In this world, there are many aspects of blindness whether it is mentally orphysically. Either way, each blindness brings out the disability in each person.Such portrayal was shown throughout the play The Merchant of Venice. Shakespearepresents more than one form of blindness, which complicates the social order ofthe society, and I feel that the blindness, being their imperfection, createstension between characters, which is weakened by blindness. When the charactersare being blind, they are corrupted by their actions and somehow they do notcare who they are hurting as long as they know they are getting the best out ofsomething.
Whether it being valuables, love, power, or respect. Physical andmental blindness are seen throughout this play. They play a part in eachcharacters daily lives and are the obstacle that prevents happiness. OldGobbo, who is Launcelots blind and feeble father, expresses physical andmental blindness when he approaches Launcelot and surprisingly asks him,”Master young man, you, I pray you, which is the way to MasterJews?” (Pg. 21, lines 29-30) for he was looking for his son, Launcelot.
Surprisingly Old Gobbo did not know that he was speaking to his son. Old Gobbois nearly blind, which is the physical part of the blindness, which was one ofthe reasons why he unable to recognize Launcelots features. He is alsomentally blind because a father should recognize his own sons voice.Launcelot briefly jokes with his father before confessing “he isLauncelot his boy that was, his son that is, his child that shallbe,” (Pg.
22, lines 78-79) but Old Gobbo still “cannot think he ishis son” (Pg. 22, line 80). Launcelot convinces himself that “if hisfather had his eyes, he might fail of knowing him” because “itis a wise father that knows his own child” (Pg. 22, lines 70-71). It is ashame that a father cannot recognize his own flesh and blood.
This blindnessconcerns the relationship of a father and their child. Another blindness thatconcerns the relationship between a father and the child would have been betweenPortia and her dead father. Portia, the heroine of The Merchant of Venice, isforced to marry the suitor who chooses the correct casket left by her deceasedfather. When the Prince of Morocco, one of Portias suitors, comes to Belmontto woo Portia, he daringly takes the test of choosing the correct casket. Heaccepts the consequences that if he fails, he was to “never to speak to alady afterward in the way of marriage” (g. 19, lines 43-44).
He blindlychooses the gold casket with the engraving “Who chooseth me shall gain whatmany men desire” (Pg. 35, line 37), for its appearance. Inside the goldcasket contained a skull “within its empty eye there was a writtenscroll” (Pg. 36, lines 64-65), which said that the Prince of Morocco wasnot wise. He overlooks the reality that not everything that seems valuable isgood. The Prince of Arragon, another suitor who hopes to win Portias hand,also repeats the similar incident of choosing the wrong casket. He accepts theterms as well, but instead of choosing the gold casket for value he chooses thesilver casket with the engraving “Who chooseth me shall get as much as hedeserves” (Pg.
40, line 51). Inside the silver casket contains a”portrait of a blinking idiot” (Pg. 41, line 56) and a schedule sayingthat he was a fool for choosing silver. Both princes are being physically blindby appearances which leaves them empty handed and single for the rest of theirlives.
Physical and mental blindness takes a dramatic effect with Launcelot andhis father and both princes because it affects the way they think and the waythey act, which prevents them from being happy. Shakespeare presents blindnessas a problem to the society in his play. Many people did not see how there wasmany problems concerning their relationship between other people. In theblindness of religion, he has the characters seeing the worst in religions thatthey do not believe in.
He describes how Jews are unwanted in Venice, which wasat that time a society of Christians. For Shylock, who is an illegal Jewishmoneylender in Venice, many Christians despise him for his religious beliefs andthe interest he places upon people who loan money from him. He as well holdscontempt with Christians, but he still does business with them because his liferevolves around the interest received by them. His former employee, Launcelot,calls the Jew “the very devil incarnation” (Pg. 20, line 24) becausehe was a Christian employed by a Jew. The characters in the play treat Shylockbadly because he is different and they do not respect him because he is not oneof them. The people who misjudge him are being blind by how bad they are.
Theyare judging him as the villain, but it is blindness that is the villain. The lawin Venice was capable of changing a persons religion by force. This shows howpeople did not care for others except for what they thought was right. Blindedby their stubborn ways, they feel that different ways are bad. For example, theJewish Shylock has such a negative reputation in this society that in the end ofthe trial between him and Antonio, who is the merchant of Venice, Antonio says”that, for this favor, Shylock presently become a Christian.
” (Pg.79, lines 399-400) In response to Antonios words, “Shylock wascontent.” (Pg.
79, line 407) This shows how blindness made no religioustolerance in Venice and that Shylock did not care much about his religion whenit comes to his life being in jeopardy. In contrast of forced religion, Jessica,Shylocks daughter, willingly becomes a Christian, for she “shall besaved by her husband (Lorenzo). He hath made her a Christian” (Pg. 63,lines 17-18). Launcelot also jokingly tells her that “making of Christianswill raise the price of hogs” (Pg.
63, lines 21-22). The reason why Jessicaconverts to Christianity is because she was unhappy being a Jew, feeling that itbrought despair and grief for her. There are times when a religion is notfulfilling to a persons religious need.
In Jessicas case, she feels thatChristianity has more to offer than staying a Jew. During the plays time,which was the age of Renaissance, blindness was a common flaw and was seenthroughout its society. Men were blind toward women because they did not see howthey were treating women. The men deliberately prevented women fromaccomplishing anything that the men were able to do. Women did not have therights they wanted, such as self-worth, respect, privileges, and equality, andShakespeare seems to not show any signs of the women wanting respect.
