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Contrast the settings of Venice and Belmont.

  1. How does the imagery of water develop our understanding of Venice?
  2. Belmont, by contrast, is associated with mountains.
Venice Belmont
For several centuries before Shakespeare wrote the play, Venice had been an important commercial centre, and a place of learning and culture. It was a sophisticated city with canals rather than roads. To an Elizabethan audience it would have seemed extremely exotic and picturesque. Among its famous bridges were the Rialto, renowned for trade, and the Bridge of Sighs which was the way to prison. It is not surprising therefore that matters relating to money, trade and law, are dealt with in what is very much the ‘man’s world’ of Venice.

Find examples of the following that occur in Venice:

  • Commerce and trade
  • Bonds and agreements
By contrast, Belmont, meaning ‘beautiful mountain’, is an imaginary haven in the countryside far away from the city life of Venice. Mountains imply high, lofty ideals, and it is fitting that Belmont should be Portia’s home. The mountain also connotes Mount Olympus, fabled home of the gods in Greek mythology. Write down three examples of classical imagery used in Belmont:

It offers a traditionally ‘feminine’ atmosphere with its peace, tranquillity and harmony. With the exception of the planning of the elopement between Jessica and Lorenzo, all the romantic developments take place at Belmont. Write down examples of them here:

Find examples (quote) of the following in the Belmont scenes:

  • Music
  • Harmony
  • Celestial elements
  • Gardens

The final scene of the play is set to music in the garden at Belmont, and all the lovers meet and develop their relationships there. Gardens, like music, were very much symbols of harmony and romance in classical Greece and Rome, an idea that was picked up and continued in English poetry and literature, especially during the age of Shakespeare.