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Reference Guide

The Merchant of Venice - Reference Guides

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The Merchant of Venice
Act I Introduction • Presentation of setting, main
characters, and central themes • Shylock loans
Antonio 3000 ducats for Bassanio’s trip to
Belmont to woo Portia • The bond is a pound
of Antonio’s flesh
Act II Development • Bassanio leaves Venice for
Belmont the same night that Shylocks daughter
elopes • Antagonism between Jews and
Christians is shown • Portia detests every suitor
Act III Rising action • Rumor of shipwreck (Antonio)
Bassanio chooses correct casket and marries
Portia • Gratiano and Nerissa marry • Shylock
demands payment of debt • Bassanio/Gratiano
to Venice • Portia/Nerissa to Venice in disguise
Act IV Climax • Court scene • Antonio is saved by
Portia • Shylock loses all, including his religion
Act V Conclusion • All couples are reunited
Caskets • Portia’s father, at his death, wagered that
only a man of wisdom would choose the casket which
contains her portrait; she will marry that man • (Act II,
Scene 7) Prince of Morocco is fooled by appearance
• (Act II, Scene 9) After learning the rules of casket
choice, Prince of Arragon judges himself worthy but is
wrong • (Act III, Scene 2) Bassanio and Portia marry
Elopement • Jessica elopes with a Gentile, a man
whom Shylock would never choose • (Act II, Scene 6)
She robs him to pay for elopement • (Act III, Scene 2)
They arrive at Belmont; Jessica becomes a Christian
Improvement • Nerissa will marry a man because her
mistress is marrying his master (Act III, Scene 2)
• Gratiano is bettered by association with Bassanio
Conversion • Christianity symbolically overcomes
Judaism as Jessica converts because of her husband
• Shylock converts due to his loss in court
Antonio is the most clear symbol of friendship
• His friendship with Bassanio is idealized
• He makes himself and everything that he owns available
to Bassanio
• Bassanio rushes to his aid on learning of Antonios plight
• When Antonio gains half of Shylock’s wealth in court,
he secures a portion for Lorenzo
Theme parallels mercy vs. revenge
• Christians persecuted Jews throughout the Middle
Ages; they were banished from England at the end of
13th century
• Jews did not return in significant numbers until the end
of the 17th century
• Shakespeare probably did not know any Jews;
Shylock is a caricature
His attempt to exact vengeance with a pound of
Antonio’s flesh is racial revenge
• Antonio hates Jews (e.g., he spits on them, calls them
dogs); Shakespeare’s audience would side with Antonio
• Jessica’s theft and escape from Shylock would be
applauded because, in marrying a Christian, she
renounces heathen ways
• In the court scene, Christians attempt to persuade
Shylock to mercy; they try to convert him
• Shylocks conversion comes as a result of all the laws
being against him
Any non-Christian who threatens the life of a Christian
forfeits half of his wealth to that individual and the other
half to the State
• Basis for central plot; Antonio borrows 3000 ducats
from Shylock, using a pound of flesh as surety
• Link between all plots
• Bassanio has squandered his fortune and seeks to
marry Portia for money; that they fall in love is a bonus
Extreme materialism, as represented by Shylock,
is frowned upon by society
• Shylock refuses to forfeit the debt; revenge is more
important than money
• 3 month time limit for action; created by terms of loan
• Bassanio must spend about 3 months in Belmont;
when he chooses the casket, the time limit is almost up
Note: Lorenzo is late for his elopement, arriving at 9:00
instead of 7:00; allows Gratiano’s character to develop or
create suspense that flight with Jessica will be affected
Day 1 Act I Day 4 Act III, Scene 1
Interval About 1 week Interval Over 2 weeks
Day 2 Act II, Scenes 1-7 Day 5 Act III, Scenes 2-4
Interval 1 day Day 6 Act III, Scene 5;
Day 3 Act II, Scenes 8-9 Act IV
Interval About 1 day Day 7 Act V
• Based on exaggeration of human nature (as well as
mistaken identities, disguise, and confusion of events)
