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In my Slack discussion with Elise, much of our discussion centered around how Shakespeare's careful manipulation of literary devices animates a series of fascinating, three-dimensional characters. Salerio, for example, uses a lot of pretentious, flowery metaphors in contrast to Antonio's plain speech. Portia and her maid use prose instead of verse when they are speaking in Act 1 Scene ii. Lancelot meanwhile speaks in short, exclamatory sentences which underscore his possibly deranged state.
As we were focusing on these formal elements, I noticed that there were multiple references to classical mythology and poetry in the play. Portia, for example, compares herself to "a golden fleece;/Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchis strand/And many Jasons come in suit of her" (1.ii). Here classical imagery is used by Portia to express discontent with her situation. At the other end of the play, Lorenzo also uses classical imagery that highlights his removal from the reality of his romantic triste with Jessica. I therefore came across the idea thta classical imagery is used to develop characters who haven't come to terms with their reality.
If I were to run with this idea for a research paper, I would enjoy seeing what previous scholars had to say about the use of classical allusions in Shakespeare. I could then see if these elements are used to signify an emotional stagnation, as they do in other contemporary plays like Marlowe's Doctor Faustus or Middleton's Revenger's Tragedy. Perhaps they are merely a common trope in Elizabethan theater regardless of characterization. I would have the opportunity to look through other plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries that I have read, linking them back to potential classical sources. I could even look at film adaptations of the Merchant of Venice, such as the 2004 adaptation starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons to compare these representations of the characters with my analysis. The potential research project would therefore give me a lot of material to explore in my analysis of Shakepeare's classical references within the Merchant of Venice.