Shakespeare – Module 5:The Merchant of Venice The Merchant of Venice – 3 of 20 Themes, Motifs, and Symbols
Learning Objective: in this post we will explore the main themes, symbols and motifs of The Merchant of Venice
Task 1: watch the video below then answer the questions that follow. This will recap the plot and the characters before looking at some of the main ideas or themes in the play
Quick summary: The Merchant of Venice written between 1596 and 1598 is Shakespeare’s comedy centred around love, money, prejudice and social injustice.
Task 1: complete the very quick quiz below
What 3 symbols are mentioned in the video?
What 4 motifs are mentioned in the video?
So what are the differences between a theme, a symbol and a motif? Look at the images below and read the text to find out.
are the main ideas that appear repeatedly throughout the text. They are often ideas (concepts) that everyone will understand. The theme is NOT the subject of the work, it is an insight about life or human nature.
There are 3 main themes in The Merchant of Venice. Sometimes they can be looked at separately, for example, money and love could be separate themes or connected.
Prejudice and social injustice
Revenge, justice and forgiveness
Money and love
Task 2: match the images in the ppt to the themes
Recurring elements and patterns of imagery in The Merchant of Venice which support the play’s themes
A repeated situation, incident, idea, image or character type.
A single image repeated
Similar images repeated to reinforce the theme
Key motifs in The Merchant of Venice are:
Gold/ducats, jewels and caskets
Symbols represent a visual item that serves a literal purpose but also represents or suggests an abstract idea.
Task 4: watch the video about symbols in The Merchant of Venice
Task 5: answer the questions in the quick quiz
What are the 3 symbols used in The Mercahnt of Venice?
Gold represents: a) money, b) money and status, c) money, status and power
Which characters realise that all that glitters is not gold?
Flesh is a symbol of: a) being a carnivore b) life c) animals
Which character offers a pound of his own flesh as payment for a loan: a) Antonio, b) Shylock, c) Bassanio
What do rings represent in the play?
Losing a ring represents: a) the loss of something shiny b) the loss of love c) the loss and destruction of love
So there we have it, Themes, Motifs and Symbols. Through the use of these we can understand what the play is really about. The following document provides examples of where we see these being used in the play.
Task 6: Read the document that gives examples of events matched to theme, motif and symbol
Well done. You have now completed a study of the themes and motifs and symbols in the play