• Possibility of tragic end; an important character might
die or confusion may not be resolved, but something
(usually unhoped for) occurs to ensure happy ending
Written around 1596
• Based on Il Pecorone (1378) by Ser Giovanni
• Pound of flesh plot originated from religious stories
(Persian and Indian)
• Casket parallel plot comes from Gesta Romanorum
(13th century)
• Born 1564; died 1616
• Author, playwright, actor, and poet
• Usually credited with writing 37 plays and 152 sonnets
• Plays are divided into the early plays (e.g., The Taming
of the Shrew), the comedies (e.g., The Merchant of
Venice), the histories (e.g., Henry V ), the tragedies
(e.g., Hamlet ), the problem plays (e.g., Measure for
Measure), and the romance plays (e.g., The Winters
Tale)
A foil is a character who can be compared and contrasted to another character • Used to clarify character traits and issues in the play
Shylock and Almost binary opposites • Shylock is miserly and antagonistic; Antonio is generous and friendly • Both serve to draw out the underlying moral structure of the play
Antonio (mercy and Christian forgiveness) What Shylock loses, Antonio gains
Gratiano and Gratiano is a loud character in need of guidance in his conduct with others • (Act I, Scene I) Also serves as a foil to draw out Antonio • Indicative of the belief that the
Bassanio unfortunate or less educated can be bettered by association with the noble • Still somewhat coarse by the end of the play, as witnessed by conduct during the trial
Nerissa and Nerissa is more a companion than a maid • Also indicative of the belief that the unfortunate or less educated can be bettered by association with the noble; she has less
Portia to learn than her husband, Gratiano Role is important in encouragement of Bassanio as suitor and in her readiness to accompany Portia to Venice for the trial
ROMANTIC COMEDY
• Scenes alternate between Venice and Belmont; Act IV is
in Venice, Act V is in Belmont
Five scenes detail elopement of Jessica and Lorenzo
Structure
MAIN PLOT
PARALLEL PLOTS
Themes
MONEY
CHRISTIAN VS. JEW
FRIENDSHIP
Romantic love is seen in marriages of Bassanio to
Portia, Lorenzo to Jessica, and Gratiano to Nerissa
• Love allows people to see with their souls (e.g, Bassanio
can choose the correct casket, Jessica can steal from
and betray her father because she loves a Christian,
Gratiano becomes more of a gentleman through love)
LOVE
COINCIDENCE
This is more a feature of the plot line than a theme
• There is speculation that the original play included a full
masque scene (party at Bassanios) which was later
edited out; most of the coincidental events could have
been explained in that scene
• Wind suddenly changes; it becomes urgent for
Bassanio and Gratiano to leave for Belmont that night
• Jessica and Lorenzo will elope the same night;
suspicion that they are all on the same ship rouses
Shylock’s hatred of Christians
• Shylock has not had time to return to his house after
learning of the cancelled party, yet Antonio has had
time to look all over Venice for Gratiano to tell him to
get ready to embark
• All of Antonio’s wealth is obliterated within three
months of having borrowed money from a money
lender for the first time in his life
Caskets
• The gold casket is inscribed Who chooseth me shall
gain what many men desire; the silver casket is
inscribed Who chooseth me shall get as much as he
deserves; and the lead casket is inscribed Who
chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath
Prince of Morocco is concerned with surface value;
the death’s head in the gold casket represents
transitory nature of worldly goods
• Prince of Arragon is concerned with his own value;
the fools head in the silver casket represents pride in
men and suggests that faith is wisdom, not reason
• Gold, silver, and lead represent the sun, the moon,
and star youth, respectively
• The caskets may be representative of woman and the
choice between types of women
Rings
Symbolic of unity and continuity
Serve to teach moral lessons to Bassanio and Gratiano
Portia and Nerissa show that it is better to break a
