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Shylock’s Day in Court in Shakespeare’s Play – The Merchant of Venice

One must wonder if Shylock, the Jew, ever received his day in court in the Merchant of Venice. Some said yes, others no. Shylock was in court to collect on his bond. He loaned three thousand ducats to Bassanio to married Portia. Antonia, the Merchant of Venice, was the surety. However, when the bond was due, Antonio failed to pay as prescribed in the bond. The bond was to be paid in three months and is now past due. Shylock rightfully had a claim under the law. He is a Jew, was raised as a Jew, lived in a Jewish slum, and believed his bond should be paid based on Old Testament Law.

Shylock ran into difficult in court when he tried to collect his bond. He was antagonized by Gratiano, who should have been barred from being in the courtroom based on his actions toward Shylock. The figurehead Duke, who acted as the judge, refused to suppress Gratiano’s actions and other antagonist in the court. The Duke made a statement as follows, “Upon my power I may dismiss this court / Unless Bellario, a learned doctor / Whom I have sent for to determine this case / Come here today.” Obviously, the Duke’s mind was already made up before the case even started against Shylock the Jew, not to let him get his pound of flesh from Antonio, the surety. Obviously, Shylock was facing a Kangaroo Court.

Interestingly, when Portia (married to Bassanio) disguised as Bellario the learned judge showed up, matters became worst for Shylock. He had the law on his side and Antonio owed him; however, Bellario made a plea for mercy based on the New Testament Law. She knew that Shylock would reject the plea and ask for his bond to be paid according to the law. He believed in the Old Testament Law. This would give her the leverage she wanted to crush Shylock.

Bellario (Portia, who is married to Bassanio) the learned judge, made some arguments in Shylock’s favor at the beginning of the case to affirm the fact Antonio owed him, and that he had the law on his side. Subsequently, she turned the table against him. She referred to him indignantly as a Jew, she did not show him mercy when she in turn requested mercy from him, and she classified him as an alien and not a citizen of Venice. She even refused to make his bond whole, and also confiscated his property as a penalty to the court. The supposedly learned judge’s actions caused others in the court to turn against Shylock. One could say that her actions and decisions were overreaching.

In the end Shylock lost his case. He was stripped of his property. The members of the court laughed. The court even converted him into a Christian. Others certainly had their day in court, but certainly not Shylock who tried to collect his bond of three thousand ducats, which was past due, and he just lost.

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