ENGL 120 Final Essay: The Merchant of Venice (5-6 pp./ due Friday, 5/5)
Topic: This essay asks you to develop, argue, and support an analytical claim about The Merchant of Venice based on your reading of both the play and the context readings about Venice found in our book (pp. 123-186).
Texts: The essay asks you to make direct use of the following sources (all of which can be found in our book):
The play itself.
At least two of the readings in the Venice section of context readings.
Kaplan’s introduction to the book.
Claim: The essay needs to identify an issue and claim. A successful claim will be informed in some way by the context readings. In addition, it will point to some problem within the play. A successful claim will bring together the play and context readings. Here are some sample topics that you can choose from to develop your claim:
- Writers such as Robert Wilson and _____ present Italians as more suspicious than Jews. While the play seems to present Shylock as a villain, in keeping with these readings, Shakespeare can be seen to present Shylock as the only honest character.
- Bassanio’s obsession with money and status is not evidence of a character flaw. Rather, it is part of the play’s (in keeping with the context readings) use of stereotypes that the English held at that time regarding Venice and Venetians.
- While Portia is presented as the play’s romantic heroine, her actions, when read through the lens of the context readings, cast doubt on her moral integrity.
- The casket scenes (2.7, 2.9, and 3.2) show Bassanio succeed where others fail. Read through the lens of the context readings, these scenes also serve to critique the merchant culture of Venice.
To make one of these into a claim, indicate how you will analyze poetic language to help prove/ examine the topic. For example, I could add something like the following to address poetic language in the second topic above: While Bassanio frequently uses terms related to money and commerce, so do other “good” characters, such as _____, _____, and _____. Moreover, by the end of the play, Bassanio has moved past this way of speaking.
Evidence: As we have practiced all semester, successful essays will introduce, cite, and explain evidence using either MLA or APA format. Citations from the play will parenthetically reference act, scene, and line. The citation (2.3.21), for example, refers to Act 2 Scene 3 Line 21. Use page numbers for other sources. You will need a works cited page that includes separate entries for the items included in our book. You can cite the introduction as well as context readings as works from an anthology.
Model: Chapter six of Arguing About Literature includes sample essays that take a range of approaches to researched argument. Of the sample essays provided, the two most similar to this assignment are A Paper that Uses a Literary Work to Examine Social Issues (208-212) and A Paper that Places a Literary Work in Historical and Cultural Context (223-227). Like these sample essays, your essay should include at least one endnote.
Writing Lab: As with the poetry analysis essay, you can improve your score by going to the campus writing center and including writing center evidence with your final draft.