In the Name of the Almighty. A Deconstructive Study of Act II of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. A Quick Summary of Act II. Scene I : The Prince of Morocco asks for the hand of Portia, but she notifies him of her father’s will.
A Deconstructive Study of Act II of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
Scene I: The Prince of Morocco asks for the hand of Portia, but she notifies him of her father’s will.
Scene II: The encounter of Lancelot and his father Gobbo. Lancelot becomes a servant to Bassanio.
Scene III: Lancelot is about to leave Shylock’s household. Before departure, Jessica asks him to deliver a message to Lorenzo.
Scene IV: Lorenzo and his friends are discussing Lorenzo’s plan to elope with Jessica. Lancelot delivers the letter of Jessica which details how Lorenzo should take her from her father’s house.
Scene V: Shylock tells Jessica that he is going to dine with Bassanio and that she must keep the doors locked. Lancelot quietly informs Jessica to wait for Lorenzo in the evening.
Scene VI: Lorenzo and Jessica elope.
Scene VII: The Prince of Morocco tries his luck with the boxes, which ends in failure.
SceneVIII: Salarino and Salanio make fun of Shylock’s discovery of the disappearance of Jessica and his money.
Scene IX: The Prince of Arragon, another suitor to Portia, comes in the search of his fortune. However, he also chooses the wrong box. At the end of the scene, Bassanio’s messenger announces Bassanio’s arrival.
In a Derridean light, the strong adherence to something possibly leads to a submissive and docile viewpoint. Its upshot is probably a center of power, an unsurpassable authority which determines the individual’s demeanor. This logocentric worldview remains mute to other alternatives, while it forcefully acts upon the inherited manner of life.
Portia’s resolute conformity to her father’s will might prove enlightening in this sense:
Portia: In terms of choice I am not solely led
By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes;
Besides, the lottery of my destiny
Bars me the right of voluntary choosing:
But if my father had not scanted me
And hedged me by his wit, to yield myself
His wife who wins me by that means I told you
Yourself, renownèd Prince, then stood as fair
As any comer I have looked on yet
For my affection (1999: p. 16).
Portia is wholeheartedly devoted to her logocentric idea that she cannot simply reason concerning the suitability of her dogmatic attitude toward her marriage. Derrida suggests that we create the much needed capacity for available possibilities so as not to become logocentric.
In the chaotic life one leads, a sense of hesitation and procrastination seems inevitable. In other words, at the heart of all of the individual’s decisions one can come face to face with numerous possibilities that shake his certainty. There is, as Derrida maintains, “an essential ghost – in every decision, in every event of decision” (qtd. in Royle, 2003, p. 5). Therefore, this inescapable force serves as a basis for the final resolution.
Launcelot is dubious as to which move to take: either to remain a servant to Shylock, or leave his employment. This state of undecidability restrains him from coming to any conclusion:
Launcelot: Certainly my conscience will serve me to run from this Jew my master. The fiend is at mine elbow and tempts me saying to me ‘Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot,’ or ‘good Gobbo,’ or good Launcelot Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away. My conscience says ‘No; take heed,’ honest Launcelot; take heed, honest Gobbo, or, as aforesaid, ‘honest Launcelot Gobbo; do not run; scorn running with thy heels (1999: p. 17).
Differance is used “to dodge aporia” (Hooti, 2013: p. 357). One turns to differance in order to seek more knowledge, information concerning a situation in which everything is seemingly resolved to one’s disadvantage. Derrida believes that an individual who leaves the doors open to various options is likely not to be dominated by a logocentric perspective, and, thus, will not stop at aporia.
The Prince of Morocco is unresolved about his choice of the right box and constantly differs his final decision with a subjective look at the true state of things. Consequently, he avoids making a hasty decision so as to ponder more and base his judgment upon logical assumptions. The following soliloquy shows how he studies the boxes:
Must give: for what? for lead? hazard for lead?
This casket threatens…
‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.’
As much as he deserves! Pause there, Morocco,
And weigh thy value with an even hand:
If thou be’st rated by thy estimation,
Thou dost deserve enough;
Let’s see once more this saying graved in gold
‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.’
Why, that’s the lady; all the world desires her (1999: p. 28).
He shifts from one possibility to the other and does not resolve without considering all the available options to make a better decision in the end.
In making a contrast between two things, one privileges one over the other. Such an inherited epistemology forces one to doubt the merit of the conventionally unprivileged. From a deconstructive bedrock, one does not need to sum things up as opposite, or as superior and inferior, but to look upon pairs as supplementary forces.
It seems that in this play there is a variety of contrasts. As an example, we could take Launcelot’s derogatory comment about Shylock; he creates a logo out of Bassanio, while he talks with distaste about Shylock: “The old proverb is very well parted between my master Shylock and you, sir: you have the grace of God, sir, and he hath enough” (1999: p. 20).
However, Shylock himself is of the opinion that it is he who is superior to Bassanio: “Well, thou shalt see, thy eyes shall be thy judge, The difference of old Shylock and Bassanio” (Ibid., p. 24).
In a world where dejection reigns, a sincere affection for better days gives the weary soul a certain balm. In Derridean critique of the modern excesses, there is that underlying optimism that one could turn the situations to one’s benefit only if he allows the discourse of hope.
Different characters of Shakespeare’s play view the coming tomorrows with an enthusiastic anticipation. Jessica, for instance, breeds the idea that she would change her Jewish path by the possible marriage with Lorenzo: “O Lorenzo, If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, Become a Christian and thy loving wife” (1999: p. 22). Here, it is revealed that Jessica is optimistic toward the future and the opportunities it will provide.
At the end of scene IX Nerissa shows her preference about the proper suitor to Portia. She is hopeful that the coming suitor will be Bassanio: “Bassanio, lord Love, if thy will it be” (Ibid., p. 33)!
 Hooti, Noorbakhsh. (2013). “Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: A Deconstructive study”, International Journal of Management and Humanity Sciences, Vol. 2 (5), pp. 353-359.
 Royle N. (2003). Jacques Derrida. London: Routledge.
 Shakespeare, William. (1999). The Merchant of Venice. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University.