promise by giving rings to people who have saved your
best friend’s life than not to acknowledge their deed
• Unity of love cannot be broken by giving away a token
in gratitude for a truly great deed
• It is most apparent in choosing caskets for Portia’s
hand in marriage; only a worthy suitor will understand
inner worth (see Symbols)
Bassanio, in choosing the lead casket, demonstrates
his knowledge that external appearances may be
misleading
APPEARANCE VS. INNER WORTH
SYMBOLS
Just the Facts
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Background
TIME
SETTING
Characters
Name Description
CHARACTER SKETCHES
Antonio Merchant of Venice • Central character • Directly or indirectly involved with
all other characters • Wealthy and respected gentleman • Borrows money
from Shylock to loan to Bassanio for voyage to Belmont • Duke believes him
when he says that Jessica was not on Bassanios ship • Secures wealth for
Lorenzo • Urges Bassanio to give ring to young judge • Undeveloped
character; absent for much of play • Generous in friendship; violent in hatred
of Jews • Melancholic
Shylock Jewish moneylender • Equates prosperity with God’s blessing • Highly
intelligent businessman • Able to keep track of many details at once • Hated
by all Christians • Sensitive to the persecution of his race (“Hath not a Jew
eyes?” ) • Confounds love of money with love for daughter • Elopement of
Jessica with a Christian fuels his desire for revenge • Oath in the synagogue
to collect on his bond makes him obsessed with revenge • Loses his
daughter, all his money, his faith, and his religion at the end of the play
Bassanio Young Venetian gentleman; ideal nobleman • Typical of his time (i.e., he has
spent all of his money; borrows from older, well-established friend to fund
expedition to Belmont, where he hopes to wed a wealthy woman)
• Indirectly responsible for intrigue, which almost leads to death of his best
friend • Falls in love with Portia before choosing casket • Able to see inner
worth • Liked and emulated by other young men • Honorable and honest
(e.g., he tells Portia that he has no money and he is in debt to Antonio)
• Faithful to friends • Guilty of racial prejudice
Portia World renowned for intellect, beauty, and sound judgment • Strongest female
character • Suitors come from around the world to attempt to win her hand
• Her father has set up a lottery; the man who chooses the correct casket
(which contains her portrait) will become her husband • Falls in love with
Bassanio • Quick to furnish Bassanio with money to return to Venice on
learning of Antonios troubles • Instantly devises a plan to save Antonio and
acts on it right away • Disguises herself as a Doctor of Law; she is directly
responsible (advised by Dr. Bellario) for finding the legal loophole which saves
Antonio’s life • Attempts to appeal to Shylocks mercy and business sense
Witty, humorous, and philosophical
Lorenzo Friend of Bassanio and Antonio • No qualms about eloping with Jessica or
her theft from Shylock because he is a Jew • Sees his courtship and
marriage as a means of delivering his loved one from perdition • Careless
with money (e.g., he and Jessica quickly spend everything that she steals) •
Takes care of Portia’s house when she goes to Venice for the trial
• Shown in last scene to be sentimental and sensitive to beauty
Jessica Shylock’s daughter • Elopes with Lorenzo • Raised by a religious man who
squashed her fun-loving nature • Rebels against her father and her religion
• Like her husband, she sees her conversion as deliverance • No principles
• Remorse at stealing from and leaving her father is expressed in 2 lines
(“Alack! what heinous crime it is in me To be ashamed to be my father’s
child.) • Readily spends stolen goods without regard for sentimental
objects (e.g., her mother’s turquoise ring) • Clever, educated
Gratiano Friend to Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Antonio • Witty, amusing; less refined than
his peers • Too many words, too few ideas • He looks up to Bassanio as a
social mentor; this develops idea of betterment through observation of good
