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Shakespeare`s Venice dealer turned to interpreting a contract between Shylock and Antonio [1]. The contract provides that if Antonio does not pay for the money he has been loaned, Shylock is entitled to a pound of meat. Antonio cannot repay the money and the court is therefore about to grant Shylock the right to take his pound of meat if Portia intervenes. The treaty, she says, is entitled to Shylock`s meat, but does not mention blood. So how will he be able to take the flesh without shedding blood? Shylock is dumfound and Antonio is alive. This week I would like to see how the English courts are working on contracts. At the most basic level, a contract is a voluntary agreement between two parties to do something. English law considers that if a person objectively demonstrates his consent to a good deal, he is bound. The Latin expression shows “caveat emptor” (the buyer should be wary) a key principle of English contract law: the court will not look favourably at bad cases and as long as the contract is clear (and freely concluded), the court will try to enforce it. Smith v Hughes is a good example of this traditional objective view of the parties` intentions to dispose of the contract [2]. This pro-trade vision of english courts is one of the reasons that supported the growth of the United Kingdom as an industrial power in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the reason today is that the City of London is a global financial capital. Similarly, Hong Kong`s disproportionate economic success is due, in many ways, to the adoption of English contract law.

One may also wonder what is the relationship between Antonio and Shylock. The relationship between Antonio and Shylock is controversial; Antonio is heroic, but Shylock is evil. Certainly they are rivals in their money loan: Antonio is friendly and generous, while Shylock is selfish in every aspect of his life. So what are the main elements of a contract? Well, you have to have an offer that`s made, and someone has to accept that offer. The purpose of the contract, its value and other essential conditions must be sufficiently secure. The parties should want a legal relationship between them. Finally, something valuable should happen between the parties to cement the agreement. Skim by wikipedia article on the law of English contracts for a taste of the basics of a contract [3].

In the courtroom scene, Shylock stubbornly defends Antonio`s sentence because the debt was not repaid in time. Shylock states: “I represent judgment” (4.1.103) and “I represent the law here” (4.1.142) and shows a ruthless interpretation of contract law. For Shylock, the initial agreement between two men is still in accordance with the law, regardless of the brutal consequences of the contract.