Throughout history, love has always been associated and depicted to marriage, trust, and faithfulness. In Shakespeare’s plays, he portrays love in many ways in his plays, including family love and marital love; the effect of love on characters’ speech and actions are also observed in Much Ado About Nothing and Merchant of Venice.
The love between family members, as expected, is the bonding and status between a family; respect and honor is a huge part of this relationship. However, in the Merchant of Venice, Shylock, a Jew who lends money, loved his materialistic possessions while not caring a lot about his daughter. When Shylock’s daughter runs away with his monetary possessions, the first thing he exclaims is that ‘he will be nothing without his money’. This portrays him as a ‘money-first’ person, and that he cares much more about his gold than his kin. Family love, in Much Ado about Nothing, is characterized as a ‘secondary trait between characters’; there is almost always another value which is presented more strongly in the play. However, family love, specifically between Don John and Don Pedro (supposedly brothers), are not strong at all – they hate each other with a strong passion.
Marital love, or the love between two wedded persons, are characterized as a strong bond; the two persons are, by legal means, bonded together as one. In the Merchant of Venice, Portia and Bassanio, along with Nerissa and Gratiano, are married to each other. They are bonded together by an agreement, a pact, a promise; a promise to never lose or give away a ring that each wife has given their husband. However, when Bassanio, along with Gratiano, wins a court case that saves their friends Antonio, they give the ring away to the lawyer and his assistant, which was Portia and Nerissa in disguise. When Portia confronts Bassanio about the violation of the agreement, Bassanio apologizes profusely and was truly apologetic about his action. It is because Portia’s true love towards Bassanio that she forgave him, and gave him another chance. However, in Much Ado about Nothing, another perspective and approach to wrong-doings were taken. As Claudio heard from Don John that Hero was cheating on him, he became exponentially angry and impulsive. He threatened to disgrace her in front of the whole congregation – which does not portray much love, nor affections.
Lastly, the status of love between the plays were similar, as love was one of the main themes in both the plays. Love, in the Merchant of Venice, was represented as a forgiving and peaceful entity, as seen in the actions of Portia and Nerissa. However, a more hostile figure was given to love in Much Ado about Nothing – forgiveness is rather minimally represented in the interactions between characters. Trust, a key component to a successful marriage was also lacking between Claudio and Hero, a soon-to-be couple.
Overall, Shakespeare’s inclusion of love in his works strongly affected the action and words between family members and lovers; his views on marital and family love was clearly projected into his plays, which made them more enjoyable and entertaining.