The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice


William Shakespeare

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Greed vs. Generosity Theme Analysis

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Themes and Colors
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Merchant of Venice, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon

The primary grievance that Antonio has against Shylock is that he is greedy—for charging interest to those who borrow money from him when they are in need. The Venetians implicitly contrast Shylock's greed with the generosity that they show one another. For instance, Antonio is willing to place his whole "purse and person" at Bassanio's disposal and regularly saves other Christians from having to pay interest to Shylock by paying off their debts for them.

It seems that, like love or mercy, generosity is limitless, unbounded. However, The Merchant of Venice also frequently begs the question of whether friends aren't using friends, or lovers their lovers, for materialistic reasons. For instance, why is the perpetually indebted Bassanio so intent on wooing the rich Portia? And as Portia's and Nerissa's anger over the rings that their husbands give away in the final scene reflects, even the freest gift-giving comes with strings attached, like the rules governing Shylock's more frankly capitalistic contracts.

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Greed vs. Generosity Quotes in The Merchant of Venice

Below you will find the important quotes in The Merchant of Venice related to the theme of Greed vs. Generosity.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the selfsame flight
The selfsame way, with more advised watch,
To find the other forth; and by adventuring both,
I oft found both.
Related Characters: Bassanio (speaker)
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 1.1.140-144
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.
Related Characters: Nerissa (speaker)
Page Number: 1.2.5-6
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
Related Characters: Shylock (speaker), Bassanio
Page Number: 1.3.35-38
Explanation and Analysis:
Let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.
Related Characters: Shylock (speaker), Antonio
Page Number: 1.3.160-163
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, scene 7 Quotes
All that glisters is not gold.
Related Characters: Prince of Morocco (speaker)
Related Symbols: Stones, Rings, and Caskets
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 2.7.73
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that:
You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live.
Related Characters: Shylock (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.390-393
Explanation and Analysis: