and orderly for everyone. This is achieved by creating laws that are to be applied uniformly to all citizens. In the court scene, the law is used to invalidate Antonio's indebtedness to Shylock and humiliate the latter. Make an essay in which you support or dispute the court's ruling. Be sure to differentiate between justice and fairness.
- 7. Some scholars have argued that The Merchant of Venice is more like a tragedy than a comedy. Do you agree or not? Use characters and scenes from the play to support your response.
- 8. One of the overarching themes of the play is the contractual agreements. Looking at the relationships between the different characters, demonstrate how these contracts push the plot and force individuals to negotiate.
- 9. Normally the fifth act of a Shakespearean play is the resolution and happy ending but is the final act really necessary to the plot? If so, why? If not, explain.
- 10. To what extent are the characters in this play motivated by self-interest?
- 11. If you were to rewrite this play as a tragedy what key scenes would you change and why?