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Auden’s Dystopia – The Merchant Of Venice Is Far From Perfect Essay, Research Paper Auden, W.H. “Brothers and Others.” “The Dyer’s Hand” and Other Essays. New York: Random House, 1948. In a casual but seminal essay on the play, Auden calls The Merchant of Venice one of Shakespeare’s “Unpleasant Plays.” The presence of Antonio and Shylock disrupts the unambiguous fairy-tale world of romantic comedy, reminding us that the utopian qualities of Belmont are illusory: “in the real world, no hatred is totally without justification, no love totally innocent.” Auden’s Dystopia The Merchant of Venice is Far from Perfect In a perfect world, hatred would be without justice; love would be totally innocent. However, utopias like that are nonexistent; thus, one can

easily look around, like Auden, and exclaim, “No hatred is totally without justification, no love is totally innocent.” In The Merchant of Venice, there is an imperfect world, as well as a perfect world. The flawed world is the materialistic and bustling city of Venice. The impeccable world is the fairy-tale city of Belmont. Despite Belmont’s perfection, a bit of justified hatred from Venice would ruin its innocence. (Paradise lost.) Alas, as Auden suggests, there are no utopias. In Venice, time is of the essence. If one were to momentarily forget the real world, one would be trampled down by its massive stampede of events, bonds, et cetera constantly being made, ubiquitously in its domain. Shylock and Antonio are just one pair of culprits adding to the ultimate

imperfection of Venice. However, the bond made between Shylock and Antonio sets them completely apart from the normal villainy dealings, “If you repay me not on such a day… let the forfeit / Be nominated for an equal pound / Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken…” [Act 1, Scene 3]. A shrewd merchant, Antonio does not immediately agree to this. He first reasons it out: “Within these two months–that’s a month before / This bond expires–I do expect return / Of thrice three times the value of this bond.” [Act 1, Scene 3] If all goes well, our merchant of Venice would have no difficulties in paying Shylock back. However, not all goes well; a while after this bond, rumors on the Rialto suggest that Antonio has lost his fortunes at sea. With not enough wealth to

compensate for his due payment, Antonio is now in danger of losing a pound of his flesh, which in those days meant almost certain death. In Belmont’s high peak, secluded from the merchants of Venice, time is a silhouette of the real world. Portia sits there weary and bored, waiting for the brave suitor who would agree to risk all for her. She is the perfect woman, wrought of both intelligence and beauty; she is like a doll trapped in Wonderland. In addition to those materialistic qualities, she is also a faithful daughter. She dutifully holds true to her father’s dying wish and allows her suitors to be chosen by a lottery system. Thus, many heroic Jasons come in quest for this golden fleece. All abandon this quest, afraid that they would not choose the right casket, and thus

might lose all. Dear Portia is innocently waiting in Belmont for love. In Venice, daughters do not have deep faiths in their fathers. Tired of her “hell” house, Jessica elopes with Lorenzo. Perhaps she does so to ameliorate her status in the orthodox world; she seeks conversion to Christianity in order to justify her hated past Jewish life. Semitism is despised in Venice. Shylock, her father, portrays the typical Jewish hatred towards Christians, with justification, “I hate him for he is a Christian. [Act 1, Scene 3]” He will not allow her to mingle with Christians. “Nor thrust your head into the public street / To gaze on Christian fools with varnished faces… [Act 2, Scene 5]” Thus, he has destroyed her innocent love. In order to love, she would have to defy him.