The Merchant of Venice Newspaper Report

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This is my sustained response that I had to write in response to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice for year 9 English. It is based on the courtroom scene in act IV scene I. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Jewish Man Sentenced for Attempting to Murder a Venetian

Shylock, Jewish Moneylender, Becomes a Broken Man after Unsuccessfully Attempting to Kill Antonio, a Merchant

Yesterday, the courts of Venice experienced an unusual scene that was disgraceful and hideous yet an entertaining tragedy. Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, pursued a case against the merchant Antonio, seeking his bond of ‘a pound of flesh’. Overseeing the court case was the Duke of Venice, and the young lawyer, Balthazar. Antonio’s friends were also present, including Bassanio, for whom Antonio took out the loan, and Salerio, Solanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo. I am recounting the events which took place in the court to illustrate how experiencing discrimination can cause bitter and even irrational behaviour. All Venetians must understand the consequences of such discrimination and the negative impact on Venetian society.

First, some background to this troubling case. Three months ago, Antonio secured a loan from Shylock for three thousand ducats, with no interest. They agreed that if he failed to pay it back, he would have to sacrifice a pound of his flesh. The loan was made on behalf of Antonio’s good friend Bassanio, who wished to woo a rich and beautiful woman by the name of Portia. Antonio was confident that his merchandise at sea would return and he would easily be able to pay Shylock back. However, all of Antonio’s ships miscarried, and his wealth at sea was lost. As a result Antonio was unable to raise a sum of three thousand ducats, putting his life in Shylock’s hands.

Bassanio offered Shylock more than three times the original loan of three thousand ducats. Shylock refused to take the money, saying that he would not accept thirty six thousand ducats instead of a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Shylock’s enmity towards the Christians of Venice has intensified after being repeatedly spurned by Christians, in particular, the merchant Antonio. This hatred burst out of him even in a formal and public environment, with Shylock claiming that Antonio once spat upon him and called him a dog. Shylock stated that by collecting his bond, he would be settling a score between the Christians and the Jews of Venice by following the Christian example of revenge.

Shylock has been particularly distressed lately as his daughter eloped with a Christian and stole his valuable jewels. He has been heard saying he preferred his daughter dead at his foot and the jewels in her coffin, than having her married to a Christian. While this attitude seems to demonstrate that the Shylock is filled with hate and avarice, the reality is that Shylock has been unfairly persecuted by Antonio and other Christians of Venice for his religious beliefs. He has said that “sufferance is the badge of my tribe”; meaning that the Jews of Venice have suffered throughout history as a result of their religious beliefs. This has resulted in Shylock seeking revenge against Christians in any way that he is able to.

After introducing the case, the Duke of Venice called Shylock an inhuman monster incapable of pity or mercy. Not surprisingly, this only served to make Shylock more resentful. The Duke gave Shylock several opportunities to take the amount offered by Bassanio and to show mercy to Antonio, but Shylock refused, insisting that he ‘would have his bond’. The Duke expressed his belief that Shylock did not truly mean to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh, but instead relished the opportunity to control a dramatic scene and expose the flaws of others. Shylock was quick to justify his case, and proceeded to sharpen his knife in anticipation of collecting his bond of a pound of Antonio’s flesh, nearest to his breast.

A young lawyer by the name of Balthazar entered the courtroom, and, in an insightful speech about the qualities of mercy, gave reasons why Shylock should be merciful and take the money offered. Shylock, however, brushed aside the impressive speech and reiterated his demands for justice and revenge. Bassanio then desperately claimed that he would pay the debt ten times over, or with his own life if necessary. He begged the court that they should bend the law slightly in his favour, however Balthazar refused Bassanio’s suggestion, claiming that he would not break the law just to do “the right thing”. Shylock praised him, believing that he will finally get revenge on the Christians of Venice.

Balthazar requested that Shylock should have a surgeon on hand, in order to prevent Antonio from bleeding to death from having a pound of his flesh removed. Shylock refused, saying that it is ‘not so nominated in the bond’. At this point, Antonio believed he was beyond the point of no return, and that he would have to pay the bond with his life. He told Bassanio, with tears in his eyes, not to blame himself for allowing Antonio to die, on the basis that they both took out the loan willingly.

