Quick, quick, I pray thee; draw the curtain straight: The Prince of Arragon hath ta' en his oath, And comes to his election presently. Flourish of cornets. Enter the. Merchant of Venice. ACT I. SCENE I. Venice. A street. Enter ANTONIO, SALARINO, and SALANIO. ANTONIO. In truth, I know not why I am so sad: It wearies me. Free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the.
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THE NEW CAMBRIDGE SHAKESPEARE GENERAL E D I T O R: Brian Gibbons ASSOCIATE G E N E R A L E D I T D R: A. R. Braunmuller From the publication. t h e a n n o tat e d s h a k e s p e a r e The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare Fully annotated, with an Int. Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg.
Though there were in theory no unconverted Jews in England, economic resentment such as was widely expressed against settlers from the Low Countries may have been behind the cry raised against the prosperous Marrano, Lopez: Moreover, by Shakespeare's day, English usurers were in their own right a familiar element in the London social scene.
Usury, the Elizabethans were repeatedly told, was contrary to the law of nations, the law of nature, and the law of God. The guidance of the Gospels was clear: We do not know if he lent the money, though 1 3 4 In the Cursor Mundi, about , a Jew who has tried to take a pound of his debtor's flesh and has consequently been condemned to death is reprieved when he offers to reveal the place where the 2 Cross is buried.
The gloss is in the Geneva Bible, the version most used by Elizabethans for their private reading. Quoted by Walter Cohen, ' The Merchant of Venice and the possibilities of historical criticism ', ELH 49 , 21 Introduction the association progressed in the manner of comedy, Shakespeare's daughter in due course marrying the son of the would-be borrower. There is something Canute-like about the many sermons preached against usury in the s.
The tide had turned towards capitalism with the Act which, though it did not openly countenance usury, relaxed the prohibition against it. His services were most in demand among the aristocracy,2 and since the players were under lordly patronage the drama was a ready medium for making the usurer a scapegoat for the economic ills of the age.
By the time the theatres closed in , some sixty usurers had been hissed from their stages. Because the realisation that Shakespeare is less concerned with creating a scapegoat than in suggesting how scapegoats are created comes, as Girard says, in intermittent flashes of complicity with the playwright,5 discussion of it must be left till we take a closer look at the play in action p.
Two general points about Shakespeare's manipulation of the wicked Jewish moneylender stereotype can be made here. The first is that the playwright seems to have gone to the Book of Genesis for what we would now call background information about Judaism, 6 and like every other reader he found his imagination stirred by the way the patriarchs are there presented as a chosen people.
Shylock is rare among villains in that he claims a holy ancestry. It does not make him any better in our eyes - Lucifer too can recall a God-directed past - but it enables his mean and cringing figure to cast a nobler shadow. The second point is that Shakespeare's play can be seen as the culmination of a series of extant plays about grasping Jews which are all in one way or another critical towards the assumed moral superiority of Christians.
Three such plays preceded The Merchant of Venice. The Croxton Play of the Sacrament is a miracle drama dealing with the misdeeds of two wicked merchants, one Jewish and the other Christian. Tawney in the introduction to his edition of Thomas Wilson's Discourse upon Usury , Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy , , pp. He also perhaps has some traits of the puritan. Thomas Wilson associates puritans and usurers, and the puritans' predilection for the Old Testament led in the popular mind to a conflation of Jews and puritans as parsimonious killjoys.
See Paul N. Siegel, 'Shylock and the puritan usurers', Studies in Shakespeare, ed. Matthews and Qark M. Emery, , pp. Said, , pp. The Non-Cycle Mystery Plays, ed. Waterhouse, The Merchant of Venice 22 but on the Christian, who should have known better, is imposed the penance of never trading again. He knows, and this is an oblique comment on the treatment of Jewish converts to Christianity, that converts to Islam are freed from their debts.
But Gerontus is horrified at the thought that he has caused a man to repudiate the faith to which he was born. He withdraws his claim, causing the judge to remark 'Jews seek to excel in Christianity and Christians in Jewishness.
