Given the close iconographic association between the sea and fortune, it is perhaps not surprising that The Merchant of Venice offers a series of intriguing interplays on this theme. These relate to the casket episodes, Antonio's sea-borne argosies, and the repayment of Shylock's loan. Through a consideration of the representation of Fortuna, principally in sixteenth century emblem books, the paper suggests that although fortune is presented as a fickle force of destruction, its/her conquest may be effected in several ways: through avoidance, through prudence, through learning, or through sheer good luck. It is argued that Shakespeare's text explores all of these possibilities, drawing vigorously on the ideas that underpin the iconic topoi of his own and previous ages.
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