When all seemed lost for Antonio, Balthazar finally found a loophole in the bond proposed by Shylock. He stated that the bond stipulated no allowance for blood, and specified a pound of Antonio’s flesh with no allowance for blood, and that if Shylock tried to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh and in the process he shed blood, half of Shylock’s goods would be owned by the state and the other by the offended party, in this case, Antonio. This would be classified as an alien conspiring against the life of a Venetian. Hearing this, Shylock immediately gave up on trying to pursue a pound of Antonio’s flesh, and requested the original sum of three thousand ducats, but was prevented from doing so as he had already been given several chances. He pleaded with the Duke to make the penalty less severe, and to show him mercy as he should have done. Antonio agreed to give up his half of Shylock’s estate for it to be donated to Shylock’s daughter and her husband upon his death. Hearing this, Shylock’s face became grave, and he left the court a broken man, his case against Antonio destroyed like the wealth he once had. With that, the court meeting was concluded, and the life of the merchant Antonio spared.

Ostensibly, it would appear that this court case was caused by Shylock’s bloodthirsty desire for revenge on Antonio for his discrimination against Jewish people. Throughout history, Jewish people have been persecuted due to their religious beliefs, as Shylock has pointed out. They have been forced to convert to Christianity, had their synagogues burned, burned at the stake, had their religious texts burned, banned from travelling and massacred. In modern Venetian society, persecution of Jews still occurs, but it is unseen by the majority of Venice. Jews are not treated equally in modern Venice and have to live in ghettos, wearing red caps when leaving the ghetto.

The drama and trauma of this case could have been avoided if Shylock had been better treated for his religious views, and respected by the non-Jewish population of Venice. Venice is a city with rigid laws based on equality and safety of its citizens and has established laws to prevent the Jewish people of Venice from interfering with the lives of citizens of Venice. Treating all people of Venice with respect is the key to having a strong and successful nation, and from avoiding devastating cases such as this from occurring in the future. While trying to murder Antonio by taking a pound of his flesh was inherently immoral, Shylock’s actions were caused by mistreatment from the Christians of Venice, and for that you cannot help but feel pity for him.

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Year 9 Short Story: The Arsonist

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This is a creative piece that I had to write for a year 9 short story writing assignment. It definitely is not one of my best pieces of writing, but I hope you enjoy reading it.

Stephanie Edgell waits, half-watching TV, eagerly anticipating her husband Charlie’s return from work. She flicks on the news, and watches a young, blonde-haired female news reporter covering the devastating bushfire that swept through the Victorian countryside that day. “Many rural areas have been affected, and charities are providing support for those who have lost their homes,” says the news reporter in a grave tone. To emphasise her point, a little girl clutches a dusty and ash-covered teddy bear, crying to go back home. There is plenty of footage of houses engulfed by rising flames, and the mere piles of rubble that remained afterward. Half a dozen people died in the fire, but the death toll is likely to rise, and there have been many buildings lost. As the reporter reads out the towns affected, Stephanie thankfully realises that the bushfire is kilometres away from her house. It has burnt quite near the road where Charlie is travelling home, but that part of the fire is now under control. Just before she turns off the television, Stephanie hears the reporter say gravely that the fire may have been deliberately lit.

Stephanie sighs. Waiting for Charlie to get home is always the worst part of her day. She feels exhausted after a long day at work and has spent the remainder of her energy cooking a meal. She yawns, considering picking up the phone and calling him, but decides against it as he is probably driving home right now and doesn’t need to be distracted. “It can wait until he gets home,” she says to herself under her breath. “It’s nothing to worry about. Everything is probably okay.”
Stephanie gets up and shakily pours herself a glass of wine to calm her nerves. She tips the glass back and drains the blood-red liquid, trying to contain her anxiety. She paces back and forth across the kitchen.

“Where are you, Charlie? Where are you?”

***

Charlie drowsily keeps his foot glued to the accelerator of his old ute, driving along the rough roads of the Victorian countryside. It is getting late, but no later than when he normally travels home from work. He pays little attention to the radio, but he gets the impression that there has been a bushfire somewhere nearby, which has devastated people’s homes and the landscape. What he is really interested in is how long it will take him to get home and see his wife again. He often says that she is what makes his eight hours of gruelling work at the mines each day worthwhile. She keeps him going through adversity and makes his life truly worth living.
Charlie continues driving, passing few cars, before he notices a man on the side of the road. He is sticking his thumb out, the universal symbol to ask for transport. Charlie abruptly stops the car at the side of the road. He gets out of the ute and turns to face the man.
“Why are you here?” he asks solemnly. He inspects the man closely and notices that he is covered in ash and has dark, bloodshot eyes. The tall, gaunt figure of the man is lit by the soft glow of the car’s lights.
“My house burnt down. It’s the most horrific thing I have ever seen. My beautiful house, nothing but ashes now. I don’t have insurance, so I have nothing now. Please take me to the centre of the nearest town. They should have shelter for survivors like me there. I will stay the night and see what I can do from there.”
Charlie nods. He can scarcely imagine what the man has gone through. The least he can do is help him to safety. He deserves that.