The third play, and the one closest to Shakespeare's in time and in the villainy of its Jew, is Marlowe's tragedy. When Shakespeare made use of his audience's memories of the monstrous Barabas and his convertite daughter he was also inviting them to recall the way Barabas likens his guile and hypocrisy to the same traits in the Maltese Christians: This is the life we Jews are used to lead, And reason too, for Christians do the like.
Shakespeare had good precedent for his modification of the simple equation, 'Jewishness plus usury equals villainy. And in one respect, his portrayal of the merchant, Shakespeare would seem to have some difficulty in sustaining his objectivity about the Christians of Venice.
The alternative suggests where the play's interest lay for the majority ; for every spectator who could identify with the merchant's exalted love of his friend, there would have been many whose chief pleasure was in seeing the tables turned upon the usurer. Idealised friendship was a favourite theme of Renaissance literature, but it was a cult only of the educated minority: These readers were accustomed to the impassioned language of friendship which took for its model the love of David and Jonathan - 'passing the love of women'.
They did not assume either a sexual origin or an actively sexual outcome for such emotion, and they believed it could coexist harmoniously with love between the sexes. The conquest of the ' lower ' love by the ' higher ' friendship, a cerebral and unconvincing theme in the 1 Ed.
Fanner, Tudor Facsimile Reprints. Introduction 23 early Two Gentlemen of Verona, is replaced here by an unbroken concord. This reconciliation of love and friendship is matched in the first seventeen of Shakespeare's Sonnets, in which he urges his friend to marry. One divisive force is social difference: Shakespeare's friend, a younger man than the poet, is apparently of much higher rank. An even greater danger lies in the friend's character. His past unkindnesses are ungrudgingly forgiven, but there always remains in the poet's mind the dread that one day his friend will repudiate him.
These thoughts, and the characteristic group of images which express them, have parallels in the plays of Shakespeare's middle period which, taken together with external evidence, have led some scholars to date the Sonnets as late as or There would have been an immediate relevance in Ser Giovanni's tale 2 about an older man prepared to give and forgive with unstinted affection and a younger man prone to forget his friend's generosity.
The story also provided satisfactions lacking in real life. Ansaldo and Giannetto were social equals, and Ansaldo was the material benefactor of Giannetto, whereas in the Sonnets the poet can bestow only devotion and praise on his friend. Despite this happy ending, the anxiety which appears to have hampered the reallife relationship is present as an undertone in the play. It is heard in Bassanio's reflections on appearance and reality before his choice of the right casket ; these have very close verbal parallels in Sonnet 68, one of a group of particularly ambiguous sonnets which praise the friend for an integrity the poet wants him to have but knows he lacks.
Chambers 'an echo of those disturbed relations in Shakespeare's private life of which the fuller but enigmatic record is to be found in the Sonnets'. When Antonio sees himself as ' a tainted wether of the flock' 4. With mine own weakness being best acquainted, Upon thy part I can set down a story Of faults concealed, wherein I am attainted, That thou in losing me shall win much glory. This rationalisation of the fear of rejection persists in the play even though Bassanio 1 2 4 For example, H.
Beeching's edition of the Sonnets, , pp. Dover Wilson's edition NS , , pp. See Commentary on 3. A Survey, , p. The Merchant of Venice 24 is presented in a favourable light. Indeed, the very strength and authenticity of Antonio's feelings may be at the root of the uneasiness that many critics express about Bassanio.
The story of Giannetto, then, could have appealed to Shakespeare first and foremost as the portrayal of a friendship and only secondarily as the story of Ansaldo's escape from the Jew. Here perhaps lies the source of our dissatisfaction with the relationship between Shylock and Antonio. When Antonio, accused by Shylock of having abused him, spat at him, and kicked him, replies that he is likely to do all these things again, we feel that even when allowances have been made for Elizabethan prejudices, something has gone badly wrong.
Shakespeare's emotional involvement with one relationship of the character has left him insensitive to the character's other relationships - a point which could arguably be made about Hamlet also. There is a structural difficulty here as well. In the bond scene, Shakespeare needed to give Shylock strong motives for his hatred if he was to get the story moving. The difficulty was already there in the old tale. One of its first tellers even makes the moneylender, a former serf, hate the knight to whom he lends money because the knight once, ' in a fit of wrath ', cut off the moneylender's foot.
