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William Shakespeare

An A level English Workbook by Steven Croft ~ Wessex Publications ~

About the Author of this Workbook Steven Croft is a lecturer and Programme Leader for English in a Tertiary College in Yorkshire and committed to flexible forms of learning. He is a Senior AQA Examiner in A level English and also and Examiner for the International Baccalaureate.

Other workbooks in this series include: A level The Miller's Tale The Franklin's Tale The Wife of Bath's Tale and Prologue The Merchant's Tale The Pardoners Prologue and Tale The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales Much Ado About Nothing Hamlet Measure for Measure King Lear The Poems of John Donne The Poetry of Edward Thomas Poems of Seamus Heaney Mean Time The Whitsun Weddings Dead Sea Poems Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience Choice of Christina Rossettis Verse Three Victorian Poets Selected Poems by John Keats Wordsworth - Prelude Women Romantic Poets High Windows The Worlds Wife Great Expectations Jane Eyre Mansfield Park The Handmaids Tale Gullivers Travels Dubliners Return of the Native Hard Times A Passage to India Tess of the dUrbervilles Captain Corellis Mandolin Enduring Love Snow Falling on Cedars Edward II A Dolls House The Rivals The Glass Menagerie Murmuring Judges The Country Wife Dr Faustus The Duchess of Malfi A Street Car Named Desire Volpone A Woman of No Importance English Language Topics English Critical Appreciation Communications - Semiotics and the Media English Language Change GCSE I'm the King of the Castle The Lord of the Flies War Poetry Macbeth An Inspector Calls To Kill a Mockingbird Of Mice and Men Romeo and Juliet Twelfth Night

All materials available from: Wessex Publications Elwell House Stocklinch Ilminster Somerset TA19 9JF Tel/Fax: 01460 55660 or by using

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Teacher Guide

The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

About the Workbook

The material in this package is fully photocopiable for use within the purchasing institution. In addition, you will of course need a copy of the book.

Using the Materials

We recommend that students read The Merchant of Venice at least once through first on their own or as a group in order to get a sound grasp of the text and the characters. The Workbook examines various aspects of the play scene by scene and presents the student with ideas, questions, and activities to help her/him develop her/his own understanding and interpretation of the text and how it works as a piece of literature. Sections are also included on characterisation, the major themes running through the play, and language, as well as close textual studies and revision essay titles to help students prepare for the examination. It will be necessary to photocopy the Workbook for each student. You could give each student a guide to keep, but we suggest that you spiral bind or staple them and retain them for future use. The answer boxes may, of course, be used but you will probably prefer students to answer in their notebooks for reasons of cost. However, the size of each box will enable students to gauge how much to write and will make it easier to discuss answers with individuals and groups. The Workbook is written and presented in a similar way to Open University/Open College materials and is intended to be interactive and student-centred. The package is far more than a revision aid or potted guide. Its purpose is to both support the student and enable her/him to work at her/his own pace. The Study Workbook is written for the student. It can be used in a variety of ways including:

alongside classwork and group work led by the lecturer/teacher/tutor individual supported-self study (flexible learning) work in class

individual work carried out at home paired or small group work.

Using the CD version of the Workbook

The CD provides you with three versions of the workbook: the complete workbook with questions, answer boxes and author's responses the workbook with tasks and answer boxes only the author's responses only.

Each of the above may be loaded onto your school/college Intranet or printed off separately. This will give you complete flexibility to use the materials as you see fit.

The Lecturers/Teachers Role The Lecturers/Teachers Role

The pack is not intended as a substitute for the teacher/lecturer. In our view it is essential that she/he supports the student throughout by providing:

an introduction to the text explanation when needed guidance and support individually and within small groups regular checks of the students work.



William Shakespeare

An A level English Student Guide by Steven Croft ~ Wessex Publications ~

Using the workbook .........................................................................................1 The Play Scene by scene ...............................................................................2 Act I, Scene i...........................................................................................2 Act I, Scene ii .........................................................................................7 Act I, Scene iii ........................................................................................11 Act II, Scene i .........................................................................................16 Act II, Scene ii ........................................................................................19 Act II Scene iii ........................................................................................22 Act II, Scene iv .......................................................................................24 Act II, Scene v ........................................................................................25 Act II, Scene vi .......................................................................................27 Act II, Scene vii ......................................................................................29 Act II, Scene viii .....................................................................................31 Act II, Scene ix .......................................................................................33 Act III, Scene i........................................................................................36 Act III, Scene ii.......................................................................................42 Act III, Scene iii......................................................................................50 Act III, Scene iv......................................................................................52 Act III, Scene v .......................................................................................53 Act IV, Scene i........................................................................................54 Act IV, Scene ii.......................................................................................68 Act V, Scene i .........................................................................................69 Characterisation................................................................................................76 Shylock ...................................................................................................76 Antonio ...................................................................................................78 Portia.......................................................................................................79 Other Characters .....................................................................................82 Themes ............................................................................................................84 The Language of the Play.................................................................................86 Essay Questions................................................................................................89

The Merchant of Venice

Using the Workbook


The Workbook examines various aspects of The Merchant of Venice and you will be asked to complete tasks on each of these areas as you progress through the different sections. All the tasks are designed to help you look carefully at the play and to come to an appreciation of its meaning and significance as a piece of literature. In addition to working in the workbook itself it is advisable to keep your own, fuller notes, in a notebook or ring binder. These will be an important revision aid if you are going to answer on this text in an exam. Some of the tasks require quite short answers and where this is the case a box is provided in the workbook where you can write down your responses if you wish. Where you see this notebook symbol though, a fuller response is required and it would be best if you wrote your comments or answers in your own notebook or file. The A level Examination At the end of the workbook you will find:

a number of specimen essay questions and also some questions requiring close textual study ('context questions') of the kind that you might find set for A-level English Literature (or an examination of similar standard).

These titles and questions would also be suitable for coursework assignments on this text. If you are going to answer on this text in an exam it would be very useful to you to practise writing answers to several of these and have some idea of how you would tackle any of them. Good luck and happy studying.

William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout (1623)


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene i


Act I, Scene i
The play opens with the entry of Antonio, Salerio and Solanio. Antonio is a merchant in Venice and Salerio and Solanio are his friends. What does Antonio tell his friends in the opening lines?


He tells them that he is feeling very sad but he does not know why. His feelings of sadness are so great that he barely knows who or what he is.


Salerio and Solanio, though, offer an explanation for his melancholy mood. What do they think is the cause of it?

They say that he is worried about the safe return of his large merchant ships (Argosies) in which much of Antonios wealth is invested. Solanio tells him that he would be anxious too if he had as much resting on the venture as Antonio.


Antonios response is to assure them that he has no need to worry about his ships, they are not the cause of his present melancholy mood. Salerio then suggests that perhaps the cause of his sadness is love but Antonio immediately rejects this suggestion too. What is Solanios response to this?


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene i

Solanio suggests that if there really is no reason for Antonios sadness then he might just as well be cheerful. He observes that there are people who are cheerful and there are others who are miserable, whatever the circumstances.


Now look back over the opening fifty-five lines of the play and make a note of the key features of this opening section.

Shakespeare opens the play in the middle of a conversation. This is a technique that he often uses in beginning a play in order to capture the attention of the audience. The comments from Solanio and Salerio create a rich picture which appeals to the imagination of the audience and helps to set the scene.


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene i

This picture consists of descriptions of ships, storms and wrecks as well as creating an image of a commercial street in Venice, a port from which ships set out and returned from all over the world.

The opening of the scene, therefore, creates for the audience a sense of a world of trade and commerce where merchants are wealthy and their wealth and power is based on the sea-trading between nations.


At this point, Bassanio, Lorenzo and Gratiano enter and, after greeting the newcomers, Solanio and Salerio leave. After Solanio and Salerio leave, Gratiano also comments on Antonios unhappy mood and he begins to give Antonio advice. What advice does Gratiano give him?

He says that some men try to gain peoples good opinion by saying nothing and in doing so appear to be very wise. However, such men, if they did speak, would show themselves to be fools. Antonio should not be like this. He continues in the same vane, urging Antonio not to adopt a false pose of silence in order to make himself appear wise. Lorenzo chips in at this stage and makes it clear that he thinks that Gratiano has far too much to say for himself and they both leave.


Left alone, what does Bassanio reveal to Antonio?


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene i

Here are the key points: Bassanio has promised to tell Antonio the name of the lady he wishes to visit Bassanio admits that he has been living above his means and that he owes money He owes the most money to Antonio But he asks Antonio to lend him even more so that he can use it to make more money in order to pay Antonio back.


Antonio responds by promising to give Bassanio all he has. Now look back at this exchange between Antonio and Bassanio and note down each reference to money, or being in debt.

Here are some you might have noted: but my chief care / Is to come fairly off from the great debts (line 128) to you Antonio / I owe the most in money and in love (line 130/1) How to get clear of all the debts I owe (line 134)

I owe you much, and (like a wilful youth) / That which I owe is lost (lines 146/7) And thankfully rest debtor for the first (line 152)


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene i


Bassanio now reveals that he needs more money in order to equip himself to go to Belmont as a suitor to Portia. Portia is rich and beautiful and has inherited her fathers wealth and many men wish to marry her. Antonio promises to provide Bassanio with the money that he needs if he can raise it. What is Antonios financial problem at the moment?

Antonios wealth is currently tied up in all his ships which are still at sea and so, at the moment, he has little money that he can raise in cash. However, he is prepared to use his credit in order to borrow the money to give to Bassanio: Thou knowst that all my fortunes are at sea, Neither have I money, nor commodity To raise a present sum, therefore go forth Try what my credit can in Venice do, That shall be rackd even to the uttermost To furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia. (lines 177-183)


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene ii

Act I, Scene ii
TASK 9 The scene now shifts to Belmont where Portia and her lady-in-waiting enter. Look at Portias first words at the beginning of the scene. How do you think these compare with the opening words of Antonio?

Like Antonio, Portia seems to be tired, world-weary and generally fed up with life.


We soon find the root cause of Portias mood. What is the reason for her feeling fed up with things?

