** The contrast between Belmont and Venice.
In "The Merchant of Venice" Shakespeare creates an interesting contrast between the mercantile, tumultuous city of Venice and the peaceful, gracious world of Belmont. The striking difference between these two settings helps to capture and maintain our attention. There are differences in the value of systems of the people belonging to the two different cities.
To understand the play we must first look at the setting. The play is not set in the year it was written. Instead, Shakespeare looks back in time to the beginning of the Renaissance. Venice, a city-state in Italy, was a crossroads for crusaders, a money-lending centre of Europe. Venice fascinated the Elizabethans, as it was commercially hospitable to people from all parts of the world e.g. Greeks, Jews and Protestants. The city was also a trading centre of great importance. Venice itself was Catholic city and politically independent. A place of great beauty, luxury and extremely artistic. .
A second setting of the play transports us to Belmont, which contrasts, with Venice in its fairy tale outlooks and musical interludes. It is in Belmont that love blooms, honesty and peace prevails everywhere. The atmosphere of Venice is almost like a romantic fairy tale and Portia is like the beautiful princess who cannot marry until the right man arrives to choose the right casket. As long as she is imprisoned by her fathers will, Portia must remain in Belmont and wait for her prince to come and rescue her.
The distinction between Venice and Belmont is that one place is where money is made and the other is where it is spent. One is characterized by light, sunshine, and the other by moonlight and music. Wealth is described in almost sensuous terms like when Salerio says.
" touching but my gentle vessels side Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks".
Moreover, in an ironic way, later love is talked about in commercial terms.