Prejudice In Romeo And Juliet

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The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet: The Effects of Prejudice on the Outcomes of Shylock and the Lovers As Bassanio scrutinizes the golden casket, he muses critically on its substance as a genuine determinant of its contents. Though the casket is made of pure gold, he proclaims, “So may the outward shows be least themselves” (III.2.73); thus, Bassanio, in his wisdom, stumbles upon one of the underlying sources of prejudice. He acknowledges the idea that, so often, men are deceived by the external, that they make irrevocable judgments, without profound reasoning, based merely on initial sight or thought. Prejudice, then, is a compilation of these preconceived notions. It thrives not only on biases towards physical appearances, but…show more content…
The play immediately opens up into a scene of disagreement between opposing members of the Montague and Capulet houses. It begins with the purposeful decision of Sampson to “bite [his] thumb at them” (I.1.40), expressively indicating a sense of “disgrace” (I.1.41) towards the approaching Montagues. Then, when Tybalt joins the crowd, he addresses Benvolio, “What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word/As I hate hell, all Montagues and thee” (I.1.67-69), indicating his disdain for Benvolio’s hypocrisy in waving his sword while calling for peace. He explicitly declares his hatred for the Montague family; yet, in this scene as well as in subsequent scenes, there is no mention of the precise reasoning behind the hatred. This could most likely be attributed to the fact that the existing feud between the families has been in place for so many generations that the most contemporary members are no longer acquainted with the original dispute. Now, not only are the family members active propellants of the discord, but also the ordinary citizens of Verona, who, in the midst of the scuffle, contribute, “Down with the Capulets! Down with the/Montagues!” (I.1.77). The expansion of the realms of the feud signifies the ability of prejudice to compound over time…show more content…
The overwhelming prejudice against him creates an environment which makes is impossible for the Christian characters to show exhibit genuine sympathy to his case. As soon as Portia, disguised as Balthasar, enters the room, she asks, “Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?” (IV.1.171). This is a particularly interesting line to note because she subtly draws a distinction by referring to Antonio by his occupation, while referring to Shylock by his religious affiliation, a title which was often used at that time as a derogatory reference. Even the Duke, himself, whose role should uphold impartiality, says to Antonio, “I am sorry for thee. Though art come to answer/A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch/Uncapable of pity, void and empty/From any dram of mercy” (IV.1.3-6). If even the ‘impartial’ judge finds himself with a strong bias, it makes for a difficult case to argue that Shylock deserves his consequence. Because of Portia’s cunning wit in pointing out the loopholes in Shylock’s bond agreement, he is forced to concede to the desires of the majority and leave court with a pardon from the Duke and “nothing but the forfeiture” (IV.1.339). Thus, the bold malevolence of Shylock’s vengeance is contrasted against Antonio’s magnanimity. The prejudice and hatred of the Montague and Capulet families leave the two lovers
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