example • Marries Nerissa, Portia’s companion • Gives full voice to his
hatred of Shylock at the trial; heightens climax and arouses sympathy
• Quickly transfers portion of blame for ring loss to Bassanio
Nerissa Portias companion • Of noble extraction; forced to work • Intuitive
(e.g., she remembers Bassanio and thinks well of him) • Intelligent
(e.g., quick to disguise herself and act as Portia’s clerk for the trial)
• Quick-witted and sharp-tongued (e.g., she wins argument about ring
with her husband easily)
Launcelot Old Gobbo’s son • First employed by Shylock, and then by Bassanio
Gobbo • Comic relief is seen in the debate with himself about leaving Shylock’s
house • Begins play as clown but gains dignity in employ of Bassanio
• Links loan and elopement plots • Loves teasing (e.g., he tells his own
father that he is dead; the price of pork will rise if too many Jews convert;
he calls Lorenzo the Lord of Belmont)
Old Gobbo Launcelot’s father • Shows poverty; adds to humor
Salerio, Report the events and actions which occur off-stage (e.g., they report
Salarino, Shylocks reaction to Jessicas thievery and departure) • Undeveloped
Solanio • Equal to Greek chorus
Prince of Suitor of Portia • Chooses the gold casket • Follower of Mohammed
Morocco • Braggart who wants Portia as a trophy
Prince of Suitor of Portia • Chooses the silver casket because he is deserving
Arragon (he does not consider Portia) • Proud
Tubal Represents the Jewish community • Appears once in play; mentioned three
times • Reports Jessicas whereabouts to Shylock
Duke of Represents power and law in Venice • Takes Antonio’s side of the case;
Venice he cannot decide the outcome without Bellario
Name Description
CHARACTER SKETCHES
FOILS
Characters Relationship
• Belmont; scene demonstrates the triumph of romance
• A messenger enters, announcing that Portia will return before morning
• A second messenger enters; Bassanio will return before morning
• Portia and Nerissa arrive first and instruct Lorenzo not to speak of their
absence
• Antonio, Bassanio, and Gratiano arrive
• Nerissa and Gratiano argue about the absent ring
• Gratiano says that Bassanio has given his ring away, too
• Portia pretends to be angry, saying that she cannot deny the judge who has
her ring either her body or her husband’s bed; she and Nerissa claim that
they will have the doctor and his clerk for bedfellows
• Antonio is upset by this talk; he promises on his soul that Bassanio will be
faithful
• Portia gives Antonio a ring to pass to Bassanio, who sees that it is the one he
gave to the doctor
• Nerissa presents her ring; both women claim to have acquired the rings from
men with whom they have lain
• Before their husband’s shock sinks in, Portia reads out a letter from Bellario
explaining the disguise
• Nerissa gives Shylocks new will to Lorenzo; Antonio learns from another
letter that some of his ships are safe (the play concludes)
• Nerissa takes a new will to Shylock
• Gratiano arrives with the ring and Nerissa gets her ring back as well
• Climax of the play; importance of mercy is reinforced
• Duke of Venice, acting as judge, pleads with Shylock to be merciful and
release Antonio from his bond
• Shylock has sworn in a synagogue that he will collect the bond, and nothing
will prevent him from it; his only reason for collecting is because he wishes it
Antonio says that it is the Jews’ nature to lack mercy and asks for judgment
Antonio is ready to die when Salerio enters to announce a messenger from
Bellario, Doctor of Law at Padua
• Nerissa enters in disguise and hands the Duke a letter, which explains that
Bellario has sent a brilliant young Doctor of Law, Balthasar, who will take his
place
Portia (Balthasar) enters and says that Shylock must be merciful; he replies
that he is entirely within the bounds of law
• Three times the amount of the loan has been offered; Shylock refuses to tear
up the bond
• Portia bids the Jew to cut a pound of flesh; he refuses to have a surgeon
present
Portia asks for Antonios last words; he tells Bassanio to let his wife know of
their friendship
• As Shylock prepares to cut, Portia tells him that if any blood is shed in getting
