In Shakespeare`s play The Merchant of Venice, Shylock and Antonio enter into a contract in which Antonio loses a pound of his flesh if he does not repay the money borrowed for Bassanio. The two men verbally strengthen the bond and Shylock carries the contract to the notary. In Shakespeare`s time, economic contracts were social promises rather than written laws, although they were always made formally and deliberately to seal an agreement. The contract between Shylock and Antonio becomes problematic at the end of the play, as Shylock, Portia and the Duke interpret the contract in different ways. Contract law as a whole lacked coherence, and religion was a strong argument when defended in court. The problem here is that if citizens suffer from laws that are easily misunderstood and constantly evolving, the enforcement of contracts is even more destructive with Shylock`s rigor and vindictive motives. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare acknowledges the arbitrariness and harmfulness of inconsistent contract law, notably because of its social and religious nature. Debt and loan contracts are placed above civil law because they are formed in a common law tradition and are followed on the basis of moral obligations under canon law. In the early seventeenth century, English law depended more on oral agreements and social norms than on written laws and judgments by authority figures. If Antonio breaks his contract with Shylock, his reputation and business will be damaged without the need for civil law to intervene.

However, when Shylock included the Duke and English laws, his revenge turned against him and Antonio emerged victorious. Shakespeare understands that the standard way of working benefits a large population, but in this play he also discourages a vindictive and inflexible interpretation of contract law. When it comes to a highly interpretive agreement, it is best to act honestly and fairly without neglecting human mercy and compassion. In the courtroom scene, Shylock stubbornly defends Antonio`s sentence because the debts were not repaid on time. Shylock asserts: “I defend the judgment” (4.1.103) and “I defend the law here” (4.1.142) and demonstrates a ruthless interpretation of contract law. For Shylock, the original agreement between two men is still under the law, regardless of the brutal effects of the contract. He uses a kind of justice found in the Book of Exodus, where an “eye for an eye” defines politics. Shylock is eager for revenge, but Portia asks for mercy and understands the contract in a different way. When her calls to the New Testament influenced everyone except Shylock and the Duke, Portia reversed the diction of the treaty to overwhelm Shylock. Portia null and void Shylock`s contract on a formal formulation in which Shylock can only take “one pound of meat” (4.1.324), no blood. The trial scene shows how a contract between two men can be both a legal agreement, a social promise, a weapon and a method of mercy. .

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