Importance of The Ring Episode in The Merchant of Venice

Importance of Ring Episode in The Merchant of Venice

Importance of The Ring Episode in The Merchant of Venice

Introduction

In William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the ring has great significance between Portia and Bassanio because it is a symbol of their love as well as their marriage. The ring episode is a minor affair in the play and doesn’t carry so much weight as the bond or the casket-story carries. But it shows how our promise is broken under pressure of circumstances and when we have to do what we want to avoid whole-heartedly.

Symbol of love

In the play, the ring symbolizes love between Portia and Antonio. After their marriage, Portia gives Antonio a ring which he is requested not to part with at any circumstances. Bassanio assures her to keep the ring like a part of his body. Portia says that she gives all of her wealth to her husband and the symbol of which is the itself:

“This house, these servants, and this same myself

Are yours, – my lord’s! – I give them with this ring,

Which when you part from, lose, or give away,

Let it presage the ruin of your love,

And be my vantage to exclaim on you.”

[The Merchant of Venice, Act-III, Scene-II]

Symbol of commitment

In the play, the ring symbolises commitment to each other. The ring Portia and Nerissa gave to Bassanio and Gratiano that they were never to remove. The rings stand for man’s commitment to his wife just as the rings that Bassanio and Gratiano would give to Portia and Nerissa at their weddings, would stand for the wives’ commitment. When Portia gives the ring to Bassanio, he readily agrees to Portia’s term as he loves her and doesn’t think that anything would come between him keeping the ring safely on his hand. He vows:

“…..but when this ring

Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence, –

O then be bold to say Bassanio’s dead!”

[The Merchant of Venice, Act-III, Scene-II]

Connection with Trial Scene

The ring episode makes the trial scene more interesting. In the trial scene, Portia plays the part of a young lawyer in the case between Shylock and Antonio (Bassanio’s friend). After winning the case, she asks Bassanio for the ring as payment for saving Antonio’s life. Bassanio wrestles with the decision perfectly but Portia manipulates the situation so much that he compelled to give the ring away as payment and appreciation for Antonio. Actually Portia wants to prove how far her husband is true to his oaths. However, when Portia reaches home, she makes the whole situation clear and reinstates the ring to Bassanio and all have a pretty good laugh over it.

Conclusion

The ring episode of “The Merchant of Venice’ is contrived to put the lovers and husbands to qualify the test of love and marriage bond. It makes the play more interesting. In fact, the ring episode has contributed a lot to the development of the plots of the play. It contains several twists and finally brings a happy ending of the play.

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