Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice: A Case for Gender Studies

shashikala Hanamantrao Walmiki


Abstract: Shakespeare wrote “The Merchant of Venice” centuries ago, yet the play offers scope for the gender studies to the modern readers. This play is replete with same sex passion that forces gay men and lesbians to comprehend the ulterior homoeroticism. In the words of Allan Sinfield, ‘Shakespeare definitely was not a sexual radical’. But the ordinary cultural interactions in Shakespeare’s plays strike chords for the homoerotic interpretation. In his book Homosexual Desires in Shakespeare’s England Bruce R. Smith locates six ‘cultural scenario’ in literature that can be interpreted as same sex relations. They are: heroic friendship; men and boys mainly in pastoral and educational contents; playful androgyny mainly in romances and festivals; transvestism mainly in satirical contexts; master servant relations and; an emergent homosexual subjectivity as in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Allan Sinfield, in his essay How to read The Merchant of Venice Without being Heterosexist conveys that the mainstream commentators may marginalize the same sex passion in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ but the lesbians and gay men may think about alternative economies of sex-gender and may also think about the problematic aspect of our own subculture. In this context the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio and Portia and Nerissa and the enmity between Antonio and Shylock and the relationship among other minor characters attracts the attention for gender study of the play. The present paper analyses the play and discovers the sources for the homoerotic interpretation of the play in its daily cultural exchanges. The paper is also an attempt to understand and elucidate the contemporary society and its attitude towards men and women.


Gender, Masculine, Feminine, Homosexual, Homoerotic, Feminism

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