his pound of flesh, then his wealth will belong to Venice
• Portia points out that the law is against any alien (foreigner) who threatens
the life of a citizen; penalty of such a threat requires that the offended party
gain half of the offenders money (with the state gaining the other half)
• Shylock begs mercy of the Duke, who offers merely to fine him; Shylock says
that in taking his wealth they are taking his life
• Antonio offers that the debt to the state be relieved but that he retain half of
what is now due him
• He will turn this over to Lorenzo and Jessica when he dies
• Antonio also asks that Shylock make Lorenzo his heir and become a Christian
• Shylock accepts the new terms and departs (I pray you give me leave to go
from hence. I am not well. Send the deed after me And I will sign it.” )
• Portia refuses money; she takes Antonio’s gloves and asks for Bassanios
ring, but he refuses, saying that he promised his wife never to part with it
• Portia assures him that his wife would understand; Antonio urges Bassanio to
give up the ring, so Bassanio sends Gratiano with the ring
• Parallel plot of the ring relieves extreme tension of the court scene
• Launcelot waits for his master (Bassanio) at Belmont
• He discusses Shylock with Jessica, who points out that she is no longer
Jewish because of her Gentile husband
• Lorenzo asks Jessica what she thinks of Portia; she replies that no words can
describe Portia’s perfection
This scene contains much comic relief delivered by Launcelot; develops the
characters of Jessica and Lorenzo
Belmont; Lorenzo emphasizes the good deed Portia has done in allowing
Bassanio to leave on their wedding day
• Portia says that she and Antonio are equal in their love for Bassanio and must
therefore be very similar in spirit
• Portia asks him to watch over her house and affairs; she will await her
husband’s return in a monastery with Nerissa
Portia sends a letter to Doctor Bellario, her cousin
The servant is asked to take an answer and some clothes to the ferry for
Venice, where Portia will be waiting; Portia reveals her basic plan to Nerissa
(i.e., they will travel to Venice as young men)
• The two women discuss how arrogant and swaggering they will be in
disguise (… When we are both accoutered like young men, I’ll prove the
prettier fellow of the two, …” )
• Venice; Antonio, with a jailer and Solanio present, tries to convince Shylock
from collecting the bond
• Shylock insists on being paid (I’ll have my bond. Speak not against my bond.
I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond. )
• Solanio says that the Duke of Venice will allow no harm to come to Antonio,
but the latter knows the law is not on his side, and his only desire is to see
Bassanio before he dies
• This scene highlights the difference between Shylock and Antonio; Shylock is
vengeful, while Antonio is thinking about friendship and justice
• Belmont; Bassanio has fallen in love with Portia
• He insists on choosing a casket, even though Portia urges him to wait
• Bassanio is not fooled by the outward appearances of gold or silver
• When he chooses lead and finds Portia’s portrait, he asks her to accept him,
even though by the terms of the will, she must marry him
• As Portia consents, Nerissa and Gratiano announce their plans to marry
• Women give their future husbands rings which they swear never to part with
• Lorenzo, Jessica, and Salerio enter with a letter from Antonio
• Bassanio explains his debt to Portia and then tells her that all of Antonio’s
ships have been wrecked
• Salerio explains that Shylock insists the bond be paid; bonds will be worthless
in Venice if he does not collect his pound of flesh
• Portia offers to pay the debt twenty times its amount
• She leads Bassanio to the church, where they marry (as do the other couple),
and then tells him to go to Venice with Gratiano immediately; she and Nerissa
will await their husbands’ return
• Bassanio reads the letter out loud; it releases him of all debts and expresses
a wish that the friends will meet before Antonio’s death
• Venice; Solanio and Salarino gossip in the market, repeating the rumor that