The actor of Antonio has his work cut out to give coherence to a role that Shakespeare has left in some confusion. If Shakespeare can be accused of anti-semitism this can be found not so much in his depiction of Shylock as in an involvement with Antonio that results in his letting the merchant's contempt for the Jew go unchallenged, whereas other Christian failings in the play do not go unchallenged. In Shakespeare's imaginative prospect, Antonio perhaps stands too close to his creator to be in perfect focus.
Experiencing the play The prior involvement of Shakespeare and his audience with the literary genre, setting, and topics of The Merchant of Venice has shown itself to be a complex subject, far removed from easy assumptions about 'what the Elizabethans thought'. It follows that the play itself offers its audience a complicated experience.
This complexity comes as something of a surprise to the many readers who first saw or read The Merchant of Venice when they were very young, and have kept the impression of a straightforward comedy with an energetic clarity of plot and language.
We can go on enjoying for the rest of our lives the play's momentum towards its climactic scenes ; but with increasing self-awareness, we discover that the reason we enter so wholeheartedly into its most improbable situations is that, like real-life events, they arouse multiple and shifting responses.
In Norman Rabkin's vivid description, to watch the play is 1 Grebanier, Truth, p. Introduction 25 a constantly turbulent experience which demands an incessant giving and taking back of allegiance, a counterpoint of ever-shifting response to phrase, speech, character, scene, action, a welter of emotions and ideas and perceptions and surprises and intuitions of underlying unity and coherence rivalled only by our experience in the real world so perplexingly suggested by the artifact to which we yield ourselves.
It stops short of attempting to define the ' underlying unity and coherence ' in the belief that these, being intuitive, remain the individual possession of each member of an audience. It does however divide naturally into five movements, though these do not quite correspond to the act divisions which were introduced in the Folio.
A feature of these five natural movements is that each culminates in a spectacular exeunt or the expectation of it ; and though only one of these is a wedding procession, the idea of marriage is each time to the fore. The first movement Act i and Act 2, Scene 1 shuttles us back and forth between Venice and Belmont and so establishes our awareness of the action proceeding in two places. But directors who labour a contrast between them, opposing a gauzily romantic Belmont to a mundanely commercial Venice in which Salarino and Solanio wear the sober black gowns that were the Venetian equivalent of formal city suits, are imposing a pattern which is not discoverable in these four scenes.
The costumes of the two gentlemen of Venice should surely correspond to the fantasy of their speeches which so strangely trivialise and fictionalise the hazards of sea trade. Antonio's argosies are seen as comfortable burghers or the water pageants of the tranquil Lagoon illustration 3 , tempests are represented by a storm in a soup bowl 1. Salarino's shipwrecks come from the world of Greek romance, in which the venturer always swims ashore to win an heiress, rather than from Shylock's world of calculated risks where 'ships are but boards, sailors but men' 1.
Antonio for his part is scarcely the conventional business tycoon. When Bassanio appears, Antonio readily lets Salarino and Solanio go with the Elizabethan equivalent of'Don't let me keep you' 1. Alone with Bassanio, his speech rhythms quicken with feeling.
Than if you had made waste of all I have' The possibility that 1 Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning, 1 9 8 1 , p. The Merchant of Venice 3 Venetian water pageantry. From Giacomo Franco, Habtti d'huomini et donne venetiane c.
Yet this is only one flicker of our 'evershifting response ' ; at the same time and on another level, we are enjoying Bassanio's circumlocutions and hesitations as a familiar comedy routine, the engaging embarrassment of a young man trying to borrow from a rich relation and evoking a fatherly 'Come on, out with it. All these varying attitudes to Bassanio are neatly clinched when he speaks of Portia's 'worth' ; like the equally ambiguous 'thrift' and 'fortunate' in this scene, or ' good ', ' interest ', and ' dear ' later on, such words serve to knit together the many individual threads in an audience's response.
