Merchant of Venice critically shows many key aspects of Law throughout the play. It shows when Laws can be unjust, how words can be twisted. It shows the flaws involved in Laws. Again it shows that the pen is mightier than the sword. Literature is beautifully used here to represent the legal system of Venice. Here we will be analyzing the legal aspects of the play. We will also be focussing on how injustice was met out to Shylock throughout the trial.
One aspect we can see is the lack of Independence of Judiciary in particular to Shylock’s trial. One basic natural justice principle “Nemo judex in sua causa” is violated as we can see Portia is appearing as an” independent” “impartial” expert in Law to assist the court. She herself comes impersonating an another person by which she has essentially manipulated the court. As we can see she is not an attorney representing her client. She becomes a juror in the process where she uses her “independent” position to manipulate and influence the court and serve her selfish motive to serve her interests by saving Antonio. A fair hearing is important for any legal system to be just. This is lacking here.
One another aspect we can see here is that the contract itself should have been void from the beginning as it is against public morality and it also contains an illegal act; that is “murdering a person”. And suppose if that clause was accepted in Venice at that time. The interpretation which Portia made to challenge the judgment itself is flawed. If shylock has a right to the flesh then he must have the ability to take it. Every right has a remedy to enforce the right. Here the right of shylock to flesh is being put off by the court. What is just is not given by the court. It’s common sense to understand that when flesh is taken blood comes with it.
A literal interpretation of rule here doesn’t serve the purpose of justice. Basic common sense is not applied by the court. Interpretation of law should be used to serve the purpose of the law that is to give remedies to people whose rights have been violated. And in the contract for flesh Blood is included and it’s obvious. If the court makes decisions like that the whole purpose of contracts will cease to exist. An example can be used to show the same “ A car dealer tells to the customers “Maruti 800 for $1000/ unit” and finally the dealer says the unit doesn’t include tire, seat, steering or engine. The dealer can give many interpretations like these.
As we can see Venice at that time was a major commercial hub of Europe, the court initially wanted to deliver justice to Shylock to uphold the rule of law in the territory of Venice. Strong legal security and rule of law is important for any place to become a major commercial center. But here the literal interpretation of law can cause more troubles when dealing with contract cases. Throughout the play, we can see how Shylock is insulted for being a Jew. At that time he didn’t have any protection against discrimination under the law. The hatred for Jews was institutionalized and even appreciated. Equality, as we can see; as such is not there. As far as the legal aspects are concerned we can conclude that this showed about the power of words and the way of interpretation and also the contemporary legal systems of that time. It touches on the most important concepts of Law which make the reader think about the morality of the same with the help of literature
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