The Merchant of Venice – Pupil analysis (Yoloman)

I try to stick to poetry on here, but occasionally I get a submission relating to other texts. Unfortunately, without having expert knowledge on everything on the syllabus, I can’t offer too much support content-wise.

However, I’ve made some comments based on essay structuring that might be of some use. As always, my comments are in red.

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Q: To what extent does Shakespeare make the ending of the play satisfying for you.

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In the play ‘’ Merchant of Venice ‘’ by William Shakespeare, the ending presents an overall mixed mood amongst the audiences. The defeat of Shylock is seen as a happy ending as it portrays the defeat of evil. This is furthered by the reunification of all lovers and recovery of all of Antonio’s supposed lost wealth. However, it does create slight feelings of sympathy in a modern audience as Shylock may be a representation of Jewish men suffering in the prejudiced Venetian society. (good clear introduction that provides a structure for the essay to come)

The reunification of lovers in Belmont puts forth a happy atmosphere which compliments a typical happy ending play by Shakespeare. (simplistic expression here) Bassanio and Portia are successfully reunited after luck is seen to favor them throughout the play. It is seen by the audience as a successful reunification of two lovers who were bound to be together after they successfully manage to choose the correct casket whilst remaining honest and loyal to the dictates of the will. This may show how Christians were always honest and followed laws as per the bible and appropriately were rewarded for the same.  In addition to this Gratiano and Nerissa also get married to each other representing happiness for all Christians, rich or poor. This greatly contrasts to the reunification of Jessica who is forced to flee from her old father. The contrasts in the type of reunifications shown by Shakespeare helps to carry forth the idea of prejudice which is central to this drama. (okay, the analysis is fine, but it is not exactly precise. You are meant to be commenting on how Shakespeare has done something to impact upon his audience and thus comment on specific elements of the text – quotations or specific references)

Jessica’s relation with Lorenzo is characterized by the betrayal of her own father and more importantly portrayed as a betrayal to the Jewish community. (no connection with the previous paragraph – disrupts the flow of the essay) This differs from the legal methods by which Portia marries Bassanio and may help Shakespeare show the consequences of the  illegal acts that Jews commit, similar to lending money with interest.  Jessica is forced to convert herself to a Christian similar to her father’s ultimate fate. Her guilt for her father’s fate is seen as she is ‘never merry when she hears sweet music’’ (okay, if you are going to include a quotation then you need to stop and explain its significance, why Shakespeare has used it etc – it is not enough just to retell what is happening) This contrast between the fates of the other lovers and herself helps Shakespeare maintain the Jewish inferiority to the Christians. Even Jessica who converts to Christianity is forced to ultimately see her father’s ruin and see him convert. Furthermore, she is forced to accept her father’s wealth as inheritance implying the importance of wealth over love and is presented as a speechless bystander in the last act, listening to other characters’ taunt and celebrate over her father’s ruin. This ending of the play helps Shakespeare once again emphasize on the superiority of Christians over the Jew. (phrasing is wrong, should be emphasises the superiority) This ending is appreciated by the historic audience but is disputable to a modern day audience. (why? Explore this comment as I don’t fully understand what you are saying.

Also, how has this paragraph answered the initial question? Use anchors to keep your answers focused)

The ring subplot used by Shakespeare helps to further the drama and tension of the play. (what is a ring subplot? Make this clearer)  Portia is seen instructing the servants and Lorenzo not to mention of her absence from Belmont. This not only shows her authoritative character but also induces suspense in the audience as to what will happen. It helps Shakespeare to continue drama and suspense which has been central to the play’s plot by showing the anger that Portia holds and the fears that it may cause new problems. Portia, however jokes that she can only get the ring back by sleeping with the clerk indicating the consequences of a lack of loyalty in a relationship. It also adds much needed humor to the plot as Bassanio and Gratiano are scared and confused of their fates whilst the audience are aware of the entire story. It helps Shakespeare conclude the play on a humorous note as well as convey the importance of trust and honesty in a relationship to the audience. (good summing up here in the last sentence; however, I’d like to see quotations used in each paragraph)

Shakespeare successfully manages to use a happy ending to the play and also put forth messages of importance of love and loyalty. However, the sad fate that Shylock and his daughter face creates a sympathetic ending rather than a happy one for a modern audience like ourselves. (did you analyse the ‘sad fate of Shylock’ in the body of your essay? You don’t mention him except in the introduction and conclusion. In the first sentence of your conclusion, just make sure you actually recap how love and loyalty create a happy ending).

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Okay, I’m not going to give you a banding because I don’t know The Merchant of Venice so well that I can really comment on your ideas. However, there are a few suggestions that I have for your essay writing style:

Introduction – yours is brilliant, but unfortunately you don’t stick to the structure you outline for the rest of your essay. An intro basically works as a simple answer to the question with a contents page of what is to come in the essay. Thus I would expect para 1 to be about defeat of evil; para 2 reunification of lovers;  para 3 recovery of Antonio’s cash; para 4 prejudice.

Linking – all of your body paragraphs act as independent entities with no linking phrases between them. Just something simple like Another way Shakespeare makes the ending satisfying is…

Analysis – it is important that you address the question with focus throughout. In the first sentence of each paragraph it would be an idea to specifically address it. Only rarely do you acknowledge how Shakespeare actually creates meaning and you only use one quotations throughout your whole essay. If not quotations then you need to ensure that you are very specific with your references and analyse precisely how these references impact upon the audience.

Conclusion – recap all your main point to firmly address the question again.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

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