Within two minutes of Portia being presented to us in Bassanio's highly romantic verse as that symbol of almost unattainable 'worth', the Golden Fleece, she is before us as a lively girl anxious about a future husband, and speaking prose which brings back, in its mixture of homely proverbs and elegant antitheses, the atmosphere of Lyly's court comedies. In Portia's mocking review of her suitors, Shakespeare in fact has rewritten a scene from his first attempt at courtly comedy, Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The effect is to make Portia's Belmont seem rather more down-to-earth than Antonio's Venice. Yet there is no deliberate contrast: In contrast to Portia's tones of warm feeling controlled and channelled by an inventive wit, there now comes 'rasping into the play like a file' a voice that varies 'from the strident to the rough, from the scratchy to the growled'. He repeats words as if they were coins he was counting ; his curt phrases are a sort of syntactical book-keeping; and his rare images have to be spelt out with heavy literalism: Small wonder that Antonio, coming upon Bassanio and Shylock together, draws his friend aside to question and protest.
But with the opportunity that this gives Shylock to soliloquise in tones of prophetic denunciation, our responses to him become, as they are to remain, complex. He is alone among Shakespeare's villains in his conviction that God is on his side, and the story of Jacob and Laban invests him with a patriarchal dignity.
Yet just as Elizabethan commentators on the biblical passage hesitated between admiration for Jacob's faith and distaste for his trickery, we sense the deceitfulness in Shylock's eloquence: Our response to Antonio is no less shifting and complex.
The air offinancialsecurity he imparted in the play's first scene serves to undermine the distinction he now draws in 1. A possible staging of Act 2, Scene 1, by C. Walter Hodges accustomed to hear all kinds of legal fictions about risk-taking in cases concerning usury, than it is to modern critics. And at Antonio's declaration that friendship would never take a breed of barren metal, there may flash through our minds the thought that friendship does none the less seek a return for its outlay.
The gap between merchant and Jew appears to be narrowing: Antonio's self-righteousness, pilloried so effectively in Shylock's sketch of his past behaviour, almost justifies H. Charlton's protest: Antonio, having praised risk-taking, then becomes perhaps a little aware of his own possible hypocrisy, and finally is alerted to his unseemly vehemence by Shylock 'Why look you how you storm!
He is now easily trapped into taking a huge and deadly risk - the more easily in that it enables him to demonstrate 'to the uttermost' his love for Bassanio. The odds against him are in any case very long; it is plausible for Shylock to treat the bond as a merry sport, and fleetingly we believe him. Perhaps after all there is much kindness in the Jew. In such ways, our reception of the bond scene is made as fluctuating and open-ended as our immediate response to any real-life situation.
The play's first movement culminates in spectacle as the dark-skinned Moors in white burnouses salute the ladies of Belmont in their colourful silks illustration 4. Morocco's love quest is in some ways worlds apart from Shylock's bargains on the Rialto, but once again there is as much parallelism as contrast between successive 1 Shakespearean Comedy, , p.
We are again watching an outsider venturing into an alien society, an outsider too who is grotesque one moment and dignified the next. So Portia counters the absurd flourishes both of Morocco's rhetoric and his scimitar with a demure irony, but meets with a courteous gravity his readiness to risk his future happiness in the quest.
The stakes, then, are high in Belmont as well as in Venice ; we realise Bassanio will have to venture more than Antonio's ducats, and he goes up in our estimation ; we even begin to feel a little uneasiness on his behalf. All our experience as readers of romance tells us that he must succeed, but this trustfulness is skilfully undermined by the ceremonial exeunt to this scene.
It is very close to being a wedding procession as Portia and Morocco leave hand-in-hand for the vow-taking in the 'temple'. The after-image is to stay with us teasingly through six scenes in Venice. Even amid the scenic resources of the Victorian stage, Charles Kean preserved this unity, presenting the scenes as continuous action in the grandiose reconstruction of a Venetian street shown in illustration Both Rowe and Kean were responding to something distinctive about this part of the play.
In such comedy, love justifies any behaviour; the old are mocked, deceived, and cheated by the young in the kind of holiday from normal morality that was associated with Carnival. Moreover, notes of regret and misgiving can be heard at times through the shrill discord of Carnival's wry-necked fife.
Thus at the very start of the episode, when we should be entering a world free from moral anxieties, we meet like Jaques in the greenwood of As You Like It a moralising fool.
Lancelot, who is not the scheming retainer of Italian comedy but a native product developed from the Vice of morality plays, is debating with a great show of casuistry whether or not a servant may run away from a bad master.
Inevitably the question re-forms itself on Jessica's first appearance 2. Jessica herself fears she is lacking in filial piety, and that theme too has been put in our minds by Lancelot's reunion with his father. Critics tend to pass over in some embarrassment this teasing of a blind old man, but there is more to the scene than a crude practical joke. Actually, as a joke, it misfires. See Marvin T. Herrick, Italian Comedy in the Renaissance, i, pp. The Merchant of Venice 30 is very much alive.
In the end the laugh is not on the father but on the son, whose trick goes out of control not because Old Gobbo cannot see him, but because, being shrewd and only gravel-blind, he does not take long to see what his son is up to and so refuse to play his game. Similarly, when the two Gobbos waylay Bassanio, the plain good sense of Old Gobbo's words is drowned and lost in Lancelot's 'confusions', even though he emerges from the interview convinced that he did very well for himself: Yet for all his big-headedness and his daft impulsiveness he nearly wrecks Lorenzo's plan by telling Shylock about the masque , ' the patch is kind enough ' ; it is fitting that the last time we hear from him in the play he is chortling with pleasure at Bassanio's return.
He may patronise his aged parent but he is also the prop of his old age; and this most natural of relationships helps to undermine the impression of youth's antagonism to age in this part of the play.
His muddled clamour for a blessing - ' I am Lancelot your boy that was, your son that is, your child that shall be' 2.
No sooner have we seen her in kindly talk with Lancelot and in inward 'strife' about deserting her father than we learn that the plan to run away with Shylock's gold and jewels is of her devising. This suggests a hardbitten character at home in the world of intrigue.
But now, in her only scene with her father, his harsh impersonality makes us eager to see her rescued from a house that is 'hell' 2.
The escape scene starts with the entry of ' the masquers, Gratiano and Salarino ': Gratiano in his 'boldest suit of mirth' 2. Yet, from the shadow of the 'penthouse', Gratiano suddenly lifts us clear of intrigue and its excitements in the play's most haunting lines: All things that are Are with more spirit chased than enjoyed.
How like a younger or a prodigal The scarfed bark puts from her native bay, Hugged and embraced by the strumpet wind! How like the prodigal doth she return With overweathered ribs and ragged sails, Lean, rent, and beggared by the strumpet wind!
Inevitably it complicates our responses to the 3i Introduction rest of the scene, slightly souring our amusement at such of Lorenzo's flippancies as 'play the thieves for wives' 2.
To list such faintly discordant elements is to give them a prominence they cannot have in the theatre, where the audience loves a lover whatever his actions, and rejoices that some of Shylock's gold has fallen into the hands of those who can enjoy it. But their subliminal effect on the elopement episode is that we never quite board the merry-go-round of festive comedy ; and if Shakespeare intended to write a masquerading scene with Shylock as its butt, he came to think better of it.
So this second movement does not culminate in Lorenzo and Jessica leading out the masquers at the end of a crowded scene of festivity. Instead, the lovers slip off into the night to be married, as their companions are halted by the news that the wind has changed: We watch with mounting satisfaction as first Morocco and then Arragon makes the wrong choice of casket ; all is progressing according to the folk-tale pattern in which the third contender always wins.
By contrast, the scenes in Venice build up our concern for Antonio ; we expect Bassanio to gain Portia and her fortune, but can he do so in time to save his friend? Finally these rising hopes and fears converge with vivid dramatic effect in the beautifully orchestrated scene of Bassanio's success.
We move to Belmont for a solemn occasion. Instead of the central curtains on the stage parting, as we earlier expected them to do, on a noisy embarkation party, they are drawn back at Portia's command to reveal the caskets ; instead of a daughter in flight from her father, throwing the casket containing his gold out of the window and in effect flinging herself after it, we are confronted with a daughter who is the passive model of filial duty as she waits for the opening of the casket containing her image.
Either we are impressed by the decorum which prevails in Belmont - or we are still so immersed in the world of the Venetian masquers and its post-medieval attitude to women, that we resent Portia's acquiescence in the will of a living daughter being curbed by the will of a dead father.
