Most of you reading this article would have
immediately thought that this must be about new issue that has risen due to
some incident that has occurred and would think about turning right past this
article and onto another one, thinking it’s about some feminist writing and
creating a new issue, but in fact, this deals with something that happened over
400 years ago.
I am talking about The Merchant of
Venice, one of the greatest plays ever, written by one of the greatest
playwrights ever, William Shakespeare. The plays main plot deals with Antonio,
a merchant living in Venice, who takes a loan from a cunning Jewish merchant
named Shylock, who asks for one pound of Antonio’s flesh if he is not able to
repay the loan. In one subplot, Bassanio, one of Antonio’s closest friends,
falls in love with Portia, the heiress to the throne of Belmont. In yet another
subplot, Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, falls in love with a Christian man,
Lorenzo, who also happens to be Antonio’s friend.
This play is so important in the topic
of gender stereotypes and inequality because it shows us that women were so
contained by men in olden times and were not allowed to do anything other than
cook, take care of the young and old and manage the house. On the other hand,
Shakespeare gives us a glimpse into the future, creating a character that is
much ahead of the time, an independent woman, who thinks for herself, doesn’t
heed what others think, is perseverant and resourceful. He creates Portia, the
heiress of Belmont, who is an anti-stereotypical Elizabethan woman. She
modifies the traditional gender roles present in that era and gives the
audience a feel for the future of women and how women should act in society.
For instance, even though Portia is a
very rich woman who has all the money anyone would need, she is still a selfless
woman who is willing to do anything to save a life. For example, Portia offers
Shylock, the moneylender double the amount of money he initially asked for just
to free Antonio, a man she doesn’t know very well.