Dismembering the Ducat in <i>The Merchant of Venice</i>

David Landreth

in The Face of Mammon

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199773299
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932665 | DOI:
Dismembering the Ducat in The Merchant of Venice

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Everyone knows that The Merchant of Venice is all about money, but if the characters of the play know it too, they do their best to avoid saying so. This chapter examines the variety of ways in which the play's characters seek to articulate extramonetary values for the objects of their desires, and so disavow the centrality of the three thousand ducats through which their desires contend. The mechanism of disavowal is that of dividing and regrouping the play's central problematic into not only different problems, but different kinds of problem: the twofold dilemma (as between justice and mercy, or Jew and Christian), the unitary mystery of the self to the self, the triplicate riddle of the three caskets. In the play's cynical assessment of the relation of its individuals to its society, self-knowledge is willfully mystified in order to validate the institution that, by its own consensual disavowal, holds the Venetian commonwealth together: its money.

Keywords: Shakespeare; William. Merchant of Venice; Disavowal; Riddle; mystery; dilemma

Chapter.  15331 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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