Comparing and Contrasting Father-Daughter Relationships in The Merchant of Venice





Comparing and Contrasting Father-Daughter Relationships in The Merchant of Venice

The father-daughter relationship described in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice provide an in-depth illustration of the similarities and differences of each of the four characters as well as the how they related to one another. Shylock is seen as a dramatic, self-seeking and materialistic character that lends money at high interest rates and as such, is resented by many of the Christians living in Venice. Jessica is seen as a character caught up in her father’s controlling snares, which drives her away and cause her to elope with her lover, Lorenzo. Portia is seen as a witty, adventurous, and clever heiress who honors her father’s wishes even after he has died. Portia’s father was a wealthy man who left his will to her daughter and drew out a plan to save her from the hands of greedy fortune seekers claiming to have her hand in marriage.

            Both fathers are seen as rich. Shylock is a wealthy moneylender in Venice and though the occupation of Portia’s father is not mentioned, he had left a huge amount of money in his will to Portia. This meant that the two rich men needed to be vigilant in their relationships with others. They had to make prudent business decisions, and this is seen by the cunning but creative way in which Portia’s father seals her daughter’s fate through inscribing three caskets and allowing suitors to choose the correct one. On the other hand, Shylock’s decisions are seen as greedy due to the high rates of interest, which he charges and thus illustrates the manner in which he is able to acquire his wealth. He is not particularly generous to his daughter and is part of the reason why Jessica felt trapped in the relationship (Janik, 2003).

Portia was bound to her father’s wishes and money, much like Jessica. Portia was required to fulfill her father’s requirements of agreeing to marry the suitor who would choose the correct casket between gold, silver and bronze. Portia, therefore, felt bound to her father’s prerequisite since she would have no say over whom to marry. Meanwhile Jessica had no means of supporting herself financially and therefore relied on her father’s money. This revealed a manipulative attribute exhibited on both fathers towards their children. Generally, the level of success in parenting varied between these two parents, but none of them had proven to be flawless.

Although both daughters felt bound, the reasons for the scheming were different. Shylock was seen as a controlling father to Jessica through the heartless manner in which he gave orders. He appeared to be unsympathetic and selfish toward his daughter. In contrast, Portia’s father was a man who appeared to be considerate of his daughter’s future through striving to choose the best suitor for her. The values each father places upon their respective daughters are particularly distinctive. Shylock appears to value his ducats and jewelry more than his own daughter. This is demonstrated by his frustration after the financial loss experienced when she ran away with his valuables. On the other hand, Portia’s father did not want her daughter to get married to a less than deserving bachelor through his articulate way of selecting the right man.

Portia’s level of loyalty to her father was a huge contrast in comparison to that of Jessica. Even though Portia was not particularly pleased by being bounded by her father’s nuptial requirements, she endeavored to realize them. Jessica’s frustration of having a malevolent father led her to escape with his valuables to start a new life with Lorenzo, her lover. In addition, Jessica converted to Christianity, a religion that Shylock looked down upon due to the cold and inhospitable relationship that existed between him and them.

Work cited

Janik, Vicki K. The Merchant of Venice: A Guide to the Play. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2003. Print.

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