If he didshow any signs of women wanting respect, he would not of had the womencross-dress. Instead, they would attend the trial portraying their real gender.Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica disguise themselves as men to have the same equalopportunity to walk around in public with the same respect as men. Portia andNerissa concealed themselves as a male lawyer and a male clerk to take part inthe trial. The reason why they will “speak between the change of man andboy with a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps, into a manly stride”(Pg.
62, lines 68-70) so they could have their voices heard in order to convincethe Duke to release their friend Antonio from his forfeit. Women knew that menwould only respect other men. Jessica cross-dresses to elope with her love,Lorenzo. The reason why she dresses as a torchbearer is to be able to walk outin public without being suspected of any wrongdoing.
Unlike Portia and Nerissa,who seemed comfortable in their disguise, Jessica felt that “cupid himselfwould blush to see her thus transformed to a boy” and to “beLorenzos torchbearer” and “hold a candle to her shames”(Pg. 32, lines 39-42). Portia and Nerissa dressed as men for power while Jessicasimply dressed for escape. Blindness is present here for the fact that the womenwere able to get away as men shows how the society cannot recognize females.Even though Shakespeare worked the cross-dressing scenes with his characters,women roles were played by men, which that also shows how women were limited toprivileges.
Shakespeare exaggerated men being oblivious to womens actions andcharacteristics when concealed as men. Cross-dressing was not the only blindnessbetween the men and women. For the women who were brave enough to dress as menand risk their lives walking around in public, they were able to feel the briefmoment of power and dominance. Afterwards when the women returned back toreality, they were considered as “property” to men. Men did not seewomen anything more than property. For Portia, she felt that “she mayneither choose who she would nor refuse who she dislike” of a suitorbecause she was “curbed by the will of her dead father” (Pg.
8,lines 20-23). Her father left “three chests of gold, silver, and lead,whereof the suitors chooses his meaning chooses Portia, will no doubt neverbe chosen by any rightly but one who she rightly love” (Pg. 8, lines27-30). In her fathers point of view, he felt that the right chest chosen bythe right suitor would be the husband for Portia. It also seems that he feltthat Portia did not know how to choose a right husband because she was a woman.Portia, on the other hand, felt that she was being forced into marriage becauseher father was blind about her emotional feelings. She wanted to marry out oflove and not by force.
Luckily Bassanio chose the right casket, which was thelead casket, because Portia loved him. People were so blind that they could notsee women in mens attire. It is ridiculous because Shakespeare seems toexaggerate mens stupidity. Another example of men treating women as propertywould be Shylock and Jessica.
Shylock also does not see Jessica as anotherperson. He calls his daughter “his flesh and his blood” (Pg. 44,line 33). Shylocks life revolved around money, not his daughter. He wasneglecting the love that he should be giving to his daughter.
Now that Jessicahad ran away, and him not having any friends, he does not feel any loss exceptfor his “two thousand ducats in the chest, and other precious, preciousjewels” (Pg. 46, lines 78-79) that Jessica stole when she eloped. Shylockwas blind to not notice any unhappiness with Jessica.
If he did, the elopementmost likely would not have occurred secretly. Shylock was blind to not noticehis daughters unhappiness with the relationship between him and her as wellas the unfulfilling religion that Jessica was forced to believe in. We have comea long way from the Renaissance Age. We now have laws that protect each citizenfrom religious prejudice and gender discrimination.
The reason why there wasreligious prejudice and gender discrimination was because people did not seeother peoples point of view. They felt that what the majority of peoplebelieved was considered correct and whoever broke through their barrier ofbeliefs were shunned out of their society. What was the cause of blindness thenis now the thing of the past. People of all religions now enjoy the freedom ofreligious tolerance because people do not see other religions as wrong. Theyjust accept the other religions and go on believing what they feel is thereligion for them. Women have the equal opportunity to accomplish andparticipate in activities that men once forbade them to take part in.
Men nowsee that women are able to accomplish the same things that they could do. Thereare times when in our society, we have problems concerning these laws. Most ofthe times, when situations like those are taken to the fullest extent of thelaw, things will be solved with justice and equality. There is no longer anyissues concerning the blindness in religion and gender.
The way blindness ofcross-dressing once was is rarely seen in our society now because women do notcross-dress for power anymore. Most of the time we hear women, and even men,cross-dressing to make a bold statement of their inner feelings, it couldpossibly relate to power, but not the power that Portia and Nerissa wanted toexperience. Women now do not have to dress as men to have equal power becausethey know that what was in the past have evolved for the better. Genderdiscrimination is no longer a flaw of blindness.
I am please to know that I donot have to go through what the women went through during that time. Beingunable to do what I please without being suspected of foul doing just because ofmy gender. Portia plays a character that breaks out of the barrier of acookie-cutter expectations of women. What I mean is that Portia did not hidebehind the usual women roles but instead she had the guts to attend the trial asa man risking public humiliation if she was caught.
People were so blind, itseems unreal to believe it because how could some of the characters be so blindmentally and physically? I do not see any of the same blindness in this time.However, I do feel that it is still present, but it does not have as much as theeffect it had back in the Renaissance Age. How people were in the past haschanged to what we are today. Blindness is not the cause of discrimination asmuch anymore.
We can think that the people acted foolish throughout the wholeplay because they did not notice the obvious. For example of how the two princesmade a fool of themselves and were punished for their idiotic choices ofchoosing the correct casket. Physical and mental blindness were the cause ofunhappiness.
Sometimes people purposely acted blind because they werebrainwashed to believe that if the majority of people believed it, then it wasright. We do not see that blindness much in our world today. Shakespeare showedus in his plays that blindness was normal and that blindness was the cause ofhis characters situations. Blindness made Shakespeares time harsh andunfair. Now we see what goes on and problems similar to the characters in theplay will not repeat itself.
We now see what they cannot see.Shakespeare