Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Seth Lobis

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This thesis explores the pervasive role of commerce in Shakespeare’s comedy The Merchant of Venice, with a particular focus on the characters of Antonio, Bassanio, Shylock, and Portia, and the dual locales of Venice and Belmont. The way in which various characters engage in commerce is a reflection of their individual motives and affiliations. At the same time, the rhetoric of commerce, worth, and value colors the speech of various characters, and influences seemingly extra-commercial considerations such as identity, friendship, religion, socioeconomic status, and love. Ultimately, a close analysis of commercial transaction and language in the play reveals the complex nature of the narrative’s social dynamics and conflicts, and challenges what it means for characters to receive justice and possess agency in the world.