We learn from Portia herself that when her father died he left conditions in his will that do not allow her to choose a husband for herself. Instead, she must make her choice according to the instructions left in his will.


Nerissa outlines, for the audience, the main conditions. What are the conditions set down in the will, which Portia must use in order to choose her husband?

Here are the key points: He has devised a scheme involving three chests one of gold, one of silver and one of lead


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene ii

Suitors to Portia must choose one of the caskets The one who picks the right one will win the hand of Portia.


Some suitors have already arrived and are preparing to make their choice. Nerissa asks Portia what she thinks of the suitors who have come forward so far. Make notes on how she responds to each one.


The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene ii

1. First of all there is the Neapolitan prince. Portia is not impressed with him as he does little other than speak about his horse and the fact that he can shoe it by himself. 2. Next there is the County Palatine. Portia does not like him because he does nothing but frown and cannot laugh even at jokes. Her feelings about both these suitors is that she would rather marry a skull than either of them. 3. Next there is the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon. However, she finds this suitor is boastful and prone to sudden mood swings. He dances about and he fences with his own shadow. She feels that if she married him, she would be marrying twenty husbands and she would never know where she was. 4. The next suitor is Falconbridge, a young English baron. Unfortunately, Portia can say nothing to him because he understands neither Latin, French nor Italian. Although he is handsome, the two cannot communicate. She finds his clothes are a strange mixture of various foreign fashions and he also has some very odd ways of behaving. 5. Next there is a Scottish lord. Portia comments on the aggression shown between the Scotsman and the Englishman.

6. The final suitor is a young German, the Duke of Saxonys

nephew. Portia says that he behaves very badly in the morning when he is sober but worst of all in the afternoon when he is drunk. She feels that when he is at his best he is a little worse than a man but when he is at his worst he is little better than a beast. She suggest putting a glass of wine on one of the wrong caskets because he is sure to choose the casket on which the wine sits. She concludes by saying that she will never marry a drunkard. However, after they have gone through this list, Nerissa reveals that Portia has nothing to worry about as far as they are concerned because they have all decided to return home without making their choice of casket or pursuing their suit of Portia further. Their reason for this is that they do not want to rely on their choice of casket for winning the hand of Portia. However, Portia is determined, even though she doesnt like the condition to fulfil her fathers wishes and she says that she will only marry according to the terms of her fathers will.

Nerissa then reminds Portia of a visitor who came whilst her father was alive. Nerissa comments favourably on this visitor by saying: True madam, he of all the men that ever my foolish eyes lookd upon, was the best deserving a fair lady. (lines 112/3) Portia remembers him well and agrees with Nerissas opinion of him: I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of thy praise. (lines 114/5) -9-

The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene ii

Portia remembers that this visitors name was Bassanio. A servant enters to tell Portia that the suitors already mentioned are ready to leave. He also announces that another suitor, the Prince of Morocco will be arriving that night.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene iii

Act I, Scene iii

TASK 13 The scene now switches back to Venice where Bassanio enters with Shylock. What are the two men discussing at the opening of the scene?

Bassanio has approached Shylock for a loan for which Antonio has agreed to be guarantor. This will provide Bassanio with the money he requires to pursue his suit of Portia, the money being provided by Antonio taking out a loan with the Jewish moneylender, Shylock. This means that it will be Antonio's responsibility to ensure that the debt is paid. Bassanio wants to borrow three thousand ducats.


It is clear that Shylock is well aware of Antonios potential wealth and of the ships that he has at sea bringing goods back to Venice that will make Antonios fortune. Shylock, though, recognises the risk that Antonio is taking. Why?

He feels that Antonios ventures have an element of recklessness about them. In addition to that, ships are vulnerable, there are thieves and pirates as well as the perils of the sea, of storms and rocks and shipwrecks which could leave Antonio ruined.

In the light of these risks, Shylock feels that it is a loan that he would like to make and takes Antonios bond. He asks to speak with Antonio himself. TASK 15 What is relevant about Shylocks response to Bassanios invitation for Shylock to dine with them?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene iii

The response of Shylock here highlights the fact that Shylock is a Jew and that although he is prepared to enter into commercial activities with the Christians he will not eat with them, drink with them, nor pray with them.


At this point, Antonio enters. Look at Shylocks aside (lines 38-48). What do you learn about Shylocks attitude towards Antonio from this aside?

We see Shylocks hatred for Antonio. He hates him because he is a Christian but, more than that, he hates him because he lends out money without demanding interest and therefore affects the business of such money-lenders as Shylock who charge a high rate of interest on their loans. He also reveals that, if he has the opportunity to get a hold over him or have him at some kind of disadvantage he will use that to make Antonio pay. He also feels that Antonio hates our sacred nation which is a reference to the traditional hostility between Jews and Christians originating in the accusation that the Jews were responsible for killing Christ. He also claims that Antonio has complained bitterly about him and about his money-lending activities in public to other merchants. He says he will never forgive Antonio for these insults.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene iii


Shylock suggests to Bassanio that he may need to borrow money himself from Tubal, a wealthy Jew, in order to supply the loan to Antonio. Antonio says that he never lends money for interest and in order to justify his own money-lending activities, Shylock tells the story of Jacob and Labans sheep. Look carefully at this story and write down the key points.

The story from the Old Testament concerns Jacob and his uncle Laban reaching an agreement that Jacob should have all the spotted and streaked sheep and goats in the flock. The ewes were put with the rams in order to mate. Jacob then peeled patches of the bark of thin branches and put up rows of them in front of the ewes. This idea related to an age-old superstition that the unborn young could be affected by what the mother saw during pregnancy. Putting an object with light and dark patches in front of the yews would, therefore, ensure that many of the lambs would be marked with dark patches and would, therefore, be his. The point of the story that Shylock is making is that it was Jacobs skill which resulted in him achieving a profit.


How does Antonio respond to this parable?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene iii

His response is that this result was not due to the skill of Jacob but to the power of God and therefore he rejects the idea that taking interest on the money is a good thing.


What do you notice about the language that Antonio uses in response to Shylock at this point?

Antonio says that the devil can quote from the scriptures in order to serve his own purpose and that an evil person producing supporting evidence from the Holy scriptures is like a villain with a smiling cheek, / A goodly apple rotten at the heart suggesting his true attitude and feeling towards Shylock.


The conversation returns now to the question of the loan and Shylock speaks openly of the way in which Antonio has treated him. What grievances does Shylock outline here?

Here are some ideas: He claims that Antonio has often scolded him about his moneylending and practice of taking interest on a money loan. He says he has been verbally abused by Antonio who has called him a misbeliever, cut-throat dog

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act I, Scene iii

He says Antonio has spat upon his coat and that he has spat upon his beard He claims he has been kicked or pushed aside with the foot and overall has been treated little better than a dog.


Nevertheless, he says, Antonio still comes to him for a loan when he needs to. Claiming to not wish to prolong the quarrel, though, Shylock says he will lend the money without charging interest. What bond does he suggest instead of the financial one?

He suggests, apparently as a joke, that if Antonio does not repay him on the stipulated day the amount owed, Antonio will forfeit a pound of flesh. Bassanio is not happy about entering into such a deal but Antonio tells him there is nothing to worry about, within two months his ships will return and he will be able to pay off the bond. Shylock stresses that this bond is not to his advantage and asks how he would gain by taking the forfeit of a pound of flesh. He says that he extends the bond in friendship. Antonio agrees to the bond and they arrange to meet at the lawyers in order to legalise the deal.

The scene ends with Bassanio still expressing some disquiet but being reassured by Antonio. BASSANIO: ANTONIO: I like not fair terms, and a villains mind. Come on, in this there can be no dismay, My ships come home a month before the day.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene i

Act II, Scene i

Act II opens back at Belmont where the Prince of Morocco has arrived to try to win Portia. He speaks proudly of his colour but is concerned that it may trouble Portia. MOROCCO: Mislike me not for my complexion The shadowed livery of the burnishd sun To whom I am neighbour, and near bred I would not change this hue, Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen (Act II, Scene i, lines 1-3 and 11-12) TASK 22 How does Portia respond?

She reassures him that: Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair As any corner I have lookd on yet For my affection (Act II, Scene i, lines 20-22) However, as she tells him she is not at liberty to choose her own suitor but must carry out the lottery that was her fathers wish.


Can you detect her attitude to this lottery from anything that she says here?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene i

Her comment . . . if my father had not scanted me, And hedged me by his wit to yield myself perhaps contains a note of criticism. Her point is, though, that even without her fathers plan Morocco would have stood as much of a chance as any of the other suitors she has seen so far.


Look at Moroccos speech, lines 23-38. Make a list of any words or details here that you feel are exaggerated or show a boastful nature.

Here are some points you might have noted: He has killed the Shah of Persia and a Persian Prince who himself was an accomplished solider. He dare do anything in order to win Portia, e.g taking the cubs from a she-bear or braving a hungry lion Slew Oerstare Outbrave Pluck

However, despite this arrogance, Morocco expresses the idea that he may be defeated by blind fortuned in his quest for Portias hand. What penalty will have to be paid by any suitor who fails to win Portia?


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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene i

As part of the arrangement, any unsuccessful suitor must pledge never to marry another woman.


What is the effect of this condition?

This has the effect of raising the dramatic tension as the audience waits to see the outcome of Moroccos choice.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene ii

Act II, Scene ii

TASK 27 Scene ii opens with Launcelot Gobbos soliloquy. Look carefully at this soliloquy and make notes of the key points that he mentions.

He is battling with his conscience about whether to leave Shylocks employment. He relates an imaginary dialogue between his conscience and the devil (fiend). His conscience tells him to stay while the devil tells him to run He sees Shylock as a kind of devil and feels that the Jew is the very Devil incarnation. His conscience, though, tells him to stay with Shylock but he seems more inclined to take the advice of the devil and run.

