Elements of
Deconstruction in
Shakespeare’s Merchant
of Venice, Act II
Atefeh Komasi
Saba Sajedi
Zohre Zereshkian
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
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
Binary Opposition
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or antiSemitism)
connected to their Jewish heritage. A person
who holds such positions is called an
"antisemite". It is a form of racism.
Anti-semitism in Act II
GRATIANO: Now, by my hood, a Gentile and
no Jew.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Bresler, literary criticism
Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare

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