In the world of Shakespeare's play, the Merchant of Venice, contracts in their many forms are very important. There are binding legal agreements such as Shylocks contract with Antonio and the legalitorys surrounding Portia's fathers will. Less rigorous are the traditional expectations, which bind one person to another: Duty to ones parent or the expectation that money borrowed from a friend will be returned. Further-more promises are also like binding agreements. These many and varied forms of agreements influence the relationships between many characters in the play.
When the reader is first introduced to Shylock it is clear the hatred and mistrust he has concerning Antonio, this hatred stems from the fact that Antonio:.
"Lends out money gratis and brings down .
The rate of usance here with us in Venice" (I, 3,41-42).
But more importantly because of his religious beliefs:.
"How like a fawning publication he looks.
I hate him for he is a Christian;" (I, 3,38-39).
Because the antagonistic approach Shylock and Antonio have towards each other, both party's are weary when entering into as bond together. After some discussion they come to an agreement, if Antonio fails to replay Shylock the three thousand Ducats within three months, Antonio must forfeit one equal pound of his flesh:.
"If you repay me not on such a day.
In such a place, such sums as are.
Expressed in the condition, let the forfeit.
Be nominated for an equal pound.
Of your fair flesh, to be cut of taken.
In what part of your body that pleaseth me." (I, 2,42-49).
At this point Antonio and Shylocks relationship is far less than that of friends, but the situation isn't at all helped when Jessica, Shylocks daughter, elopes with Lorenzo a Christian and good friend of Antonio's. Shylock is filled with rage at his daughter's betrayal, and sees Antonio's bond as a way to use his power in this relationship to pay back his daughter Jessica, Lorenzo, Christians of the time and all Christians who have looked down upon or treated Jews less than equal to themselves.