In this world, there are many aspects of blindness whether it is mentally or physically. Either way, each blindness brings out the disability in each person. Such portrayal was shown throughout the play The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare presents more than one form of blindness, which complicates the social order of the society, and I feel that the blindness, being their imperfection, creates tension between characters, which is weakened by blindness. When the characters are being blind, they are corrupted by their actions and somehow they do not care who they are hurting as long as they know they are getting the best out of omething.
Whether it being valuables, love, power, or respect. Physical and mental blindness are seen throughout this play. They play a part in each characters daily lives and are the obstacle that prevents happiness. Old Gobbo, who is Launcelots blind and feeble father, expresses physical and mental blindness when he approaches Launcelot and surprisingly asks him, “Master young man, you, I pray you, which is the way to Master Jews? ” (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 Gobbo s nearly blind, which is the physical part of the blindness, which was one of the reasons why he unable to recognize Launcelots features. He is also mentally blind because a father should recognize his own sons voice. Launcelot briefly jokes with his father before confessing “[he is] Launcelot [his] boy that was, [his] son that is, [his] child that shall be,” (Pg. 22, lines 78-79) but Old Gobbo still “cannot think [he is his] son” (Pg. 22, line 80).
Launcelot convinces himself that “if [his father] had [his] eyes, [he] might fail of knowing [him]” because “it is a wise father that knows his own child” (Pg. 22, lines 70-71). It is a shame that a father cannot recognize his own flesh and blood. This blindness concerns the relationship of a father and their child. Another blindness that concerns the relationship between a father and the child would have been between Portia and her dead father. Portia, the heroine of The Merchant of Venice, is forced to marry the suitor who chooses the correct casket left by her deceased father.
When the Prince of Morocco, one of Portias suitors, comes to Belmont to woo Portia, he daringly takes the test of choosing the correct casket. He accepts the consequences that if he fails, he was to “never to speak to [a] ady afterward in [the] way of marriage” (g. 19, lines 43-44). He blindly chooses the gold casket with the engraving “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire” (Pg. 35, line 37), for its appearance. Inside the gold casket contained a skull “within [its] empty eye there [was] a written scroll” (Pg. 6, lines 64-65), which said that the Prince of Morocco was not wise. He overlooks the reality that not everything that seems valuable is good.
The Prince of Arragon, another suitor who hopes to win Portias hand, also repeats the similar incident of choosing the wrong casket. He accepts the erms as well, but instead of choosing the gold casket for value he chooses the silver casket with the engraving “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves” (Pg. 40, line 51). Inside the silver casket contains a “portrait of a blinking idiot” (Pg. 1, line 56) and a schedule saying that he was a fool for choosing silver. Both princes are being physically blind by appearances which leaves them empty handed and single for the rest of their lives. Physical and mental blindness takes a dramatic effect with Launcelot and his father and both princes because it affects the way they think and the way hey act, which prevents them from being happy. Shakespeare presents blindness as a problem to the society in his play. Many people did not see how there was many problems concerning their relationship between other people.
In the blindness of religion, he has the characters seeing the worst in religions that they do not believe in. He describes how Jews are unwanted in Venice, which was at that time a society of Christians. For Shylock, who is an illegal Jewish moneylender in Venice, many Christians despise him for his religious beliefs and the interest he places upon people who loan money from him. He as well holds ontempt with Christians, but he still does business with them because his life revolves around the interest received by them.
His former employee, Launcelot, calls the Jew “the very devil incarnation” (Pg. 20, line 24) because he was a Christian employed by a Jew. The characters in the play treat Shylock badly because he is different and they do not respect him because he is not one of them. The people who misjudge him are being blind by how bad they are. They are judging him as the villain, but it is blindness that is the villain. The law in Venice was capable of changing a persons religion by force. This shows how people did not care for others except for what they thought was right.
Blinded by their stubborn ways, they feel that different ways are bad. For example, the Jewish Shylock has such a negative reputation in this society that in the end of the 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 was] content. ” (Pg. 79, line 407) This shows how blindness made no religious tolerance in Venice and that Shylock did not care much about his religion when t comes to his life being in jeopardy.
In contrast of forced religion, Jessica, Shylocks daughter, willingly becomes a Christian, for she “shall be saved by [her] husband (Lorenzo). He hath made [her] a Christian” (Pg. 63, lines 17-18). Launcelot also jokingly tells her that “making of Christians will raise the price of hogs” (Pg. 63, lines 21-22). The reason why Jessica converts to Christianity is because she was unhappy being a Jew, feeling that it brought despair and grief for her. There are times when a religion is not fulfilling to a persons religious need.
In Jessicas case, she feels that Christianity 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 seen throughout its society. Men were blind toward women because they did not see how they were treating women. The men deliberately prevented women from accomplishing anything that the men were able to do. Women did not have the rights they wanted, such as self-worth, respect, privileges, and equality, and Shakespeare seems to not show any signs of the women wanting respect.