Launcelots father arrives looking for Shylocks house. He wants to find his son. His father, who is old and nearly blind doesnt realise that he is talking to his son. Launcelot amuses himself with banter at the old mans expense and deliberately gives him confusing directions. After much teasing Launcelot tells old Gobbo that his son is dead. Not surprisingly, this really upsets the old man. Eventually, though, Launcelot takes pity on his father and admits that he is in fact his son but the old man takes some convincing. In the end, Launcelot mentions his mothers name in order to convince his father of his identity. He kneels for his fathers blessing but he kneels down back to front so that his father thinks his hair is a full beard. Old Gobbo asks how Launcelot and his master are and tells his son that he has bought a present for Shylock. Launcelot admits that he has decided to look for a new master and hopes to be given a position by Bassanio rather than Shylock.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene ii


What reasons does Launcelot give for wishing to leave Shylock?

He says he has been starved by Shylock and has become so thin that all his ribs cne be felt. He refuses to continue in Shylocks service saying . . . for I am a Jew if I serve the Jew any longer.

Bassanio enters and old Gobbo gives his gift a dish of doves to him. Launcelot asks Bassanio for employment and Bassanio gives him a job. Gratiano enters. What does Bassanio reveal to him?


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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene ii

Bassanio is planning to leave for Belmont and Gratiano asks to go with him. However, Bassanio is not very keen on this idea because he feels that Gratiano is rather loud and rough but, in the end, he agrees on the condition that Gratiano behaves himself. Gratiano agrees but perhaps rather mockingly as he says that he will: put on a sober habit, Talk with respect, and swear but now and then, Wear prayer-books in my pocket, look demurely, Nay more, while grace is saying hood mine eyes Thus with my hat, and sigh and say amen: (Act II, Scene ii, 181-186) However, Bassanio tells Gratiano not to modify his behaviour before that nights party. Bassanio clearly wants to have a fun night but puts on a rather different face for his visit to Belmont.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene iii

Act II, Scene iii

TASK 30 At Shylocks house, Launcelot is saying goodbye to Jessica, Shylocks daughter. How is Launcelots earlier criticism of Shylocks house confirmed here by Jessica?

She says her fathers house is a dismal place and only Launcelots lightheartedness lightened its tediousness. Our house is hell, and thou (a merry devil) Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness, - (Act II, Scene iii, lines 2-3)


Jessica wants Launcelot to take a letter for her to her lover Lorenzo who is to be a guest of Bassanios that evening. What does Jessica reveal in her short soliloquy?

She reveals that she plans to marry Lorenzo and convert to Christianity. She says that she may be a daughter to Shylock by blood, but not to his manners. Alack, what heinous sin is it in me To be ashamed to be my fathers child! But though I am a daughter to his blood I am not to his manners: (Act II, Scene iii, lines 16-19)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene iii


What do you feel is the dramatic importance of this short scene?

Jessica feels ashamed to be my fathers child even though she knows it to be a heinous sin to reject her father in this way. She is prepared to reject both him and her religion to marry the man she loves.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene iv

Act II, Scene iv

Lorenzo and his friends are planning their arrangements for the party that evening. Lorenzo receives Jessicas letter and sends a letter in return telling her that he will not fail her. What does Lorenzo reveal that Jessica has asked him to do?


She has asked him to take her away from her fathers house that night, together with any gold and jewels she can carry. She intends to elope with him disguised as a pageboy.


How does this scene illustrate further the Christian contempt for Shylock and his religion?

Lorenzos comments contrasting Shylock with his daughter reveal the deep-felt contempt that he has both for Shylock and the religion that he adheres to: If eer the Jew her father come to heaven, It will be for his gentle daughters sake, And never dare misfortune cross her foot, Unless she do it under this excuse, That she is issue to a faithless Jew: (Act II, Scene iv, lines 33-37)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene v

Act II, Scene v

TASK 35 Shylock bids Launcelot farewell as Launcelot leaves. What attitude does Shylock show here?

He is critical towards his servant and claims that Launcelot has eaten food greedily and has been both lazy and careless whilst working for him.

Shylock, reluctantly, prepares to leave his house to dine with Bassanio and leaves the house entrusted to his daughter, giving her the keys. He is even more reluctant to leave his house than normal because he has had a dream about thieves taking moneybags from him. TASK 36 He does not want to dine with Bassanio, so why has he agreed to?

He says that he will go in hate, to feed upon oblique the prodigal Christian. In other words, he comforts himself by the thought that he will be able to feed off the lavish and wasteful Christians.


What kind of mood is Shylock in here?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene v

He is in a sombre mood and doesnt really want to dine with Bassanio. He becomes even more reluctant when he hears a masque is planned and criticises the Christians once again for their . Lock up my doors, and when you hear the drum And the vile squealing of the wry-neckd fife Clamber not you up to the casements then Nor thrust your head into the public street To gaze on Christian fools with varnishd faces (Act II, Scene v, lines 28-32)


Sum up what this scene shows about Shylock?

Here are some ideas: He is a character obsessed with money He is also obsessed with the idea of keys and security His house is like a refuge away from what he sees as shallow foppry His criticism of Launcelot again focuses on the idea of waste and thrift.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene vi

Act II, Scene vi

Gratiano and Salerio wait outside Shylocks house for Lorenzo and are surprised that he is late For lovers ever run before the clock. What attitude towards love does their conversation reveal?


Here are some ideas: Both men talk of the pleasure in the first anticipation of love and the fact that this is greater than the actual experience of it Gratiano uses language expressing the sensations of physical enjoyment, keen appetite, unbated fire Gratiano goes on to compare the winds in the weather-beaten sails of a ship to the embrace of a prostitute.


How does their attitude contrast with Shylocks sober house in the previous scene?

Clearly Gratiano and Salerio are interested in pleasure and passion as opposed to Shylocks lack of interest in things to do with fun and enjoyment and his interest on thrift and money.

Jessica appears, dressed as a boy, and she and Lorenzo exchange declarations of their love for one another. However, Jessica does feel some unease about her male disguise but excuses it by saying: But love is blind, and lovers cannot see The pretty follies that themselves commit, (Act II, Scene vi, lines 37-38)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene vi


As well as ideas of love, though, what else occupies Jessicas thoughts here?

She too is concerned with money and passes to Lorenzo a casket which she has taken which is worth the pains. However, even though she has taken gold and jewels from her father which she considers her dowry, she goes back for more: I will make fast the doors and gild myself With some moe ducats, (Act II, Scene vi, lines 50-51)


What is the effect of Jessicas betrayal of her father on Gratiano?

He calls her a gentle who is no Jew!.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene vii

Act II, Scene vii

The scene moves back to Belmont. The Prince of Morocco has come to choose between the three caskets. He reads the inscriptions and starts to try to work out their inner meaning. He dismisses straight away the idea of the lead casket. The notion of choosing a casket which means that he must risk all he has does not appeal to him. What is Moroccos attitude towards the silver casket?


The silver inscription tempts him and it is clear that he feels that he deserves Portia but, bearing in mind the many suitors who desire her, he feels that he must choose gold. He is tempted by the inscription: who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire (line 37). He reasons that all the world desires Portia and therefore this casket must be the right one, although he does not make his choice immediately but ponders the three options that he has.


In the end, though, he opts for the golden casket. What is his response when he opens it and looks inside?

On the scroll contained within the casket he reads the result of his choice, the telling lines being: All the glitters is not gold, Often have you heard that told

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene vii

and concluding with the salutation: Fare you well, your suit is cold

Having seen this result, Morocco departs and Portia comments a gentle riddance (though perhaps containing an element of racism). Let all of his complexion choose me so. (Act II, Scene vii, line 79)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene viii

Act II, Scene viii

The scene moves back to Venice where Gratiano has set sail with Bassanio but Shylock is beside himself with anger at the flight of his daughter and perhaps even more so at the loss of his ducats and jewels. What do Salerio and Solanio have to say about the situation?


They both joke together about Shylocks misfortune and Solanio mockingly repeats Shylocks words: My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! (Act II, Scene viii, lines 13-15)


It is then revealed that there are fears that one of Antonios ships has been wrecked at sea. What does Salerio worry about at this news?

He is concerned that Shylock, after the humiliation that he has suffered, will be a dangerous enemy if Antonio fails to repay the bond.


How does their attitude towards Shylock and Antonio contrast?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene viii

There is a clear hostility towards Shylocks distress whereas, in the second part of the scene, the two men show a good deal of concern towards Antonio. Salerio's description of Antonio's farewell to Bassanio when he wishes him success at Belmont and comes near to tears exemplifies this.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene ix

Act II, Scene ix

Back at Belmont, Portia is getting ready to receive her second suitor, the Prince of Arragon who is about to make his choice of casket. Again there is the build up to him making his choice and he begins by stating that he will abide and be bound by the conditions under which he chooses the casket. He agrees that if he fails he must never marry and he must leave immediately. How do his deliberations over his choice compare with those of Morocco in the earlier scene?


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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene ix

He shows a deeper level of thought and insight than Morocco in that he admits that many fools: choose by show, Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach, Which pries not to th interior, but like the martlet Builds in the weather on the outward wall, Even in the force and road of casualty (Act II, Scene ix, lines 15-19) However, Arragon does show some of the arrogance that Morocco exhibited in the previous scene and he confidently rejects the golden casket: I will not choose what many men desire, Because I will not jump with common spirits, And rank me with the barbarous multitudes (Act II, Scene ix, lines 30-32) In the end, he opts for the silver casket with its inscription: Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves, (Act II, Scene ix, line 35) He obviously feels that he deserves Portia as he says: I will assume dessert; give me a key for this, And instantly unlock my fortunes here. (Act II, Scene ix, lines 50-51) However, he is disappointed. His self-importance is deflated when he discovers the contents: Whats here? the portrait of a blinking idiot Presenting me a schedule! (Act II, Scene ix, lines 53-54)


What is Portias attitude after Arragon has left?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act II, Scene ix

She mockingly compares him to an insect: Thus hath the candle singd the moth: O these deliberate fools! when they choose, They have the wisdom by their wit to lose. (Act II, Scene ix, lines 78-80)

News now comes of another visitor arriving. This time a young Venetian messenger has arrived telling that his master is on his way to Belmont. Portia is scathing about the glowing terms in which the messenger describes his master but the hints are that this new arrival is Bassanio as Portias lady-in-waiting, Nerissa, comments: Bassanio, Lord Love, if thy will it be! (Act II, Scene ix, line 100)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene i

Act III, Scene i

Solanio and Salerio, Antonios friends, discuss the news that one of his ships has been wrecked. They hope that the news is not true because the loss of this ship will ruin Antonio and leave in the debt of Shylock. What is the tone of their conversation?


