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LIMITATION OF LAWS IN MERCHANT OF VENICE

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Dihaan Khan

10/21/20231 min read

Limitation of Laws: Law and order were still unfamiliar terms in the 16th century and commoners and plebeians treated them as so. There were no precise rules laid out, nor any constitutions- people could do as they pleased as long as there was no manslaughter evident. The obvious lack of enforced law is what leads the characters in Merchant of Venice to take place in such dangerous- and frankly criminal transactions. A few examples of these transactions are the giddily high rates of interest Shylock charges for the sums of money he doles out as a moneylender, and the life-threatening deal he strikes with Antonio for a pound of the latter’s flesh on failure to pay back the borrowed sum.

Once again, we find the epicenter of the illegality to be on Shylock’s behalf, the main Jew. As William Shakespeare says, “Lawless are they that make their wills their law.” This is evident in 16th century Venice, when there are not enough laws to keep the citizens in order, and not enough policemen to try. We see the characters making up laws of their own kind, most of which are lethal or avaricious. Elopement, flesh bonds, interest fraud, etc are some of the crimes we see. The society is thus imbalanced, with no harmony.

An unharmonized, imbalanced society’s cons weigh out its pros. While there is certainly more freedom, it also implies more crime going on behind the scenes, more felonies, and more secret malfeasances. People’s desires win over, and that’s never a good sign. Once you start giving in to your wants instead of your needs, you forget sight of your initial goals. You start to forget moral rights, and comply with only what YOU want, completely disregarding other’s choices.

We as a human race have experimented with democracy, dictatorship, communism, socialism, humanism, fascism, and many other isms, picking out the best aspects of each and merging them together to create today’s society. While we are still far from perfect, we tried, and are still trying to become the perfect beings always fantasized about. Perfect will take a long time to come, but until then, we can focus on being imperfectly perfect, flawlessly flawed, and being ourselves, improving through the ages.