If he did show any signs of women wanting respect, he would not of had the women ross-dress. Instead, they would attend the trial portraying their real gender. Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica disguise themselves as men to have the same equal opportunity to walk around in public with the same respect as men. Portia and Nerissa concealed themselves as a male lawyer and a male clerk to take part in the trial. The reason why they will “speak between the change of man and boy with a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps, into a manly stride” (Pg. 2, lines 68-70) so they could have their voices heard in order to convince the Duke to release their friend Antonio from his forfeit. Women knew that men would 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 out in public without being suspected of any wrongdoing. Unlike Portia and Nerissa, who seemed comfortable in their disguise, Jessica felt that “cupid himself would blush to see [her] thus transformed to a boy” and to “be [Lorenzos] torchbearer” and “hold a candle [to] her shames” (Pg. 2, lines 39-42). Portia and Nerissa dressed as men for power while Jessica simply dressed for escape. Blindness is present here for the fact that the women ere 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 to privileges. Shakespeare exaggerated men being oblivious to womens actions and characteristics when concealed as men.
Cross-dressing was not the only blindness between the men and women. For the women who were brave enough to dress as men and risk their lives walking around in public, they were able to feel the brief moment of power and dominance. Afterwards when the women returned back to reality, they were considered as “property” to men. Men did not see women anything more than property. For Portia, she felt that “[she] may neither choose who [she] would nor refuse who [she] dislike” of a suitor because 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 never be chosen by any rightly but one who [she] rightly love” (Pg. 8, lines 27-30). In her fathers point of view, he felt that the right chest chosen by he right suitor would be the husband for Portia. It also seems that he felt that 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 because her father was blind about her emotional feelings.
She wanted to marry out of love and not by force. Luckily Bassanio chose the right casket, which was the lead casket, because Portia loved him. People were so blind that they could not see women in mens attire. It is ridiculous because Shakespeare seems to exaggerate mens stupidity. Another example of men treating women as property ould be Shylock and Jessica. Shylock also does not see Jessica as another person. He calls his daughter “[his] flesh and [his] blood” (Pg. 44, line 33). Shylocks life revolved around money, not his daughter. He was neglecting the love that he should be giving to his daughter.
Now that Jessica had ran away, and him not having any friends, he does not feel any loss except for his “two thousand ducats in [the chest], and other precious, precious jewels” (Pg. 46, lines 78-79) that Jessica stole when she eloped. Shylock was blind to not notice any unhappiness with Jessica. If he did, the elopement ost likely would not have occurred secretly. Shylock was blind to not notice his daughters unhappiness with the relationship between him and her as well as the unfulfilling religion that Jessica was forced to believe in. We have come a long way from the Renaissance Age.
We now have laws that protect each citizen from religious prejudice and gender discrimination. The reason why there was religious prejudice and gender discrimination was because people did not see other peoples point of view. They felt that what the majority of people believed was considered correct and whoever broke through their barrier of eliefs were shunned out of their society. What was the cause of blindness then is now the thing of the past. People of all religions now enjoy the freedom of religious tolerance because people do not see other religions as wrong.
They just accept the other religions and go on believing what they feel is the religion for them. Women have the equal opportunity to accomplish and participate in activities that men once forbade them to take part in. Men now see that women are able to accomplish the same things that they could do. There are times when in our society, we have problems concerning these laws. Most of he times, when situations like those are taken to the fullest extent of the law, things will be solved with justice and equality. There is no longer any issues concerning the blindness in religion and gender.
The way blindness of cross-dressing once was is rarely seen in our society now because women do not cross-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 could possibly relate to power, but not the power that Portia and Nerissa wanted to experience. Women now do not have to dress as men to have equal power because hey know that what was in the past have evolved for the better. Gender discrimination is no longer a flaw of blindness.
I am please to know that I do not have to go through what the women went through during that time. Being unable to do what I please without being suspected of foul doing just because of my gender. Portia plays a character that breaks out of the barrier of a cookie-cutter expectations of women. What I mean is that Portia did not hide behind the usual women roles but instead she had the guts to attend the trial as a man risking public humiliation if she was caught. People were so blind, it eems unreal to believe it because how could some of the characters be so blind mentally 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 the effect it had back in the Renaissance Age. How people were in the past has changed to what we are today. Blindness is not the cause of discrimination as much anymore. We can think that the people acted foolish throughout the whole play because they did not notice the obvious. For example of how the two princes made a fool of themselves and were punished for their idiotic choices of hoosing the correct casket.
Physical and mental blindness were the cause of unhappiness. Sometimes people purposely acted blind because they were brainwashed to believe that if the majority of people believed it, then it was right. We do not see that blindness much in our world today. Shakespeare showed us in his plays that blindness was normal and that blindness was the cause of his characters situations. Blindness made Shakespeares time harsh and unfair. Now we see what goes on and problems similar to the characters in the play will not repeat itself. We now see what they cannot see.