He turns the key, and starts up the engine again.
“Did you have any family nearby?” asks Charlie as they drive along.

The man sits for a moment, as if thinking. “Yes, my darling Marissa and two kids, but I haven’t seen them since the bushfire struck. The fire came when I was at work, and I only just managed to get out. The kids were at school. I hope they’re OK,” he says, with a shiver in his voice. Charlie notices his face is expressionless as he says this, as if he has no connection to his family whatsoever. He also has a slight suspicion that the man is not telling him the whole truth.

“That’s terrible. If you want, you can try to ring your wife on my mobile,” says Charlie, handing the man his mobile phone.
“No really, it’s fine, I’m sure she’s okay. I’ll call her later, when I’m at the town hall,” says the man, handing Charlie’s phone back. “Where do you live?” he asks Charlie
“Just down the road past the Red Mountain general store. I made the white picket fence and painted it myself. The house is quite old, at least fifty years, and some of the paintwork is a bit faded and peeling but it’s still a beautiful house.”
“Sounds nice,” the man says stolidly.

For the rest of the journey, the two men sit in silence. There is nothing to say on either side. One has suffered a devastating loss, while the other wants to get home as soon as possible. Neither want to talk about what they had experienced that day.

Soon they arrive at the town hall and Charlie opens the door of the car, firmly placing a foot on the pavement outside. The town hall is a monument to the sheep farmers of the nineteenth century, dimly lit by streetlights. Charlie checks the town clock mounted on the hall. He could just make out that it is half past ten. It is dead silent, and they seem to be the only people there. Charlie says nothing as he opens the door and waves goodbye to the tall, thin man.

Charlie watches for a few seconds as the man hobbles away, calling a weak “thank you,” as he walks off in the direction of the town hall and is enveloped by the darkness. There will be a phone in there where he could get help.
“He’ll be fine,” Charlie says aloud, encouraging himself to believe this is true. He cannot help doubting that the stranger outran a bushfire, and was going to the town hall to find help. At the same time, Charlie cannot not think of any reasonable explanation why the man was at the side of the road at half past nine on a weekday. He continues his drive home.

In ominous silence.

***

When Charlie finally arrives home at eleven o’clock, Stephanie is very relieved to see him. They briefly chat, before being overcome with fatigue and going to bed.
Sometime later, Charlie suddenly wakes up groggily. High-pitched screaming pierces his ears. He coughs to clear his lungs and is surrounded by a loud crackling noise. Bright orange flames curl their fingers around the walls of the house, blackening them with ash and sucking the oxygen out of the air. The smoke alarms ring in his ears and his lungs are desperately trying to cough out the smoke. The heat is overwhelming, and Charlie feels perspiration trickling down his skin. His eyes water, a mix of tears and perspiration trickling down his face. He vigorously shakes his wife, who wakes drowsily.
Over the loud snaps and pops of the house burning, Charlie can just faintly hear a loud cackling coming from outside. He pulls Stephanie with him to the window to try to escape. He can just make out a tall, thin man laughing madly as he disappears into the night.

Writing Competitions

Hey everyone, with the holidays coming up, you should have a good amount of time to spend towards writing some stories for competitions. As for some specific competitions for you to enter, see the links below:

http://www.austwriters.com/AWRfiles/competitions.htm

http://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/~/media/Files/Libraries/Open%20short%20story%20brochure.pdf

http://www.whitsundayvoices.com.au/2013%20Festival%20Info/Short%20Story%20Entry%20Form%202013%20%28Final%29%20%282%29.pdf

http://www.wyndham.vic.gov.au/residents/culture/library/youth/imagination_creation_western_u

http://laurathomascommunications.com/juniorauthorscontest/

http://www.formstack.com/forms/?1207564-W4H2EJnaRI

Remember, you can submit drafts of your entries onto the blog to count for your ‘blog post’ requirements. In addition, you can receive feedback as to how good your writing is, which can help you win the competitions you enter. Good Luck!