Based on Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"
2017. december 6., szerda
Legal Plea by Shylock's Defense Lawyer
Legal plea by Shylock’s Legal Representative
Honorable Doge, Honorable Senators!
Firstly, I would like to thank you the Honorable Doge and the Honorable Council for their
attention. During my closing remarks, I will demonstrate that today’s trial should not be considered complicated, even though the defense council of Mr.Antonio dedicated great effort to convince the Honorable Doge about the non-existent complicating aspects. Based on the legal code of Venice, all we need to focus on today is a simple question: What are the implications of a contract and should both parties abide by the obligations they previously agreed upon?
Today, we are dealing with an immensely strange case when we consider its subject and its implications. Furthermore, the extraordinary aspects are even more relevant when we consider the fact that the Honorable Doge granted the right to the defense council to share his closing remarks before the same right was granted to the prosecution, represented by me. This completely goes against the general procedure of a trial, then again, today’s case is no short of surprises.
There is no doubt that Mr.Shylock’s lawyer gave an impressive speech today at court. Nevertheless, a verdict should be reached in this courtroom based on the sacred laws of Venice, and we should not allow ourselves to be influenced by the rhetoric of a lawyer.
I would like to ask the Honorable Doge and the Honorable Justices not to allow their attention to shift away from the simple fact that is in fact the essence of today’s trial.
We should concentrate on the following question: What are the relevant aspects of the case? What are the bearings of the trial that should be investigated by the court?
These are the crucial factors that should be focused on and we must leave emotions out of these sacred halls.
Throughout my closing remarks I would like to highlight one significant aspect that was also fully acknowledged and supported by the lawyer of Antonio. I will not refer to this later on, because it is clearly obvious. This basic legal term, that you should decide upon today, is “legal obligation”. A legal obligation, that was fully acknowledged and signed by both parties in the contract without any external force.
My client, Shylock, is a trustworthy Venetian citizen who abides by the law and considers it sacred. As a banker, he formulated and signed hundreds of contracts with other honorable Venetians, and these were similar in spirit to the contract that is at stake today. In all previous cases, both parties kept their words and successfully accomplished all their legal obligations. Shylock gave financial support to plenty of our fellow citizens when their lives were in a dark and desperate alley. Shylock was the person who gave aid to these people, and through his involvement hundreds of lives gained back decency and buoyancy. Our world has globalized and fastened in pace, and people who are not strong enough in today’s economy will sooner or later face hardships. When the desperate Venetian needs to battle these hardships, my client comes and offers a helping hand, no matter if the person is a woman, man, business-owner, or a simple sailor. If the person runs out of solutions, Shylock even risks his own wealth to help the particular individual, because he believes that according to the law, all obligations in a contract should be fulfilled. He knows that all Venetian citizens share this idea, because our economy operates based on these principles, and the Venetian legal code serves as a protection to all interests. Certainly, Shylock excepts to receive compensation for his service, therefore he always earns a minimum extra income based on the interest rate that the other party agrees to pay for him within the boundaries of a pre-determined deadline. Shylock does not force anyone to sign his contracts, all parties agree to these terms and conditions according to their own will. They are all in full comprehension of their obligations and sign the contract following a great deal of balancing and consideration. Everyone is in full comprehension of their rights when the signature appears on the contracts. By signing the declarations, the parties become automatically bound by all the terms and obligations. Our society operates in a similar manner, the citizens and the state declare a social contract between each other and agree upon all of its conditions. Bankers and businessmen, like Shylock, greatly contribute to the might of our economy. If anyone could freely breach the terms of a contract, what would be the consequences of such an irresponsible action? Our economy, our society, our trade relations and the entire Venetian political system would all deteriorate. I know that living up to our commitment in a contract can be difficult sometimes, but if someone tries to ignore his or her obligations that bound that person then the fragile balance and harmony in which we live in will break. This is unacceptable and unfortunately today’s trial is based on such a repugnant behavior.
Why are we standing in front of the Honorable Doge and the wise Justices today? I believe that there is a simple answer to this rhetorical question. We are here because Antonio failed to pay back the amount that he borrowed from my client. Out of recklessness or irresponsibility he took advantage Shylock’s sincerity and good will. The deadline has passed and the defendant could not fulfill his legal obligations.
Does the contract grant augmentation? Has Antonio considered to include such a condition regarding the deadline when he discussed the conditions with my client? Has Antonio thought about any condition that is not formulated in the contract? The answer is certainly impugning. Antonio did not care about any future obligation, he only cared about receiving the money.
Long after Shylock transferred the money to him, Antonio tried include amendments to the conditions, but my client was not in a bargaining position anymore. If Antonio would have proposed similar conditions prior to the contract, then my client could have decided to deny the signature. The basis of social rights is the balance of services and counter-services, and Antonio agreed to the terms that referred to the failure of his counter-service. Therefore, both parties agreed to the sanctions proposed in the contract.
Pacta sund servanda- this was mentioned by the representative of Antonio. Indeed, the contract is binding. There is nothing more important in this legal quarrel then the previous expression and everyone should accept this as a fact.