Nor is our response to Morocco single-minded in this scene. The splendour of the verse, reminiscent of Marlowe, in which he praises Portia makes him a convincing lover; and he commands our sympathy when at the last he stands, a Tamburlaine-like figure of frustrated ambition, holding the death's head that 'many men desire'. But there has been absurdity too in his pompous selfsatisfaction, though not perhaps enough of it to prevent Portia's brisk dismissal jarring our sensibilities.
Again, though, a quick shift occurs: Gravelot 33 Introduction So the loser departs and we are returned to Venice to learn of other losses, sustained by Antonio and Shylock. Antonio grieves for his friend's absence, not for his argosy - ' I think he only loves the world for him ' 2. Shylock on the other hand grieves for his money rather than his daughter. But our uneasiness that Salarino and Solanio should treat the one human relationship with awe and the other with derision serves to blur once more the contrast between the protagonists.
The pair of friends go off in quest of some delight to alleviate Antonio's heaviness. Shakespeare alleviates ours with the Prince of Arragon, a role that can be played with some levity ; to Portia he is a 'deliberate fool' 2. We had some time for Morocco, but we have none for this suitor who thinks Portia is no more than he deserves and whose hurt pride explodes in complaints that compare poorly with Morocco's dignified silence. Yet it has been a dynastic pride, as his talk of degrees has suggested, so that in the middle of our relief and laughter we feel the blow with him: But the scene moves back to Venice where 'meanwhile', as the sub-titles would have it, the villain is ready for the kill.
Shylock here both is and is not the grotesque figure described by Solanio in 2. The picture drawn there was a kind of anticipatory irony: Barber's phrase,3 he dances like an absurd puppet to Tubal's jerkings; but we see how the jerkings hurt - 'Thou torturest me' 3. The 'Hath not a Jew eyes? The same voice of lamentation, obscuring the solipsistic nature of what is said, is heard in 'no sighs but o'my breathing, no tears but o'my shedding' Leah and her ring disturb us still further, though not enough to obscure the menace of ' I will have the heart of him ' ; an admission of conjugal fidelity, as M.
Bradbrook remarks, can scarcely be held to outweigh a taste for murder. Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, p. Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry, , p. The Merchant of Venice 34 seize upon the possibility for revenge in a bond which he had proposed as a joke. Such an interpretation flies in the face of contradictory evidence which stretches from Shylock's own ' I f I can catch him once upon the hip And if Tubal is made to instigate the plan of revenge in Shylock's mind, the play really does become anti-semitic.
Shylock is confirming a long-cherished hope when he goes to the synagogue to swear an oath of vengeance. Oaths were traditionally taken in a religious building, and a similar ritual is imposed on Portia's suitors, with the important difference that their vows are prompted by love.
Shylock's 'oath in heaven' 4. The stage is now thronged with Portia and Bassanio 'and all their trains'. Despite the crowd of extras, this is a love scene, the finest since Romeo and Juliet. Portia, whose speeches have hitherto been for the most part either cautiously polite or scornfully dismissive, now reveals a turmoil of emotion in the ebb and flow and eddy of her speech rhythms as she begs Bassanio to delay his choice.
But as she tries to 'peize the time' 3. Bassanio we hear with relief will not wait; he is on the rack till his choice is made. The image is tossed back and forth in the manner of Elizabethan love talk, but it is not to be dismissed as a ' Petrarchan conceit ' ; the thought of torture is there to remind us of Shylock's intention to take a long time in killing Antonio.
Here are pointers to the nature of the complexity of this scene. It lies less in the kind of critical undertone we have already detected than in our awareness, as we listen to the happy and triumphant lovers, of other worlds of feeling: When Portia poetically transforms Bassanio's choice of casket into Hercules' rescue of Hesione from a sea-monster, few if any of jhe audience recall that Hercules was hoping for a good reward from Hesione's father, let alone see in this an oblique criticism of Bassanio.
The lines are much more likely to put us in mind, in the light of the scene we have just watched in Venice, of Shylock's monstrous thirst for vengeance, the sea-change of Antonio's wealth, and Antonio's dependence now for his life on Bassanio's success. The melancholy song about Fancy is another shadow across the scene. But it does not impugn Bassanio's constancy.
