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Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism


Complete the following timeline and answer the following questions:

1066 AD
What was one thing that the Jews
were accused of during this time
Where in the world today is this
myth still alive and well? How do
we know this?

1290 AD
1564 AD
Who was Dr. Roderigo Lopez
and what did he do in 1594
that may have influenced
Shakespeare when writing The
Merchant of Venice?

1655 AD




The Main Story of The Merchant of Venice:

8. Portias father wants her to marry the right man, so he devises a scheme forcing her suitors to
choose between a ___________, ____________, or ______________ chest. Whoever chooses the correct
chest (which will have the picture of Portia in it as their prize) wins Portias hand in marriage.
The Prince of Morocco chooses the _______________ one, and the Prince of Arragon chooses the
____________ one, but both of them are wrong. The man Portia wants to marry, Bassanio, is too
poor to marry her and try his hand at the chests, so he borrows _______________________ ducats
from his friend Antonio, a rich merchant of Venice. Antonio doesnt have the money in hand, but
rather in investments in foreign ships yet to return to port, so he goes to a local Jew, Shylock, to
borrow the money. Antonio also lends money, but he doesnt charge ________________, which hurts
Shylocks business. Antonio is Christian and acuses Shylock of _______________, a crime So,
between Antonios public renunciation of Shylocks business practices, as well as his low opinion
of ________________, the two have some bitterness between them.

Act I: The Bond

Watch the scene where Antonio goes to Shylock to ask for the money and answer these
9. How is Shylock depicted? What is he wearing?

10. What does Shylock say about the way Antonio has treated him in the past?

11. Is Shylock willing to lend the money?

12. Does Antonio want Shylock to lend him money as a friend or an enemy? What does he say?

13. What is Antonios punishment for not repaying the bond?

14. How do Antonio and Bassiano react?

15. How does Shylock convince Antonio his flesh isnt his goal? What does Shylock say is his only
motivation for his loan?

16. Overall, who is portrayed more positively in this scene? Shylock or Antonio? Why?

Act III: The Monologue

The story continues, and the reader finds out that all of Antonios investments, tied up in ships,
are gone. He has no money to pay back Shylock, and so must give him the
Salarino and Solanio discuss the rumors that yet another of Antonios ships has been wrecked.
They are joined by Shylock, who replies that Antonio will soon be bankrupt and swears to collect
his bond. Salarino doubts Shylocks resolve, wondering what the old man will do with a pound of
flesh. After Antonios friends try to talk Shylock out of this penalty, he responds with a speech.
Read the speech and then answer the following question:
What is Shylocks argument in this scene? Use APE format to construct your answer.

18. How does Shylock respond to Salarinos question about why he

wants the flesh? (literal and figurative)


19. What proof does he offer about why he deserves this?


20. How does he explain to Salarino that this is a just reward?

Act IV: Revenge vs. Mercy

Antonio takes Shylock to court. His friend Bassanio, now married to Portia after choosing the right chest,
comes and offers Shylock twice the money back instead of Shylock taking the penalty he seeks. Shylock
refuses. In a twist of fate, Portia dresses up like a lawyer and comes to mediate the dispute

21. How does Shylock respond to the court when they ask why he wont forgive
Antonios bond? What comparison does he make?

22. How does Antonio respond to the council about his views on Shylock
compromising? What comparison does he make?

23. What hypocrisy does Shylock point out about the Christians at court?

24. How is Antonio depicted? Who does he look like?

25. What is Portias argument to Shylock about mercy? How does he respond?

26. What loophole does Portia, disguised as a lawyer, find in Shylock and Antonios

27. How does Shylock respond?

28. At the end of the scene, how have Shylock and Antonio exchanged places? What
law of Venice has Shylock supposedly broken? Is he shown mercy?

29. What is Shylocks punishment?

30. Who is portrayed more positively in this scene? Give an example from the text to
support your answer.

31. Define Anti-Semitism:


32. From the evidence in the text, do you believe that Shakespeare was anti-semitic?
Write your argument in the form of a constructed response using APE format. Write
on a separate sheet of paper.