Their conversation shows great concern towards Antonio. Note the use of their phrases: the good Antonio, the honest Antonio. They are worried about the future though and although Shylock is not specifically named, they are concerned about what he will do should Antonios venture fail and he makes a large financial loss.


At that point, Shylock arrives. What suspicions does he harbour towards the two Christians?

It is clear that he partly blames Solanio and Salerio for having a hand in his daughters departure: You knew, none so well, none so well as you, of my daughters flight (Act III, Scene i, line 26)


He is obviously very angry and hurt by Jessicas leaving and this clearly has an influence on the comments that he now makes about Antonio. What ominous note do you detect in these comments?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene i

He begins by saying that he has made a bad match with a bankrupt and a prodigal but then he begins to think about the bond. He makes it clear that he will use the bond to take revenge of Antonio for all the insults he has suffered . . . If it will feel nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He goes on to list the insults, he has had to put up with: he hath disgracd me, and hindred me half a million, laughd at my losses, mockd at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, - and what his reason? I am a Jew. (Act III, Scene 1, lines 50-54)


Which words here really stress how badly-used Shylock feels?

You might have noticed some of these words: disgracd hindred laughd at mockd scorned thwarted cooled

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene i


What impression does Shylocks use of this language here create?

He gives the impression of Antonio as a character who hates Jews and Shylock in particular. Shylocks question is why. He provides the answer himself: I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? - if you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? (Act III, Scene i, lines 46-52)


What effect is created by Shylocks speech here?

Shylocks speech here is both dignified and moving. His answer to his own question is logical and undeniable in that all human beings share characteristics which make them human. It is both simple and profound and often evokes sympathy from the audience.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene i


What changes in his tone towards the end of his speech though?

His focus at the end turns back once more to the idea of revenge: and if you wrong us shall we not revenge? if we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. (Act 3 Scene 1, lines 52-53) He tells them that it is from the Christians themselves that he has learnt the idea of revenge. The brutality of his treatment at the hands of the Christians has produced a desire for revenge within Shylock. Tubal, a friend of Shylocks, then arrives and the Christian contempt for Jews is made obvious through Solanios comment: Here comes another of the tribe, - a third cannot be matchd, unless the devil himself turn Jew. (Act 3 Scene 1, lines 72-73)


Tubal has been searching for Shylocks daughter but has had no success. What effect does his words have on Shylock?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene i

Shylock is clearly upset and bitter about his daughters betrayal. Notice how his response focuses particularly on the loss of his jewels as much as the loss of his daughter. He feels that I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear: would she were hearsd at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin: (Act III, Scene i, lines 69-71)


What further news does Tubal bring?

He reports that another of Antonios ships has been wrecked and this news temporarily cheers Shylock a little but this feeling is short-lived as Tubal goes on to reveal that Jessica has spent four score ducats in one evening. The effect on Shylock is marked and he feels thou stickst a dagger in me. Tubal has further heartening news that Antonios creditors say that he is financially ruined and again Shylock expresses his pleasure at this thought. It is clear here that Shylock is intent on revenge: Ill plague him, Ill torture him, - I am glad of it Tubals next words, though, bring further torture for Shylock when Tubal tells him that one of the creditors showed him a ring that he had

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene i

bought from Jessica for a monkey. Shylock is grief-stricken and reveals that it was a turquoise ring that had been given to him by his now, presumably dead, wife before they were married and he would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.

At the end of the scene it is clear that Shylock is intent on taking revenge on Antonio. He gives Tubal instructions to pay for an arresting officer to arrest Antonio and ominously says I will have the heart of him if he forfeit.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii

Act III, Scene ii

The scene now switches back to Belmont where Portia pleads with Bassanio to wait a few days before choosing from the caskets. How is her attitude to Bassanio different from that which she showed toward her other suitors and why does she want him to wait before choosing?


Here we see a very different Portia to the one we saw in earlier scenes and her treatment of Bassanio is quite different. In the earlier scenes she showed little emotion but now she begins with a long speech in which she urges Bassanio to wait before making his choice. Her previous confidence and contempt are no longer seen. She had urged her other two suitors to choose quickly and clearly was happy at their departure but now she pleads with Bassanio to hold back from making his choice immediately. She is worried that she may lose him if he chooses the wrong casket. She clearly loves him and wishes she were free to choose her own mate. She longs to be able to tell him which casket to choose but that would be to break her vow to her father something she would never do.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii

I would detain you here some month or two Before you venture for me. I could teach you How to choose right, but then I am forsworn, So will I never be, - so may you miss me, Bit if you do, youll make me wish a sin, That I had been forsworn. (Act III, Scene ii, lines 9-14) It is clear that she is in love with Bassanio and she tells him so: One half of me is yours, the other half yours, Mine own I would say: but if mine then yours, And so all yours; (Act III, Scene ii, lines 16-18)


How does Bassanio respond to Portias pleas?

He wants to take the test at once and cannot bear to wait any longer to win the hand of the woman he loves and he feels to wait longer than necessary is torture for him: For as I am, I live upon the rack. (Act III, Scene ii, line 26)


Portia orders that the ceremony of choosing the caskets should begin and says that if Bassanios love is true then he will choose correctly. She calls for music to sound while he makes his choice. Look at lines 43-50 and explain the imagery here.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii

The first image that Portia uses compares Bassanio to a swan dying upon a river of tears if he chooses the wrong casket and loses her If he is successful the music will be seen as a fanfare for a newlycrowned monarch or the music that wakes a summoning him to marriage.

She also compares herself here to a sacrificial virgin who was chained to a rock but rescued by Alcides (Hercules) from a sea monster. She then directly calls Bassanio by the name Hercules as she tells him to make his choice. A song is sung whilst Bassanio makes his choice. TASK 61 Now look carefully at Bassanios speech, lines 72-107. Make a note of the key points here.

The main point of his speech here explores the discrepancy between appearance and reality. He speaks about how outward appearances can be misleading and quite different from the inner reality.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii

So may the outward shows be least themselves, The world is still deceivd with ornament (Act III, Scene ii, lines 73-74) He goes on to elaborate on this idea in a number of ways: Wrongdoers can make their pleas with gracious voice Religious texts can cover up things that are wrong Vice can be hidden by the appearance of virtue Cowards can pretend to wear yet upon their chins The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars (Act III, Scene ii, lines 84-85) Beauty can be achieved by artificial means such as wigs and make up Ornaments can appear attractive but they can screen or hide the unattractive.


Where do Bassanios deliberations lead him in terms of choosing the casket?

The logic of his argument leads him to reject the gold and silver caskets and he picks the leaden casket. Portio knows that he has chosen the correct casket and in her aside reveals her joy. O love be moderate, allay thy extasy, In measure rain thy joy, scant this excess! I feel too much thy blessing, make it less For fear I surfeit. (Act III, Scene ii, lines 111-114)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii

Bassanio opens the casket and in it finds a picture of Portia. He too is overjoyed. The words on the scroll inside the casket bears out Bassanios approach to his task. You that choose not by the view Chance as fair, and choose as true: Since this fortune falls to you, Be content, and seek no new (Act III, Scene ii, lines 131-134)


Bassanio kisses Portia and can hardly believe his good fortune until she confirms their engagement. Look at this section from where Bassanio has read the scroll (line 139) to the end of Portias speech (line 174). Make a note of all the words or references here which use the language of commerce or money.

Here are some you might have noted: Bassanios comment Until confirmd, signd, ratified by you makes the engagement sound like a commercial contract Portia uses the language of money and wealth when she comments on her own value being increased ten thousand times more rich Which would make her stand high in your account She hopes that she might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends / Exceed account She also refers to the full sum of me.


Portia then submits herself completely to Bassanio and gives him everything she possesses. She seals this bond with a ring. What important condition does she attach to this ring?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii

She tells Bassanio that if he ever gives the ring away it will be a sign of the ruin of his love. He swears that he will wear the ring always and would only be parted from it in death.


What surprise announcement does Gratiano now have to make?

He announces that he too has been successfully in love and that he and Nerissa are also going to marry. It seems that Gratiano had fallen in love with Nerissa as soon as he had seen her. You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid (Act III, Scene ii, lines 197-198)


This light and joyful mood is soon changed though with the entry of Lorenzo, Jessica and Salerio with a messenger from Venice. What news do they bring?

Salerio gives Bassanio a letter from Antonio. As Bassanio starts to read the letter Portia immediately sees that it contains some terrible news. Bassanio explains that Antonio had funded his expedition to Belmont and now Antonios ships have all been shipwrecked and he is in debt. Salerio adds more bad news to this by telling them that Shylock is pursuing Antonio, wishing to take his bond. Many people, including even the Duke himself have tried to persuade Shylock to forfeit the bond but he has refused and, legally, he is entitled to it.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii


What information does Jessica have to add to Salerios news?

She tells them that when she was with her father she had heard him swear to Tubal and Chus that he would rather have Antonios flesh Than twenty times the value of the sum That he did owe him (Act III, Scene ii, lines 286-288)


What solution does Portia offer to this situation?

First of all she and Bassanio must marry but then he must go directly to Venice. She will give him the money to repay the bond, even paying the petty debt twenty times over. Having settled this he must them bring Antonio back with him to Belmont.


What is your impression of Portia here?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene ii

You may have noted that she immediately takes control of matters and quickly organises things. In her closing words, though, the worlds of love and money are, once again, brought together. Since you are dear bought, I will love you dear (Act III, Scene ii, line 313)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene iii

Act III, Scene iii

TASK 70 What has happened at the beginning of this scene?

The scene opens in a street in Venice. Antonio had been arrested and it is clear that Shylock has begun the process by which he means to take his revenge on him.


Antonio tries to plead with Shylock but how does Shylock respond?

Shylock refuses to listen to Antonio and it soon becomes clear to Antonio that his pleas are in vain and that Shylock insists on keeping to the terms of bond. Antonio realises that further pleas are useless and that Shylock hates him and seeks his death He seeks my life, his reason well I know; (Act III, Scene iii, line 21)


What is the reason according to Antonio?

Antonio says that Shylock hates him because on many occasions he has paid the bond for people who have fallen into debt with Shylock: I oft deliverd from his forfeitures Many that have at times made moan to me (Act III, Scene iii, lines 22-23)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene iii


Solanio hopes that the Duke will not allow Shylock to take his pound of flesh but what is Antonios view?

Antonio knows that the Duke must administer the law: The Duke cannot deny the course of law and the law says that Shylock can take his pound of flesh. If the Duke denied Shylock what was rightfully his by law this would undermine the whole reputation of the state. Venices wealth depends on trade with many nations and if the Duke was to make exceptions to the law it would undermine the trustworthiness and integrity of the whole state.

The forfeit is due the following day and Antonio has accepted his fate. He prays that Bassanio will arrive in time for him to be there when he pays his debt.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene iv

Act III, Scene iv

TASK 74 At Belmont, Lorenzo and Portia discuss Antonio and Bassanio. What do they have to say?

Lorenzo tells Portia that she has a true understanding of divine friendship and that a friend as staunch as Antonio deserves her sacrifice in allowing Bassanio to go back to Venice. Portia agrees with Lorenzo and tells him that she and Nerissa are to remain in prayer in a nearby monastery until their husbands return. Meanwhile she leaves her house in Lorenzos charge.


However, after Lorenzo has left, Portia reveals that she has very different plans. What does she instruct her servant, Balthazar to do?

She gives him a letter to take to her cousin, Doctor Bellario, in Padua and to return with whatever instructions and garments Bellario gives him.


What does Portia intend to do?

She and Nerissa will disguise themselves as young men and follow Bassanio and Gratiano. They must leave quickly and Portia tells Nerissa that she will explain the rest of the plan to her on the way.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act III, Scene v

Act III, Scene v

TASK 77 At Belmont, Launcelot, apparently joking, speaks to Jessica. What does he have to say to her?

He tells her that, being a Jewess, she has no hope of going to heaven and will be damned. Jessica believes that her marriage to a Christian and her conversion to Christianity will save her. Launcelot jokes that there were enough Christians before and any more will force the price of pork up as there will be more demand for it.

Lorenzo enters and tells Launcelot to order dinner which produces witty nonsense from Launcelot. TASK 78 What do you think is the purpose and effect of this scene?

On the surface, this presents a seemingly light-hearted domestic scene and some critics see it simply as a filler to allow time for Portia and Nerissa to change their costumes. Others, though, have commented on what the scene reveals about the Christian bigotry and racism against Jews that was prevalent in Elizabethan England.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

Act IV, Scene i

Act IV opens with the central and longest scene of the play in which the villain and the heroine come into conflict with each other. Antonio has been sent to trial and his life depends on the outcome of it. The scene opens with the arrival of the Duke, the Magnificoes, Antonio, Bassanio and the others. The Duke is to preside over the court which will decide on Antonios payment of his bond. TASK 79 What effect is created on stage by the entry of the Duke and his entourage here?

Often this entry is presented as a grand ceremonial entry of the Duke and the nobles. It creates a strong visual sense of the seriousness of the situation Antonio is in and the solemnity of the court and trial. This all helps to create a very intense atmosphere at the beginning of the scene.


What attitude does the Duke express towards Antonio here?

The Duke expresses sympathy for Antonio and comments on the inhuman attitude that Shylock has shown by insisting on the payment of the bond: I am sorry for thee, thou art come to anwswer A strong adverary, an inhuman wretch, Uncapable of pity, void and empty From any dram of mercy. (Act IV, Scene i, lines 4-6)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

It seems from Antonios response that the Duke has tried to dissuade Shylock from pursuing his rigorous course but to no avail. TASK 81 What effect is created by the dignified nature of Antonios response: I do oppose My patience to his fury, and am armed To suffer with a quietness of spirit, The very tyranny and rage of his! (Act IV, Scene 1, lines 10-13)

Once again the effect, both of the Dukes words here, and Antonios response, serve to create an impression of Shylock as inhuman and to create sympathy for Antonio.


Shylocks entry at this point creates maximum dramatic impact. Look at the Dukes words to Shylock immediately after his entry and make a note of what he says and the attitude he reveals.

Here are some ideas: The Duke appeals to Shylock He uses Shylocks name rather than the racial term Jew which the Christians normally use when referring to him The Duke tells Shylock that they are expecting him to be generous

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i


He says that everyone believes he is keeping up his pretence until the last minute but that at the last moment he will show mercy and drop his claim against Antonio The Duke urges Shylock to give up his claim to the pound of flesh and to be generous The Dukes final line here can appear as a threat: We all expect a gentle answer, Jew. (line 34)

How does Shylock respond to the Dukes words?

Shylock responds by saying that he has already stated what he intends to do. It is clear that he does not intend to compromise. He has sworn a holy oath to take the bond that is due to him. He tells the duke that if he denies him his bond it will undermine Venices reputation as a city that recognises the importance of the law . . . and your citys freedom. He refuses to explain why he wants to take his pound of flesh from Antonio rather than have the money. He simply says he hates him: So can I give no reason, nor I will not, More than a lodgd hate, and a certain loathing I bear Antonio (Act IV, Scene i, lines 59-61)

Bassanio argues with Shylock telling him that his answer provides no excuse for his cruelty. Shylock, however, responds by telling Bassanio that: I am not bound to please thee with my answer (Act IV, Scene i, line 65) Antonio who has said nothing until now, interrupts them and tells Bassanio that his arguments are in vain and that he is wasting his time trying to reason with Shylock. What does he go on to say?


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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

Here are some ideas: he tells Bassanio that he might as well try to hold back the tide as change Shylocks mind it is as pointless as asking the wolf why he eats the lamb it is as futile as trying to stop the wind making a sound as it blows through the trees he urges Bassanio to stop trying to persuade Shylock to change his mind he wants the matter to be over quickly: Let me have judgement, and the Jew his will (line 83).


Bassanio offers to pay Shylock twice the value of the bond. How does Shylocks response emphasise that this business is far more than a matter of money to him?

He makes it clear that no amount of money would persuade him from claiming his bond: If every ducat in six thousand ducats Were in six parts, and every part a ducat, I would not draw them, I would have my bond (Act IV, Scene I, lines 85-87)


The Duke asks him how he can hope to receive mercy as he shows none. How does Shylock reply to this?
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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

He argues that he has done nothing wrong. Just as the Christians have bought many slaves which they then treat badly he has bought his pound of flesh. If he is denied what is legally his then it will show Venetian laws as having no power: The pound of flesh which I demand of him Is dearly bought. tis mine and I will have it. If you deny me, fie upon your law, There is no force in the decrees of Venice (Act IV, Scene I, lines 99-102)

The Duke decides to dismiss the court until the arrival of Bellario, a learned doctor who he has sent for to advise on the legal aspects of the situation. Solanio announces that a messenger has arrived from Padua with letters from the doctor. Bassanio uses this news to try to raise Antonios spirits. How does Antonio respond?


Antonio is not cheered by this news. He seems resigned to death and his description of himself is full of pessimism:

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

I am a tainted wether of the flock, Meetest for death, - the weakest kind of fruit Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me; You cannot better be employd Bassanio, Than to live still and write mine epitaph. (Act IV, Scene I, lines 114-118)


Nerissa enters, dressed as a lawyers clerk, and gives a letter to the Duke. Meanwhile, Shylock sharpens his knife on the sole of his shoe. The sight of Shylock doing this provokes Gratiano to hurl insults at him. How does Shylock respond to this?

Shylock is impervious to Gratianos insults telling him that he can rail as much as he likes it will make no difference to the bond.


Now look at the section from where the Duke says This letter from Bellario (line 143) to where Antonio says Ay, so he says (line 179). Make notes on what happens here.

Here are some ideas:

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

Bellarios letter recommends a young and learned doctor of law to the court. Portia, disguised as the young lawyer, waits outside until admitted to the court. In his letter, Bellario explains that the young doctor had been visiting him when the Dukes message seeking a legal opinion arrived. He explained the case involving Antonio and Shylock to the young lawyer and they consulted law books. As Bellario has been taken ill, he has sent this young lawyer to the Duke to stand in for him. The young lawyer brings the results of their research into the case together with Bellarios opinion of the matter. Bellarios letter tells the Duke that although his friend may be young he is extremely learned and able. Portia enters, dressed as a doctor of law. The Duke asks her whether she is familiar with the details of the case. Portia assures him that she is very familiar with the case and is introduced to Antonio and Shylock. She indicates to Shylock that he clearly has a valid case.

Portia then tells Shylock that he must be merciful but he demands to know On what compulsion must I? Look at Portias speech beginning The quality of mercy is not strained, to Must needs give sentence gainst the merchant there (line 204). What does Portia have to say here and what is the dramatic impact of her words?


In these lines Portia gives her definition of mercy and why it is important. She says that it is a thing twice-blest in that It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes. It is a thing that shows a greatness in bestowing a kind of grace on both the giver and the receiver. It is the supreme quality that anyone, no matter how great, can possess for it is a quality of God himself. Her speech and plea for mercy is directly opposed to Shylocks desire to take his bond and thereby exact his revenge. She pleads for mercy, he insists on vengeance.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i


How does Shylock respond to Portias Plea?

Her arguments fall on deaf ears and he is insistent in demanding the payment of his legal bond and justice. He refuses Bassanios offer of paying twice the sum of the bond or even sacrificing himself and Bassanio says that they must curb this cruel devil of his will. However, Portia upholds the law and tells Bassanio that they have no power to change the legal position for to do so would set a precedent which could lead to future injustices. Shylock praises Portias judgement: O noble judge, O excellent young man and is clearly delighted when she says that the bond must stand and that Antonio must prepare to lose his pound of flesh.


Shylock repeats the words of the bond Nearest his heart and Portia asks if there are balances there to weigh the flesh. She also urges Shylock to have a surgeon on hand to prevent Antonio from bleeding to death. How does Shylock respond and what does his response show?

He questions whether a surgeon is mentioned in the bond: Is it so nominated in the bond? His insistence on the exact terms of the bond here emphasises his heartlessness but this insistence will be used against him by Portia and will prove his undoing.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i


Antonio then gives what he thinks will be his last speech. Look carefully at this speech (lines 263-280) and make notes on what he has to say here.

Here are some ideas: He is prepared for death He asks Bassanio not to grieve for him He wants to be commended to Bassanios wife and he wants Bassanio to tell her of his (Antonio's) love.

In his reply, Bassanio reveals the depth of his own feelings for his friend. He says that he would sacrifice anything, including his wife if he could save Antonio from the clutches of this devil. Portias quick reply is full of irony: Your wife would give you little thanks for that, If she were by to hear you make the offer (Act IV, Scene i, lines 284-8) Portias response is echoed by Nerissa who makes a similar comment when Gratiano says he would give his wife too if it had the power to change Shylocks mind. Shylock presses to begin the execution of the sentence and Portia confirms his right to begin: you must cut this flesh from off his breast; The law allows it, and the court awards it. (Act IV, Scene i, lines 301-2) TASK 94 What is the dramatic effect created at this point in the play?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

On stage, this is a moment of great tension as Antonio stands with his breast bared ready to receive the cut from Shylocks knife. However, just as Shylock is about to take his pound of flesh, Portia speaks: Tarry a little, there is something else (Act IV, Scene i, line 304)


It is now that Portia plays her trump card just as Shylock had done a little earlier. Portia insists on adherence to the letter of the bond. What does Portia have to say here?

She tells Shylock the bond does not mention taking even a single drop of blood whilst taking his pound of flesh. If he takes even so much as one drop of Antonios blood he will have exceeded the terms of the bond and all his lands and goods will be confiscated under the law.


How does Shylock respond to this?

Shylock asks Portia if this ruling is the law. She replied that it is and that he will receive the strict justice that he had insisted on: For as thou urgest justice, be assured Thou shalt have justice more than thou desirest (Act IV, Scene i, lines 315-316) Shylock immediately recognises that he is trapped by his own insistence on a complete adherence to the letter of the bond. He then

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

tries to settle for Bassanios earlier offer to pay nine thousand ducats thrice the bond and let Antonio go.


Bassanio immediately offer up the money but Portia intervenes. What does she have to say?

Portia first refuses Shylock the offered threefold payment of the bond and then she refuses him repayment of the initial loan itself he shall have nothing but the penalty itself: Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh. Shed thou no blood, nor cut than less nor more But just a pound of flesh (Act IV, Scene i, lines 323-5) If he takes more, or less, than a just pound, even if it is only by the smallest fraction, his life will be forfeit and all his possessions confiscated.


Shylock realises that he is beaten and that now he has lost even the original loan. He makes to leave but Portia tells him to stay. Why?

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

Portia announces that there is also a case against Shylock. She tells him that he has broken one of the laws of Venice by attempting to seek the life of one of its citizens. As is penalty for this, all of Shylocks wealth must be confiscated, half going to Antonio and half to the state. It is now Shylocks life that lies in the balance and his fate depends on the mercy of the Duke.

Gratiano mockingly tells Shylock to beg for his life but the Duke intervenes and pardons Shylock telling him that he will see the difference between their mercy and the attitude that Shylock has shown: That thou shalt see the difference of our spirit, I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it (Act IV, Scene I, lines 367-8) However, the confiscation of all his possessions means ruin or death for Shylock and he realises this telling the Duke: Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that You take my house, when you do take the prop That doth sustain my house; you take my life, When you do take the means whereby I live (Act IV, Scene i, lines 373-6) TASK 99 Portia turns to Antonio and asks him: What mercy can you render him Antonio? What is Antonios response?

He asks that Shylock be allowed to retain half his goods but he must undertake to eventually leave this half to Lorenzo and Jessica when he dies The other half of his goods is to be held by Antonio and this half will also go to Lorenzo when Shylock dies. Antonios final condition is that Shylock undertakes to become a Christian.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

The Duke agrees with Antonios conditions and says that Shylock must adhere to them or else the Duke will withdraw the pardon which he granted Shylock earlier. Portia asks Shylock for his response to this to which he replies I am content. In many ways this is a difficult line as it is difficult to imagine how Shylock could be content with this situation and in some productions the line is cut. Shylock now asks for permission to leave the court saying that he feels unwell. The Duke gives him leave to go. Now look at the section for the exit of Shylock (line 400) to the point where Portia says: and so I take my leave (line 419). Make a note of what happens in this section.

TASK 100

Here are some ideas: The Duke invites Portia (still disguised) to dine with him She says that she is sorry but she has to leave that night for Padua The Duke tells Antonio that he is indebted to Portia and that he should reward her The Duke leaves and Bassanio also thanks Portia and praises her wisdom Bassanio then offers Portia the three thousand ducats which were originally owed to Shylock Portia says that the result is payment enough She then takes her leave saying to Bassanio that he will know her when they meet again.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene i

TASK 101

Bassanio, though, will not let her leave and presses her further to at least accept a gift from him as a mark of his gratitude. What does Portia ask for?

She asks for Antonios gloves saying that she will wear them as a momento of him and from Bassanio she asks for his ring (the one that Portia gave to him).

Bassanio tries to avoid giving away the ring says that it is a trifle and is not a worthy gift for her. However, Portia insists that she will settle for nothing else but the ring. Bassanio explains how the ring was given to him by his wife: And when she put it on, she made me vow That I should neither sell, nor give, nor lose it. (Act IV, Scene i, lines 441-2) Portia pretends to be offended by this and leaves with Nerissa. Antonio begs Bassanio to let Portia have the ring and Bassanio sends Gratiano after the disguised Portia with the ring. They plan to hurry back to Belmont where they think Portia and Nerissa are awaiting their return. TASK 102 What is the purpose of this episode involving the ring?

Shakespeare is preparing the ground here for the comedy centring on the ring in the final scene. Bassanios giving away of the ring will precipitate comic consequences. It also emphasises the strength of the bond between Bassanio and Antonio.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act IV, Scene ii

Act IV Scene ii
TASK 103 This brief scene shows Gratiano as he catches up with Portia and hands over Bassanios ring. How does Portia respond?

Initially she seems surprised (and perhaps disappointment) that Bassanio has changed his mind and has given up his ring evident in her first words: That cannot be. However, she quickly regains her composure and accepts the ring. In her aside to Portia, Nerissa says that she intends to get Gratiano to give up the ring that she gave him too. Portias closing lines signal the comedy that is to come from this situation: We shall have old swearing That they did give the rings away to men; But well outface them, and outswear them too. (Act 4 Scene 2, lines 15-17)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act V, Scene i

Act V Scene i
The scene returns to Belmont. Look carefully at the opening of the scene up to the point where Stephano leaves. Make notes on what happens here.

TASK 104

Here are some points you might have noted: It is a moonlit night and Jessica and Lorenzo are together and very much in love Lorenzo talks about the story of Troilus and Cressida and how Troilus longed for his love Jessica talks about another love story involving Thisbe who was forbidden to marry her lover, Pyramus Lorenzo then thinks about Dido who, when her husband was murdered, escaped and later fell in love with Aeneas Jessica mentions Medea who make her husbands father young again by boiling up magic herbs she had gathered

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act V, Scene i

Lorenzo then talks about his own love for, and elopement with, Jessica Stephano arrives with a message from Portia to say that she will be home soon Launcelot enters and tells them that Bassanio will return before morning Stephano goes to tell the servants to prepare for the return of their mistress and master.

TASK 105

Stephano leaves and Lorenzo and Jessica stay outside while Lorenzo talks about the power of music. What does Lorenzo have to say about music here and what mood does he create?

He describes the ancient belief that the moving starts create heavenly music as they orbit in the sky. His lyrical, poetic words create a sense of dreamlike romance. When Jessica expresses the idea that she feels sad when she hears sweet music, Lorenzo tells her that such music has healing powers. It even has the power to make wild animals become quiet and docile.

TASK 106

During this interlude, Portia and Nerissa return. Look at the section from their entry to the entry of Bassanio, Antonio, Gratiano and the others. Make a note of what happens in this section.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act V, Scene i

Here are some ideas: Returning, Portia and Nerissa see the lights of the house Portia comments that the music sounds better than it does during the day because it is quiet and there is nothing to detract from it: I think The nightingale, if she should sing by day When every goose is cackling, would be thought No better a musician than the wren. (Act 5 Scene 1, lines 103-6) Portia calls a greeting and is heard by Lorenzo Portia pretends that We have been praying for our husbands welfare. and their success in their mission The servants are instructed not to reveal that Portia and Nerissa have also been away Bassanio, Antonio and Gratiano arrive and are welcomed back.

TASK 107

How does Portia respond when reunited with Bassanio?

She immediately begins to tease him: Let me give light, but let me not be light; For a light wife doth make a heavy husband, And never be Bassanio so for me. (Act 5 Scene 1, lines 129-131) As she continues her wordplay produces a comic effect but it is also has an underlying edge. Antonio is introduced to her and she welcomes him to Belmont.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act V, Scene i

TASK 108

As Portia greets Antonio, however, an argument breaks out between Gratiano and Nerissa. What is the cause of their argument?

Nerissa accuses Gratiano of giving his ring away to a judges clerk despite the fact that he swore to wear it till you hour of death, / And that it should lie with in your grave. (lines 153-4) She insists that it is not the value of the ring that matters it is the pledge that went with it. From the audiences point of view her remarks contain much humour as she goes on to hint that he has given his ring away to a woman: The clerk will neer wear hair ons face that had it.

It is now Bassanios turn to come under the spotlight as Portia joins in saying that Gratiano was wrong to give Nerissas ring away: You were to blame, I must be plain with you, To part so slightly with your wifes first gift, A thing stuck on with oaths upon your finger, And riveted with faith unto your flesh. (Act 5 Scene 1, lines 166-9) TASK 109 What is the purpose of Bassanios aside: Why I were best to cut my left hand off, And swear I lost the ring defending it. (Act 5 Scene 1, lines 177-8)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act V, Scene i

These lines heighten the dramatic tension as the audience is aware that Bassanio realises that he has a problem himself seeing as he, like Gratiano, has given his ring away.

It does not take long for Portia to learn the truth as Bassanio is immediately given away by Gratiano: My Lord Bassanio gave his ring away Unto the judge that begged it. (Act 5 Scene 1 lines 179-80) In the face of this, Bassanio must admit that he has given away his wifes ring too. How does Portia respond to his giving away of the ring?

TASK 110

She tells him that she will not sleep with him until she sees the ring again.

TASK 111

How does Bassanio try to explain or justify giving the ring away?

He tells Portia if she knew who he had given the ring to and why, and how unwillingly he let it go she would not be so displeased.

TASK 112

Portia tells him that she is convinced that he has given the ring away to a woman but Bassanio swears he has not. He goes on to give a full explanation. Make a note of what he tells her.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act V, Scene i

He says he gave the ring to a civil doctor This doctor refused three thousand ducats in payment He begged to be given the ring Bassanio refused and the doctor left upset This doctor had saved the life of Antonio and so Bassanio could not deny him the ring and sent it after him.

Portia and Nerissa continue their teasing by saying that if this doctor and clerk turn up at Belmont they will sleep with them. TASK 113 At this point Antonio intervenes. What does he have to say?

He is clearly embarrassed by this argument and speaks up for Bassanio, apologising that he is the cause of this quarrel. Once again he enters into a bond on behalf of his friend explaining that Bassanio acted as he did for Antonios sake and pledging that his friend will never be unfaithful in the future.

TASK 114

The moment has come for the truth to be revealed. How does Portia do this?

Giving in at last she gives Bassanio another ring (it is, of course, the original one) and Bassanio is amazed at seeing it again. However, Portia is not quite ready to reveal the truth yet and tells him that she lay with the doctor to get the ring. Nerissa says that she lay with the clerk.

In the final denouement, the plot is unravelled, the disguises explained and a letter arrives giving news that Antonios ships have come safely

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The Merchant of Venice

The Play Scene by Scene Act V, Scene i

in. The gift of the deed to Shylocks property after his death is given to Jessica and Lorenzo. It is now almost morning and Portia says she will give a full explanation of events: It is almost morning, And yet I am sure you are not satisfied Of these events at full. Let us go in, And charge us there upon intergatories, And we will answer all things faithfully. (Act 5 Scene 1, lines 295-299) It is left to Gratiano to speak the final lines of the play. We are left with him pondering on whether Nerissa wants to go to bed for what remains of the night or to wait for the next night. He looks forward to sleeping with The doctors clerk and promises that he will always keep Nerissas ring safe.

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The Merchant of Venice

Characterisation - Shylock

Traditional criticism very often focussed on the characters as if they were real people who had some kind of existence outside the play. However, in more recent times the focus has shifted and now it is important to recognise that Shakespeares characters are constructs created by Shakespeare to perform certain dramatic functions. When considering characters, and writing about them, it is important to bear this in mind.

When thinking about the character of Shylock remember that interpretations and presentations of his character vary according to the historical context of the time. Here are some points to consider: Originally he was created as a character by a writer set firmly in the context of the Elizabethan period. In the Elizabethan theatre he was presented as the villain of the play, a caricature of the avaricious and cruel moneylender. In other words, exactly the kind of character that the Christian characters describe him as. Later presentations continued this portrayal of him as an evil, malicious and frightening villain. In the nineteenth century, though, presentations of Shylock began to change. The Victorian actor, Edmund Kean broke away from this traditional view and played the character as being dignified, intelligent and vulnerable a character isolated within a Christian society. In this presentation, Shylock became a much more sympathetic character who pleads for understanding and tolerance. Looked at in this way the character becomes a much more tragic one more a victim than a villain whose hatred and desire for revenge is a direct result of the treatment he receives from society. More recently, interpretations of Shylocks character have explored his Jewish background and the religious and cultural implications of his isolation within an alien society.

Now think about the character of Shylock for yourself and draw up a table or chart (see over) which shows a) the ways in which the language and events of the play can be used to present Shylock as a villain, and b) the ways in which the language and events of the play can be used to present him as a tragic figure.

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The Merchant of Venice

Characterisation - Shylock

a) Shylock presented as a villain Character point / action in play Textual reference / quotation He hates Christians Act I, Scene 3, lines 38-49 How like a fawning publcan he looks. He has a grudge against Antonio I hate him for he is a Christian."

b) Shylock presented as a tragic figure Character point / action in play Textual reference / quotation Act I, Scene 3, lines 122-125 He has been badly treated by Antonio Fair Sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last

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The Merchant of Venice

Characterisation - Antonio

Antonio is the character after whom the play is named the merchant of Venice. Just as interpretations of Shylock can vary, so it is also possible to see Antonio in different ways. TASK 115 Think of your response to the character of Antonio, his role within the play and possible interpretations. Make a list of your ideas.

Here are some points you might have thought about: The antagonism between Antonio and Shylock is at the centre of the plot Both characters appear lonely and isolated Antonios sadness is evident in the opening lines of the play He expresses a deep emotional bond with Bassanio He is an outsider to the world of courtship and marriage that the other Christian characters are involved in His isolation is emphasised at the end of the play when he is left without a partner His behaviour towards Shylock is unpleasant and he shows no sign of sympathy or understanding for him In the courtroom he seems to almost welcome the idea of death certainly he is ready to accept it.

Think about each of the above points and find a quotation form the play to support each idea.

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The Merchant of Venice

Characterisation - Portia

Like the other characters in the play, the character of Portia is open to various interpretations and presentations. However, to the Elizabethan audience, she would have appeared the heroin of the drama in that she dominates the latter part of the play and is the key influence on the happy outcome of the plot. TASK 116 Think about the positive aspects of her character and make a note of them.

Here are some ideas that you may have thought of: She is beautiful and intelligent She is self-possessed and knows her own mind She has a keen wit as can be seen through her playful banter with Nerissa concerning her suitors She has a sense of duty and honour and is prepared to abide by the terms of her fathers will regardless of what her own feelings may be There are parts of the play that suggest a sincere woman showing both dignity and pride Her sense of humour is clearly evident in the ring episode at the end of the play.

TASK 117

However, much modern criticism focuses on the inconsistencies of the presentation of Portia. Think now about ways in which she might seem inconsistent and make a note of these.

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The Merchant of Venice

Characterisation - Portia

Here are some points you might have noted: She is referred to as unlessoned, unschooled and unpractised which suggests a degree of innocence but, on the other hand, her performance during the trial scene gives us a picture of a worldly wise and calculating lawyer who is fully aware of legal tricks. She advocates mercy on the one hand whilst, on the other, shows none towards Shylock, who is effectively destroyed. She is shown as the innocent virgin on the one hand but, on the other, as a woman who knows all about male sexuality. She appears as an independent woman with wealth and strength of character but she, nevertheless, gives herself completely and willingly to her husbands authority.

Some modern views of her also focus on her willingness to embrace racist attitudes and sees her as a devious manipulator. On the other hand, some feminist criticism views her as an emblem of female resistance within a male-dominated world who is able to play and defeat men at their own game. However, within the context of the Elizabethan theatre, she would be regarded as the heroin seeking to preserve the values and beliefs of the society of that time. Now think about all the points that have been mentioned in relation to Portias character and find references from the text to support each one. Record your ideas in a table like the one below following the example given.

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The Merchant of Venice

Characterisation - Portia

Point / idea noted Portia is dutiful to her fathers wishes Act and Scene reference Act 2 Scene 1 Quotation to illustrate your point In terms of choice I am not solely led / by nice direction of a maidens eyes (lines 13-14)

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The Merchant of Venice


Other Characters
Now, thinking about their role in the play, their contribution to the dramatic effect of the play and their relationships with other characters, make notes on the following characters using tables set out as below:

Point / idea noted Act and Scene reference Quotation to illustrate your point

Point / idea noted Act and Scene reference Quotation to illustrate your point

Point / idea noted Act and Scene reference Quotation to illustrate your point

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The Merchant of Venice


Point / idea noted Act and Scene reference Quotation to illustrate your point

Point / idea noted Act and Scene reference Quotation to illustrate your point

Launcelot Gobbo
Point / idea noted Act and Scene reference Quotation to illustrate your point

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The Merchant of Venice


TASK 118 The Merchant of Venice explores a number of themes and ideas. Think about the play and the ideas and issues that it raises. Make a list of these themes and ideas.

Here are some that you might have thought about: Religion and the conflict between Christian and Jewish ideaologies Usuary the lending of money and the charging of interest Money Venice and trade The Law The role of women in a patriarchal society Revenge Friendship and love Marriage

Think about each of these areas and write down three examples to illustrate each one using a table like the one below. Add act, scene and line references to support each example.

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The Merchant of Venice


Theme/idea Religion Usuary Money Venice and Trade

Textual reference

The Law

The role of women in a patriarchal society


Friendship and love



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The Merchant of Venice

The Language of the Play


One of the features of The Merchant of Venice is the wide variety of language to be found in the play, and Shakespeare uses a variety of techniques to intensify the dramatic effect of the play. TASK 119 Think about some of the techniques that you have noticed in the play and make a list of them.

Here are some ideas you might have noted: the use of imagery the use of antithesis using opposing words and phrases for effect repetition the use of listing the use of riddles

Find FIVE examples of Shakespeares use of imagery. Quote an example, give act, scene and line references and explain the effects that is created by this use of imagery. One is done for you as an example. Image
The quality of mercy is not strained, / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed, It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes



Act 4 Scene 1, Portias lines describe mercy as lines 183-86 gentle and of benefit to all like the gentle rain that falls on the earth. The rain is a blessing from God and showing mercy also is blessed.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Language of the Play

Now find FIVE examples of antithesis from the play, make a note of act, scene and line references and explain the effects created. Antithesis The devil can cite scripture for his purpse, / An evil soul produce holy witness Reference Effects Act I, Antonio questions Shylocks integrity and Scene creates a sense of the falsity of Shylock 3, lines and his underlying evil. 90-1

Repetition is used within the plays language, again to increase its dramatic intensity. This repetition takes various forms. For example, the repetition of certain words such as Jew, bond and ring emphasise the key concerns of the play. Now try to find other repetitions in the play and make a list of them.

The Use of Lists Listing

Like repetition, Shakespeare uses the listing of particular words and phrases to create an accumulative effect. The effect of the listing is to intensify the impact of the language. For example, Shylocks appeal to be treated like a human being is made all the more powerful through the use of listing: Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter
and summer as a Christian is?

(Act III, Scene 1, lines 46-50) Now find THREE more examples of listing in the play and explain the effect that they create.

The Use of Riddles

Shakespeare's uses riddles in the casket scene. Each of riddles that accompanies a casket and the ways in which the suitors interpret them

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The Merchant of Venice

The Language of the Play

tells us something about the nature of that particular suitor and also provide an insight into their attitudes to love, wealth and life. Look at each of the inscriptions on the caskets and the words that are found within them. What does each have to tell you?

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The Merchant of Venice

Essay Questions

1. Read the following passage from Act I, Scene 3. BASSANIO: This is Signior Antonio. SHYLOCK: [Aside] How like a fawning publican he looks! I hate him for he is a Christian: But more, for that in low simplicity He lends out money gratis, and brings down The rate of usance here with us in Venice. If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. He hates our sacred nation, and he rails (Even there where merchants most do congregate) On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift, Which he calls interest: cursed be my tribe If I forgive him! BASSANIO: Shylock, do you hear? SHYLOCK: I am debating of my present store, And by the near guess of my memory I cannot instantly raise up the gross Of full three thousand ducats: what of that? Tubal (a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe) Will furnish me; but soft! how many months Do you desire? [To Antonio.] Rest you fair good signior, Your worship was the last man in our mouths. ANTONIO: Shylock, albeit I neither lend nor borrow By taking nor by giving of excess, Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend, Ill break a custom: [To Bassanio.] is he yet possessd How much ye would? SHYLOCK: Ay, ay, three thousand ducats. ANTONIO: And for three months SHYLOCK: I had forgot, - three months, - [To Bassanio.] you told me so. Well then, your bond: and let me see, - but hear you, Me thoughts you said, you neither lend nor borrow Upon advantage. ANTONIO: I do never use it. SHYLOCK: When Jacob grazd his uncle Labans sheep This Jacob from our holy Abram was (As his wise mother wrought in his behalf) The thirds possessor: ay, he was the third. ANTONIO: And what of him? did he take interest? SHYLOCK: No, not take interest, not as you would say Directly intrest, - mark what Jacob did, When Laban and himself were compromisd

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The Merchant of Venice

Essay Questions

That all the eanlings which were streakd and pied Should fall as Jacobs hire, the ewes being rank In end of autumn turned to the rams, And when the work of generation was Between these woolly breeders in the act, The skilful shepherd pilld me certain wands, And in the doing of the deed of kind He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes, Who then conceiving, did in eaning time Fall parti-colourd lambs, and those were Jacobs This was a way to thrive, and he was blest: And thrift is blessing if men steal it not. (Act I, Scene 3, lines 37-87) Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents Shylock here and elsewhere in the play. 2. Read the following passage from Act I, Scene 1. ANTONIO: Well, tell me now what lady is the same To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage That you to-day promisd to tell me of? BASSANIO: Tis not unknown to you Antonio How much I have disabled mine estate, By something showing a more swelling port Than my faint means would grant continuance: Nor do I now make moan to be abridgd From such a noble rate, but my chief care Is to come fairly off from the great debts Wherein my time (something too prodigal) Hath left me gagd: to you Antonio I owe the most in money and in love, And from your love I have a warranty To unburthen all my plots and purposes How to get clear of all the debts I owe. ANTONIO: I pray you good Bassanio let me know it, And if it stand as you yourself still do, Within the eye of honour, be assurd My purse, my person, my extremest means Lie all unlockd to your occasions. BASSANIO: In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft, I shot his fellow of the self-same flight The self-same way, with more advised watch To find the other forth, and by adventuring both, I oft found both: I urge this childhood proof Because what follows is pure innocence. I owe you much, and (like a wilful youth) That which I owe is lost, but if you please To shoot another arrow that self way Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,

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The Merchant of Venice

Essay Questions

(As I will watch the aim) or to find both, Or bring you latter hazard back again, And thankfully rest debtor for the first. ANTONIO: You know me well, and herein spend but time To wind about my love with circumstance, And out of doubt you do me now more wrong In making question of my uttermost Than if you had made waste of all I have: Then do but say to me what I should do That in your knowledge may by me be done, And I am prest unto it: therefore speak. BASSANIO: In Belmont is a lady richly left, And she is fair, and (fairer than that word), Of wondrous virtues, - sometimes from her eyes I did receive fair speechless messages: Her name is Portia, nothing undervalud To Catos daughter, Brutus Portia, Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth, For the four winds blow in from every coast Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos strond, And many Jasons come in quest of her. O my Antonio, had I but the means To hold a rival place with one of them, I have a mind presages me such thrift That I should questionless be fortunate. ANTONIO: Thou knowst that all my fortunes are at sea, Neither have I money, nor commodity To raise a present sum, therefore go forth Try what my credit can in Venice do, That shall be rackd even to the uttermost To furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia. Go presently inquire (and so will I) Where money is, and I no question make To have it of my trust, or for my sake. (Act I, Scene 1, lines 119 to the end of the scene) Discuss Shakespeares presentation of Antonio here and elsewhere in the play. 3. Read the following passage from Act 1 Scene 2. PORTIA: NERRISA: By my troth Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world. You would be (sweet madam), if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are: and yet for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing; it is no mean happiness therefore to be seated in the

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The Merchant of Venice

Essay Questions



mean, - superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer. Good sentences, and well pronouncd They would be better if well followed. If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor mens cottages princes palaces, - it is a good divine that follows his own instructions, - I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching: the brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps oer a cold decree, - such a hare is madness the youth, to skip oer the meshes of good counsel the cripple; but this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband, - O me the word choose! I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of a living daughter curbd by the will of a dead father: is it not hard Nerissa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none? Your father was ever virtuous, and holy men at their death have good inspirations, - therefore the lottry that he hath devised in these three chests of gold, silver, and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you, will no doubt never be chosen by any rightly, but one who you shall rightly love. But what warmth is there in your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come? (Act I, Scene 2, lines 1-34)

Examine the presentation of marriage both here and elsewhere in the play. 4. Read the following passage from Act 3 Scene 2. PORTIA: You see me Lord Bassanio where I stand, Such as I am; though for myself alone I would not be ambitious in my wish To wish myself much better, yet for you, I would be trebled twenty times myself, A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times More rich, That only to stand high in your account, I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends Exceed account: but the full sum of me Is sum of something: which to term in gross, Is an unlessond girl, unschoold unpractised, Happy in this, she is not yet so old But she may learn: happier than this, She is not bred so dull but she can learn; Happiest of all, is that her gentle spirit

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The Merchant of Venice

Essay Questions

Commits itself to yours to be directed, As from her lord, her governor, her king. Myself, and what is mine, to you and yours Is now converted. But now I was the lord Of this fair mansion, master of my servants, Queen oer myself: and even now, but now. This house, these servants, and this same myself Are yours, - my lords! I give them with this ring, Which when you part from, lose, or give away, Let it presage the ruin of your love, And be my vantage to exclaim on you. BASSANIO: Madam, you have bereft me of all words, Only my blood speaks to you in my veins, And there is such confusion in my powers, As after some oration fairly spoke By a beloved prince, there doth appear Among the buzzing pleased multitude, Where every something being blent together, Turns to a wild of nothing, save of joy Expressd, and not expressd: but when this ring Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence, O then be bold to say Bassaniod dead! (Act III, Scene 2, lines 149-185) Explore Shakespeares presentation of the relationship between Portia and Bassanio both here and elsewhere in the play. 5. Read the following passage from Act 4 Scene 1. PORTIA: The quality of mercy is not straind It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest, It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes, Tis mightiest in the mightiest, it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown. His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings: But mercy is above this sceptred sway, It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself; And earthly power doth then show likest Gods When mercy seasons justice: therefore Jew, Though justice be thy plea, consider this, That in the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy, And that same prayer, doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much To mitigate the justice of thy plea,

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The Merchant of Venice

Essay Questions

Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice Must needs give sentence gainst the merchant there. SHYLOCK: My deeds upon my head! I crave the law, The penalty and forfeit of my bond. PORTIA: Is he not able to discharge the money? BASSANIO: Yes, here I tender it for him in the court, Yea, twice the sum, - if that will not suffice, I will be bound to pay it ten times oer On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart, If this will not suffice, it must appear That malice bares down truth. And I beseech you Wrest once the law to your authority, To do a great right, do a little wrong, And curb this cruel devil of his will. PORTIA: It must not be, there is no power in Venice Can alter a decree established: Twill be recorded for a precedent, And many an error by the same example Will rush into the state, - it cannot be. (Act 4 Scene 1, lines 184-221) How does Shakespeare present Portia both here and elsewhere in the play? 6. Examine Shakespeares presentation of Lorenzo and Jessica in the play. 7. How do you respond to Shakespeares presentation of the character of Antonio in the play? 8. Explore Shakespeares presentation of the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in the play. 9. Examine the language of The Merchant of Venice and the ways in which Shakespeare uses it to create dramatic impact. 10. What differing attitudes to marriage can be found in The Merchant of Venice? 11. How far does Shakespeare create sympathy for the character of Shylock? 12. How important is the setting of the commercial treading centre of Venice to the overall effect of the play?

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The Merchant of Venice

Essay Questions

13. Explore Shakespeares presentation of the nature of friendship and love in The Merchant of Venice. 14. Examine Shakespeares presentation of Portia in the play. 15. How do you respond to Bassanio as a character in the play? 16. How is the idea of money of central importance in The Merchant of Venice? 17. It has been argued that Shakespeare presents two Shylocks in the play. How do you respond to this idea? 18. Is Shylock a victim or a villain in the play? 19. Examine the themes of: love friendship marriage in the play. 20. It has often been said that Portia is central to the play. How far do you agree with this idea?

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