one of Antonio’s ships is wrecked
• Shylock is upset over Jessica’s elopement; they confess to involvement
• Shylock threatens that Antonio had better pay his bond; Antonio’s crimes are
listed, and he claims to deserve better treatment (“Hath not a Jew eyes?” )
• Tubal enters; Shylock asks if he has heard anything about Jessica
• Shylock wishes that his daughter was dead and his money recovered
• Tubal repeats a rumor circulating in Genoa (i.e., one of Antonio’s ships has
been wrecked on the way from Tripolis); Jessica’s spending habits
(“Your daughter spent in Genoa, as I heard, one night fourscore ducats.” )
• Shylock’s emotions rise with the bad news about Antonio and fall with the
news about Jessica; he tells Tubal to arrange for an officer to arrest Antonio
the day the bond is due
Belmont; Portia reiterates the rules
Guided by belief in his own worth, the Prince of Arragon chooses the silver
casket, which contains a fool’s portrait; he leaves immediately
• Portia and Nerissa discuss the suitors; another suitor arrives from Venice
• Nerissa remembers Bassanio and hopes that it is him
• Venice; Solanio and Salarino gossip about Shylock’s reaction to the
elopement of Jessica and Lorenzo
• Having the scene described by witnesses allows Shakespeare to make fun of
the reaction without resorting to conventional slapstick
Shylock had gone to the harbor with the Duke of Venice, believing that his
daughter and Lorenzo were escaping on Bassanio’s ship
• Antonio assured the Duke that Bassanio had departed only with Gratiano;
his word was enough to convince the Duke
• Shylock does not know which to mourn more (his daughter or his ducats);
rage of Shylock could strike out at any target, specifically Antonio
Foreshadowing of trouble; a Venetian boat has sunk in the English Channel
Solanio and Salarino discuss Antonio’s love for Bassanio; they depart to speak
with their older friend
Belmont; the Prince of Morocco is about to make his choice between the
three caskets
• Theme of appearance vs. inner worth is developed as he ponders the
messages written on the outside of the caskets (see Symbols)
• The Prince’s wealth and good breeding do not assist him in his choice
• Suspense; he is not worthy of Portia, but should he choose correctly, she will
be obliged to marry him
He incorrectly chooses the gold casket and finds the death mask
Portia is overjoyed at his failure because she found him unpleasant in
disposition and color
Venice; Gratiano waits for Lorenzo with Salerio, they get to Jessicas house
late, and then she throws down a casket of money and jewels, warning her
lover to catch it
• Jessica has a moment of guilt about stealing from her father; she is
uncomfortable with letting Lorenzo see her dressed as a boy
While she is locking the house and filling her pockets with more money,
Lorenzo speaks of her beauty and wisdom
• The others leave, Gratiano stays behind and unexpectedly meets Antonio;
he says that Bassanio’s party has been cancelled because the wind has
changed and the voyage to Belmont should begin immediately
• Launcelot meets Shylock at the door; the latter warns the servant not to be
lazy and eat as much as he has done
• Shylock informs Jessica of his plans to go to Bassanio’s house; even though
he knows that his invitation has been made as a gesture, he will go out of
hatred for the Christians (“They flatter me. But yet I’ll go in hate, to feed upon
The prodigal Christian.” )
• Jessica is told to stay indoors (keep the house locked and the windows
closed); Shylock has dreamt of money bags and fears for his wealth
• Launcelot tells her that Lorenzo will come for her that night
• Interaction between Jessica and her father reduces sympathy for him;
he has forced her to live a secluded life, far from music and frivolity
• Foreshadowing of Shylock’s full hatred for Christians
Venice; scene develops the parallel plot of Lorenzo and Jessica’s romance
• Salerio, Solanio, Gratiano, and Lorenzo plan for the masque; they have just
enough time to disguise themselves and find torchbearers
