You must select one of the following prompts for your essay:
1. A recurring motif in The Merchant of Venice is blood. How is blood represented in The Merchant of Venice? Choose specific examples of how blood is presented in the play, what it symbolizes, the religious allusions it represents (contrasting Shylock’s Jewish faith with the Christian faith of the other characters). In what ways does blood unite and divide people?
2. Analyze the characterization of Bassanio in the play.  How does he relate to the other characters in the play, especially Portia and Antonio? Does he have genuine feelings for either of them, or is it purely transactional? What could Shakespeare have been trying to present with his depiction of Bassanio? Analyze specific scenes from the play that show interactions between these characters in order to support your argument.
3. Consider Shylock’s rhetoric throughout the play, especially his famous speech at the end. In what ways does Shylock confirm or contradict stereotypes of Jews prevalent throughout this period (do not assume – you must research what these stereotypes actually were)? What does Shakespeare accomplish by rendering Shylock simultaneously unlikable, yet sympathetic?
In addition to the rubric criteria, keep the following in mind: