On Christian and Jew: An Interpretation of The Merchant of Venice

Allan Bloom, “On Christian and Jew: An Interpretation of The Merchant of Venice,” in Shakespeare’s Politics, 1334


Venice is a beautiful city, full of color and variety. To this day, it represents the exotic and the exciting to the minds of those who know it – a port with all the freedom that proximity to the sea seems to encourage and with the presence of diverse kinds of men from diverse nations, races, and religions brought by the hope of adventure or gain to its shores. The prosperous merchants of Venice lavishly adorned it in a romantic taste, combining the styles of East and West, between which it was the link. Add to this the sun of Italy and the attractiveness of its people and you have that city which remains the setting of dreams of pleasure and happiness. . . .

Shakespeare, however, does not depict Venice with bright colors which one would expect, given its beauty and its promise. Whether one thinks of Othello or Shylock, one can only remember their somber facts.