• Launcelot arrives with Jessicas letter and is sent back to Shylock’s house
with the message that Lorenzo will not fail her
• Lorenzo tells Gratiano that Jessica will disguise herself as a torchbearer and
rob Shylock in order to fund their elopement; he is to pick her up at home
that night
• Venice; Launcelot takes his leave of Jessica, who says that the house will be
much more tedious without him
• Jessica gives the servant a letter for Lorenzo (he will be at Bassanio’s house)
• We learn that Jessica is ashamed of her parentage; she is anxious for
Lorenzo to marry her and make her a Christian
• Jessica feels somewhat guilty about her forthcoming elopement; however,
becoming a Christian overcomes her filial obligation
• Venice; scene of comic relief, in which Launcelot Gobbo lists the reasons why
he should leave Shylocks service and go work for a Christian like Bassanio
• He decides to change jobs; he meets his blind father and tells him that
Launcelot is dead
• Bassanio comes along with Gratiano, Launcelot gets a new job, and Gratiano
wants to go to Belmont with Bassanio (only if the former behaves)
• Discuss masqued party at Bassanios house planned for that evening
• Scene serves to reinforce Shylock’s character as mean and miserly
Belmont; Prince of Morocco boasts of his conquests in battle and love,
and he claims red blood even if his skin is dark (Mislike me not for my
complexion, The shadow’d livery of the burnished sun …” )
• Portia is not prejudiced, but she is bound by her father’s will (i.e., the terms
state that suitors must agree never to speak to a woman about marriage if
they choose the wrong casket)
• Prince swears that he will keep the terms
• Comic relief (e.g., the idea that a person of color would marry a Christian
noble-woman); also shows Portia’s honor in abiding by the will
Venice; Antonio and Bassanio had no luck borrowing money
Bassanio has approached Shylock, a shrewd Jewish moneylender, to borrow
money against Antonio’s name
• Shylock believes him to be a good risk; he agrees to the loan but wants to
discuss the terms with Antonio
• Bassanio suggests dinner; Shylock vehemently declines
• Antonio appears and urges an answer; Shylock lists Antonios past
mistreatment of spitting on him and misusing him in front of other Venetians
Agrees to the loan if the bond is a pound of Antonio’s flesh from whatever
part of his body Shylock chooses
• Scene sets up Christian/Jewish hatred, introduces the antagonist, and
establishes time frame for action (3 months, when loan is due)
• Complications are introduced (e.g., Bassanio’s worry that ships will not come
in and Shylock’s hatred of Antonio)
• Belmont, Portia’s residence
• Portia echoes the sentiments of Antonio; she is his emotional equal
• Reason behind her weariness; her father’s will insists that a suitor will win her
hand by correctly choosing between three caskets (one gold, one silver, and
one lead)
• Portia will abide by her father’s wishes even though she feels confident that
she would choose the correct husband
• Portia and Nerissa make fun of suitors to date until Nerissa remembers
Bassanio, who has made a favorable impression (“He, of all the men that ever
my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady.” )
• Servant enters with news that Prince of Morocco has come to choose
between the caskets
• Scene sets up subplot of courtship and introduces positive (intelligent)
female characters
Mainspring of action; borrowing money to fund courtship is introduced when
Bassanio asks Antonio for money to go to Belmont to court Portia
• Antonio’s money is tied up in merchant vessels, but he allows Bassanio to
borrow money against his good name; this shows his true friendship
• Positive male characters are introduced in this scene
Play Summary
ACT I, SCENE 1
ACT I, SCENE 2
ACT I, SCENE 3
ACT II, SCENE 1
ACT II, SCENE 2
ACT II, SCENE 3
ACT II, SCENE 4
ACT II, SCENE 5
ACT II, SCENE 6
ACT II, SCENE 7
ACT II, SCENE 8
ACT II, SCENE 9
ACT III, SCENE 1
ACT III, SCENE 2
ACT III, SCENE 3
ACT III, SCENE 4
ACT III, SCENE 5
ACT IV, SCENE 1
ACT IV, SCENE 2
ACT V, SCENE 1
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