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The Venetian government structure was similar in some ways to the republican system of ancient Rome, with an elected chief executive (the Doge), a senate-like assembly of nobles, and a mass of citizens with limited political power, who originally had the power to grant or withhold their approval of each newly elected Doge. Church and various private properties were tied to military service, although there was no knight tenure within the city itself. The Cavalieri di San Marco was the only order of chivalry ever instituted in Venice, and no citizen could accept or join a foreign order without the government's consent. Venice remained a republic throughout its independent period, and politics and the military were kept separate, except when on occasion the Doge personally headed the military. War was regarded as a continuation of commerce by other means (hence, the city's early production of large numbers of mercenaries for service elsewhere, and later its reliance on foreign mercenaries when the ruling class was preoccupied with commerce).
Portia grabs Nerissa and tries to get home before the men return and find out their wives were the ones in court that day. Antonio and Bassanio try to get Balthazar to accept a gift before he goes, and though Portia (as Balthazar) tries to refuse it, the men press her. She asks for Bassanio's ring (which is really her ring, symbolizing their marriage trust). Bassanio refuses to give it to her, but then Antonio suggests he's whipped and foolish, so Bassanio caves in and gives Balthazar the ring at the last minute.
The modern era is generally understood to refer to period that coincides with the rise of consumer culture in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe.  As standards of living improved in the 17th century, consumers from a broad range of social backgrounds began to purchase goods that were in excess of basic necessities. An emergent middle class or bourgeosie stimulated demand for luxury goods and the act of shopping came to be seen as a pleasurable pass-time or form of entertainment. 
No, it's The Merchant of Venice . A play that will make you writhe in discomfort even while you laugh, snicker even while you get weepy, contemplate the evilness of men even while feeling kinda warm and fuzzy inside when they do the right thing, root on one of the fiercest heroines in all of drama... and, because this is Shakespeare, gawp in amazement at the language acrobatics, wit, and poetry of this dang masterful play.
I feel that another significant symbol in this play is Portia's ring. Although it is not mentioned in the symbols as given above, it is definitely an important symbol. A ring was given to Bassanio by Portia in Act III, Scene II, when Bassanio passes the casket test and is authorized to marry her. Portia gives Bassanio a ring stating that this ring signified their love and that she is handing over herself and her worldly possessions to Bassanio when she gave him that ring. However she lays the condition that the day that he loses, sells or gi... Read more →