Rather it is just because his love is not a passing fancy that he is able to generalise from his feelings as a lover in reflections upon the specious and the real ; reflections which bring him inevitably to the right choice of casket.
We are not, it is true, allowed to forget that Portia is worth a fortune; she even reminds us of this herself by making her declaration of love, in part, in countinghouse terms. But Shakespeare, far from critically distancing us from the lovers by this language, uses it to involve us more closely with them.
At this moment of the play we are all fortune-hunters who can scarcely wait for Bassanio to get his hands on Portia's money in order that he may save Antonio. A major irony of the play is of Introduction 6 Bassanio makes his choice of casket. A possible staging of Act 3, Scene 2, by C. Walter Hodges course that in the end Antonio is saved by Portia and not by her money. Meanwhile the involvement is there, and Shakespeare builds on it, and on the other spontaneous involvement we feel with the lovers' happiness in one another, by calling up all his poetic skills to communicate a joy so intense that those who experience it scarcely dare to name it.
This is the effect of Portia's breathless aside, ' O love, be moderate Finally both acknowledge their happiness with a symbolic gesture the giving and receiving of the ring - and with speeches that are the apex of the scene's eloquence: The descent from these dizzy heights is achieved through the cheerful ribaldry of Gratiano: For we sense disaster in the very appearance of Salerio, probably a soberly-dressed official. For the question of whether Salerio is the same character as Salarino, see Textual Analysis, pp.
The Merchant of Venice 36 jewelled Jessica visibly reminds us of Shylock and of the alleged grounds for his hatred, and in the tally of wrecks we hear again the dry hostility with which he enumerated these ventures in the bond scene. In such ways destructive passion again comes to the fore. However relieved we may be that Bassanio has succeeded, we dread that Shylock will continue to spurn a settlement.
Portia's offer of vast sums to appease the Jew, though it is part of the generosity that warmed us earlier in the scene, now strikes us as the naivety of the very rich: Everything is in suspense. So when the movement ends with a real wedding procession at last, no consummation follows; Bassanio and Gratiano must away to Venice.
Portia's money is thus of no use, and her best course would appear to be to take to prayer as she proposes to do at the beginning of 3. So it comes as a shock to find her instead scampering off to Venice in male disguise, apparently for no better reason than that she and Nerissa may keep an eye on their husbands.
We feel we are being forced back, reluctantly in the face of Antonio's peril, into the second act's atmosphere of intrigue comedy. Shakespeare of course is playing adroitly with our responses, much as Portia herself has been playing with Bassanio's in describing herself as an 'unlessoned girl, unschooled, unpractised' 3.
The mime of a braggart youth which she performs with such relish 3. Shakespeare is making sure that we take Portia seriously when she appears in legal robes.
Before that happens, and in order to give the players of Portia and Nerissa ample time to change, Shakespeare interposes a scene which we can, if we wish, think of as his own breathing space, an interlude he could entrust to the patter of Will Kemp who almost certainly played Lancelot before the ardours of the trial scene. Yet the happy security of 3. Dinner, over which Jessica and Lorenzo will talk gentle nonsense, is nearly ready, and meanwhile the Fool - for Lancelot has taken on that function - provides a flow of entertainment much as the family television set would today: Jessica is enjoying the home she has never had before and is reunited with her old companion Lancelot, whose jokes about Jews she can fend off which is why he makes them with a serene confidence: The scene effaces Tubal's image of Jessica squandering her father's money, and so subdues, even if it does not suppress, any notion we may have at the start of the trial that her marriage has given Shylock good cause for ' a lodged hate'.
In further preparation for the confrontation of Portia and Shylock, Jessica is made to praise Portia in quasi-religious language, as 'heaven here on earth' 3. Our responses to the trial scene will continue to be those awakened by a 'pleasant 37 Introduction comedy', as they have been in these two scenes in Belmont, but they will also be quickened by the sense of the momentous that belongs to morality drama.
The entry of the Duke and the magnificoes makes a brave show, but they are powerless to override the law, which is all on the side - or so he believes - of Shylock. If images of a bird or beast of prey come to mind at the sight of the lone, malevolent figure facing Antonio and his group of friends, they reinforce the duality of our responses in the first part of this scene.
Shylock's savagery appals us, but we relish the grotesque, masterful debating skill which turns back upon the Christians the insults in which they have denied him all humanity. Now the response of this 'most impenetrable cur' 3. At this, the argument narrows down to Bassanio's angry protests and Shylock's retorts, till Antonio intervenes out of his instinct to protect his friend.
Thanks to the ' quietness of spirit ' that he has already brought to his losses, Antonio can be as resigned to Shylock as he is to such forces of nature as winds and high seas. But still these images deny humanity to Shylock, and so open the way to his most damaging indictment of Venice: Ostensibly the argument is 'You own men, why should I not own a man's flesh? Relief from this welter of responses comes with the entry of an easily-recognised Nerissa; some of the confidence of comedy is restored.
Shylock does not press home his advantage, but shrinks to a sadistic figure crouched over his knife. Portia is thus given the ascendancy from the moment of her quietly ceremonial entry. She retains it for the next two hundred lines, shaping the scene into a rhetorical symmetry that would have been immediately apparent to an Elizabethan audience.
In contrast to the essentially aural effects of 3. It is not perhaps wholly fanciful to relate this to Shylock's scales, a misappropriated emblem of justice. Shakespeare has an actor's eye for the dramatic potentialities of props: In the exchanges which continue with minimal interruptions for the next ninety lines or so, Portia, unlike the Christians the Duke apart , speaks to Shylock as a human being.
Her first appeal to him is as a believer who, worshipping the same God as herself a point the Christians choose to ignore , knows mercy to be a divine precept. Only when her appeal is rebuffed in Shylock's ' My deeds upon my head! Her last appeal is the most basic; in asking for a doctor to be present she is striving to make Shylock, as a man, grasp the non-human savagery of what he intends.
To call these exchanges an unnecessary prolongation of Antonio's agony is to The Merchant of Venice 7 'Tarry a little. Scene 1, by C. To seal their betrothal, Portia gives him a ring, instructing him never to lose it or give it away. Then Nerissa and Bassanio's vulgar friend Gratiano announce that they, too, intend to wed. However, just then, a letter arrives from Antonio, with news of his lost ships and Shylock's intention to collect his pound of flesh.
Alarmed, Portia gives Bassanio enough money to repay the loan many times over. As Bassanio hurries off to Venice, Portia hatches a plan of her own to save Antonio. In the court of Venice, the Duke is presiding over Antonio's trial. Shylock resists their requests that he show mercy and insists on pursuing his "pound of flesh," despite the fact that Bassanio has offered him ducats instead.
Nerissa and Portia arrive on the scene, disguised as a law clerk and a lawyer, respectively. Portia points out that the contract Shylock holds doesn't give him the right to take any blood from Antonio, and that if Shylock sheds even a drop of blood while cutting Antonio's flesh that all of Shylock's wealth will be confiscated by the state. She further finds Shylock guilty of conspiring to kill a Venetian citizen, and therefore must hand over half of his wealth to Antonio and the other half to the state.
Antonio and the Duke decide to show mercy, however: Shylock must only give half his wealth to Antonio, and promise to leave the other half of his wealth to Jessica and Lorenzo after his death. In addition, Shylock must convert to Christianity. Devastated, Shylock accepts. As Portia is leaving, Bassanio who still thinks she is Balthazar, the lawyer tries to offer her money in thanks for her favorable judgment.
She refuses, asking for his the ring that he is wearing instead. Thinking of his vow never to part with it, Bassanio hesitates. But after some prodding from Antonio, he gives in.
Synopsis Antonio, the merchant in The Merchant of Venice, secures a loan from Shylock for his friend Bassanio, who seeks to court Portia. Bassanio sails to Belmont, where the wealthy heiress Portia is being courted by suitors from around the world. Where others have failed, Bassanio succeeds by selecting the right chest.
Portia marries Bassanio; her waiting woman, Nerissa, marries his friend Gratiano. Shylock is devastated. When Antonio cannot repay the loan, Shylock demands the pound of flesh. When the news reaches Belmont, Bassanio returns to Venice.