It is true that Antonio managed to get the entire fee he owes to Shylock, but the contract contained a clear deadline, that both parties agreed upon. On the deadline day Shylock received nothing, even though he lent the money from his own savings that he earned with hard work. I would like to highlight the fact that there were no other bankers who offered help to Antonio, except for my client.
It is indeed unfortunate that Antonio’s ships failed to arrive back and so he could not receive the income from which he supports himself and from which he could have paid back the money he owes to my client. But it is also as unfortunate, that Shylock’s hands remained empty, as he hoped that the other party will fulfill his obligations. Shylock deserves the right to impose the sanction proposed in the contract.
My client is also a trustworthy Venetian citizen, furthermore he is a family man, raising his daughter Jessica. Why should Shylock and Jessica suffer from Antonio’s miscalculation and breach of the contract? Why should we consider Antonio’s misfortune more important, if my client endured a lesion similar in extent?
The lawyer of the other party, in his closing remarks, clearly aimed to influence the conscience of the Honorable Doge, and to be honest he spoke with such a commitment that also my conscience could not remain intact. He highlighted that Antonio turned to Shylock in order to help out his friend, Bassanio. This man is the chief-witness of the defense. But what could he testify? Nothing, because he was not present when the contract was signed. His confession is based on secondary information therefore, his testimony should be excluded from the list of evidences.
The legal bearing is the contract and the conditions, rights and obligations that it contains. These are the only evidences that could aid a verdict. Further evidence includes the testimony of the two parties, who both agree upon the validity of the contract. Neither Antonio, nor his lawyer have proposed that Shylock influenced Antonio’s decision-making when he signed the contract.
The defense’s main argument supported the fact the breach of the contract is a smaller crime then the crime that would occur if the sanction of contract would be implemented. However, the legal code of Venice does not differentiate between laws. All laws are eternal, saint and invulnerable. Our constitution clearly protects the freedom and power of all contracts, and the conditions are bonding to all Venetian citizens who decide to sign them.
Let us investigate the bearings of the legal case: Antonio signed a contract by his own will, without any external influence, and he fully comprehended all of its terms and conditions. He read through the document and agreed to all the obligations. He was aware of the fact that if he would not be able to pay back the money, then the sanction grants the right to my client to cut out one pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. Antonio is a capable adult with clear mental health, and as a Venetian citizen he should have known that if he signs a contract, then all of the obligations in it will become binding. Shylock fulfilled all of his legal obligations, therefore he rightfully expects the other party to live up to its commitment.
Was there a completion by Antonio? Clearly, there was not. The balance of the service and counter-service was violated, so the balance should be replaced by carrying out the sanction proposed in the contract.
Antonio granted the right to Shylock to cut out one pound of flesh from his body, and now he would ignore his previous action? This behavior is a breach of the contract, so there is no need for further clarification. In today’s case, it is a legal fact, and it should not be ignored.
Antonio was fully aware of the fact that one pound of flesh cannot be taken without spilling his blood, therefore he allowed Shylock to spill his blood, thereby completing the contract. By referring to the excuse that Antionio’s will does not involve his blood to be spilled is too late, this should have been added to the contract by him. This is the third legal fact that the Honorable Court should consider today.
It can be clearly inferred from today’s closing remarks that Antonio has committed a crime when he failed to repay the borrowed amount of money in time. Throughout my speech, I have highlighted a number of evidences to strengthen to aforementioned claim. Going further, I would like to note that Antonio has committed another crime, preceding the moment he signed the contract. Please pay careful attention to the upcoming reasoning that supports my previous claim. The fact that Antonio lacked the motive and commitment to fulfill his legal obligations proposed in the contract is in itself a crime. Every detail of the case- that were used by the legal representative of Antonio as a tactic to obscure Antonio’s responsibility- was fully comprehended by the sailor right before he signed the contract. A contract that was signed by him accordingly to his own free will. Antonio must have been completely aware of the fact that one pound of flesh cannot be removed from a living body without the spilling of blood. Therefore, Antonio must have known that the legal obligations that he promised to fulfill, will be in fact ignored by him in the future. He knew that in the scenario of a potential trial, he will try to hide under the prohibition of blood-spill.
What does all this mean? It means that Antonio accepted the money with the belief that nothing could enforce him to repay the amount. All things considered, Antonio’s crime of failing to repay the amount in time is not the only one he committed. He is also guilty because he deceived and mislead my client, and took Shylock’s money with a false and beguiling motive.
Let me highlight once again the fact, that Antonio had no intent whatsoever to repay the money to Shylock, even though he falsely promised to do so.
There was a lot of discussion today about the sacred rights of the Venetian citizens and about their equality before the court. If Shylock’s right is denied today, that is he will not be allowed to cut one pound of flesh from Antonio’s body, then not only the contract and the rights of my client will be violated, but Venice’s legal code will be nullified. Where will be the frontier of trespassing our sacred laws? What is today the nullification of a binding contract, that could evolve into a much greater evil in the future. Our centuries long constitution would be diminished in a short period of time, if the Honorable Council and the Honorable Doge decides to ignore the right of a Venetian citizen, the right of Shylock today.
I trust in the wisdom of the Honorable Doge and the Honorable Justices! I believe in the power of all binding contracts. I hope that the wise verdict that will be announced later today, will replace the social balance that was highly violated by Antonio.
God bless Venice!!!