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Elements of Deconstruction in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act II

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1 Elements of Deconstruction in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act II
Atefeh Komasi Saba Sajedi Zohre Zereshkian

2 Act II - Summary Prior to Bassanio's arrival, the Prince of Morocco tries his luck in choosing among the caskets. He picks the gold casket because it contains an inscription reading "what every man desires." Instead of Portia's picture, he finds a skull which symbolizes the fact that gold hides corruption. As part of losing the suit, he is further sworn to never propose marriage to any other woman, and must return to Morocco immediately. The next suitor, the Prince of Aragon, selects the silver casket which bears an inscription stating that “it will give a man what he deserves.” Inside, is a picture of an idiot, indicating that his self-centered approach was foolish. He too leaves in shame.

3 Summary Back in Venice, Jessica, the daughter of Shylock, has fallen in love with Lorenzo. They plan to escape one night when Shylock is invited to eat at Bassanio's house. After Shylock leaves, Lorenzo goes to his house with two friends. Jessica appears at a window dressed as a boy and tosses a chest of money and jewels down to them. She then emerges from the house and runs away with Lorenzo. Shylock, upon discovering that his daughter has run away with a lot of his money, blames Antonio for helping her escape. At the same time there are rumors developing in Venice that many of Antonio's ships, with which he expected to repay Shylock for the loan, have sunk or been lost at sea. Shylock begins to revel in the news that Antonio is losing everything because he wants to exact his pound of flesh in revenge for the many insults Antonio has dealt him throughout the years.

4 Binary Opposition In critical theory, a binary opposition (also binary system) is a pair of related terms or concepts that are opposite in meaning. Binary opposition is the system by which, in language and thought, two theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off against one another. It is the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms, such as on and off, up and down, left and right.

5 Binary Opposition in Act II
MOROCCO: Mislike me not for my complexion, The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun, To whom I am a neighbor and near bred. Bring me the fairest creature northward born, Where Phoebus’ fire scarce thaws the icicles, And let us make incision for your love, To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.

6 In this conversation the prince of Morocco makes the biased assertion to show his apparent superiority to “the fairest creature northward born” that his (the prince of Morocco’s ) blood is “reddest”. Yet, this superiority makes a kind of privilege by giving a prominence to the Black suitor as someone more deserved for gaining the hands of Portia than the white one. However we know that the skin color is not a matter of importance.

7 Undecidability A term used by deconstructionist and other postmodern critics to decree that a text’s meaning is always in flux and never final. Accordingly for closure of meaning for any text is general sense, undecidability results from swinging from one choice to the other in which one is stimulated by an outside force that causes a sort of madness for the person involved and which is not recommended by deconstruction.

8 Undecidability in Act II
LAUNCELOT: Certainly my conscience will serve me to run from this Jew my master. The fiend is at mine elbow and tempts me saying to me ‘Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot,’ or ‘good Gobbo,’ or good Launcelot Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away. My conscience says ‘No; take heed,’ honest Launcelot; take heed, honest Gobbo, or, as aforesaid, ‘honest Launcelot Gobbo; do not run; scorn running with thy heels.’ Well, the most courageous fiend bids me pack: ‘Via!’ says the fiend; ‘away!’ says the fiend; ‘for the heavens, rouse up a brave mind,’ says the fiend, ‘and run.’ Well, my conscience, hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me ‘My honest friend Launcelot, being an honest man’s son,’ or rather an honest

9 woman’s son; for, indeed, my father did something smack, something grow to, he had a kind of taste; well, my conscience says ‘Launcelot, budge not.’ ‘Budge,’ says the fiend. ‘Budge not,’ says my conscience. ‘Conscience,’ say I, ‘you counsel well;’ ‘Fiend,’ say I, ‘you counsel well:’ to be ruled by my conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master, who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil; and, to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself. Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnal; and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew. The fiend gives the more friendly counsel: I will run, fiend; my heels are at your command; I will run

10 This scene shows Lancelot‘s dilemma in choosing between going or staying, following his consciousness and sticking to the fiend’s encouragement. In other words, he is stuck between keeping and holding on to his Jew master, and going to the Christian master, while the fiend serving as an outside force manipulating his conscience and influencing his judgment. At the end, in spite of his conscious his decides to serve the Christian master that is out of madness.

11 Theocentrism Anti-Semitic
Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti- Semitism) is prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. A person who holds such positions is called an "antisemite". It is a form of racism.

12 Anti-semitism in Act II
GRATIANO: Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew.

13 Semitism in Act II SHYLOCK: What, are there masques? Hear you me, Jessica:Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum And the vile squealing of the wry-neck’d fife, Clamber not you up to the casements then, Nor thrust your head into the public street To gaze on Christian fools with varnish’d faces, But stop my house’s ears, I mean my casements: Let not the sound of shallow foppery enter My sober house. By Jacob’s staff, I swear, I have no mind of feasting forth to-night: But I will go. Go you before me, sirrah; Say I will come.

14 In the course of the act, we find numerous offensive dialogues for the hatred of a couple of religions. In fact, in many instances Christians, their beliefs, thoughts, and values are undervalued and as inferior. In this very dialogue, Jesus Christ and his followers are seen like fools who wear masks. this even goes so far as to give a colored superiority to Christianity where he says, “Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew” which shows his inherence belief that his religion (Christianity) is so superior that he swears to his hood as something unusually holly that can be thought to have rooted in his ideology about Christianity as a mighty logo.

15 Phallogocentrism Any sort of domination put into action or thought by men over women. This can build a center, create privilege, and lead to failure, since no center can apparently or possibly pave the path to any ground we can stand strongly on.

16 Phallogocentrism in Act II
PORTIA: In terms of choice I am not solely led By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes; Besides, the lottery of my destiny Bars me the right of voluntary choosing: But if my father had not scanted me And hedged me by his wit, to yield myself His wife who wins me by that means I told you, Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair As any comer I have look’d on yet For my affection.

17 This dialogue, pictures the fact that Portia has been deprived of her right to choose her husband on the basis of her willful act. yet, by the order of her father’s “wit” or will, she is indirectly forced to marry a suitor based on their act of trial and error of finding the right casket.

18 Différance Etymologically, derived from the French word ‘différer’, meaning to “defer, postpone, or delay” and “to differ, to be different from”. Basically, Differance is Derrida’s “What if?” in fact, the “what if” provides us with more opportunities and gives us some more space of choosing the most suitable option among many others.

19 Différance in Act II MOROCCO: Some god direct my judgment! Let me see; I will survey the inscriptions back again. What says this leaden casket? ‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’ Must give: for what? for lead? hazard for lead? …………………… Let’s see once more this saying graved in gold ‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.’ Why, that’s the lady; all the world desires her; From the four corners of the earth they come, To kiss this shrine, this mortal-breathing saint

20 In his monologue, he has in mind and sight various chances and options
In his monologue, he has in mind and sight various chances and options. Yet, each time he postpones his decision from one casket to the other, which literary gives him space time and the opportunity to make his wises choice.

21 References Bresler, literary criticism Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare

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