Question: Does the fifth act show the working out of the principles of
good and evil? Why does Antonio appear in it and Shylock not?
Answer: It is to the fifth act that we naturally look for the harvest, both of good and of evil, to result from the sowing
done in the preceding scenes. With regard to Jessica,
I suppose it may be said that justice is finally done her,
though through rather a doubtful medium, by placing her
in a position where the beneficial influences of which she
stands so sadly in need will at last be thrown around her.
Lorenzo, too, meets with his reward after a fashion, in the
fact that the virtue of his deed in removing Jessica from a
baneful to a healthful atmosphere at least serves to cancel
its unlawfulness. Portia has restored to her her husband,
who has, as she herself can testify, passed victoriously
through the trials brought upon him by his youthful imprudence, and who, largely through her own endeavors, returns
to her, purified and ennobled.
Antonio, who, through his
harshness in one direction and his unhesitating generosity in
all others, has unsuspectingly jeopardized his life, has that
life restored to him, and receives the news that his property
is safe, by the hand of Portia, who, as he had before
thought, had deprived him of his place in the affections of
his dearest friend, Bassanio. Antonio, as the person most
sinned against in consequence of the least sin, deserves a
prominent place in the closing act, and a fair share of the
blessings held in the right hand of Justice. But Shylock,
whose sin was woven into the very fibre of his being, had
received his fitting reward, and had voluntarily taken his
departure. Justice had already done her work there, and there was no need for the further introduction of the disturbing element.
How to cite this article:
Miller, Bessie Porter. Shakespeare Examinations. Ed. William Taylor Thom, M. A. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1888. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/merchant/examqm/vten.html >.