Venice and Its Treatment
The city of Venice in coastal northern Italy was famous in Shakespeare's day. It had the reputation of great wealth ("Venice the Rich"), political wisdom ("Venice the Wise"), impartial justice ("Venice the Just"), and liberalism, in sexual mores as in much else ("Venice the Gallant"). All of these attributes contributed to the idea, or "myth," of Venice as it was known and regarded in the sixteenth century throughout Europe. Travelers from England to the Continent going as far as Italy invariably sought out Venice for at least a few days' residence, though usually much longer. Englishmen, like Thomas Coryat and Fynes Moryson in the early seventeenth century, have left long and detailed accounts of their visits. The myth of Venice was so powerful that it inspired not only Shakespeare but his great contemporary Ben Jonson as well.
The various aspects of the myth may be explained thus: " Venice the Rich" refers to the great wealth that Venice accumulated over the centuries through its trade with the East. Its opulence was symbolized by the riches held in the Treasury of Saint Mark, which contained an abundance of gold, precious stones such as diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and elaborate artifacts of both gold and silver. To maintain its trade and protect its wealth, Venice of course developed a powerful military force; its famous Arsenal made visible for all to see (like today's military parades) how great