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Reference Guide

The Merchant of Venice - Reference Guides

by OneClass474155 , Fall 2015
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Fall 2015

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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 Antonio’s plight
• When Antonio gains half of Shylocks 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
• Shylock’s 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 Winter’s
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 Bassanio’s) 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 fool’s 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 Bassanio’s 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 Antonio’s 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 Shylock’s 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 Portia’s 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 Jessica’s 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 Jessica’s 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

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Description
TM permacharts The Merchant of Venice StructureThemes AIN PLOTONEYRIENDSHIPPPEARANCE VS. INNER WORTH MMFA Act IIntroduction Presentation of setting, main Antonio is the most clear symbol of friendship Basis for central plot; Antonio borrows 3000 ducats It is most apparent in choosing caskets for Portias characters, and central themes Shylock loans from Shylock, using a pound of flesh as surety hand in marriage; only a worthy suitor will understand His friendship with Bassanio is idealized ntonio 3000 ducats for Bassanios trip to A nner worth (see Symbols) i Link between all plots He makes himself and everything that he owns available Belmont to woo Portia The bond is a pound Bassanio, in choosing the lead casket, demonstrates to Bassanio Bassanio has squandered his fortune and seeks to of Antonios flesh his knowledge that external appearances may be arry Portia for money; that they fall in love is a bonus m Bassanio rushes to his aid on learning of Antonios plight Act IIDevelopment Bassanio leaves Venice for misleading Extreme materialism, as represented by Shylock, When Antonio gains half of Shylocks wealth in court, elmont the same night that Shylocks daughter B SYMBOLS is frowned upon by society e secures a portion for Lorenzo h elopes Antagonism between Jews and Caskets Shylock refuses to forfeit the debt; revenge is more Christians is shown Portia detests every suitor LOVE The gold casket is inscribed Who chooseth me shall important than money Act IIIRising action Rumor of shipwreck (Antonio) Romantic love is seen in marriages of Bassanio to ain what many men desire; the silver casket is g CHRISTIAN VS. JEW Bassanio chooses correct casket and marries Portia, Lorenzo to Jessica, and Gratiano to Nerissa inscribed Who chooseth me shall get as much as he Portia Gratiano and Nerissa marry Shylock Theme parallels mercy vs. revenge Love allows people to see with their souls (e.g, Bassanio deserves; and the lead casket is inscribed Who demands payment of debt BassanioGratiano can choose the correct casket, Jessica can steal from Christians persecuted Jews throughout the Middle hooseth me must give and hazard all he hath c o Venice PortiaNerissa to Venice in disguise t nd betray her father because she loves a Christian, ges; they were banished from England at the end of a A Prince of Morocco is concerned with surface value; ct IV Climax Court scene Antonio is saved by A Gratiano becomes more of a gentleman through love) 13th century the deaths head in the gold casket represents Portia Shylock loses all, including his religion Jews did not return in significant numbers until the end OINCIDENCE C transitory nature of worldly goods Act VConclusion All couples are reunited of the 17th century This is more a feature of the plot line than a theme Prince of Arragon is concerned with his own value; Shakespeare probably did not know any Jews; he fools head in the silver casket represents pride in t PARALLEL PLOTS There is speculation that the original play included a full hylock is a caricature S men and suggests that faith is wisdom, not reason masque scene (party at Bassanios) which was later askets Portias father, at his death, wagered that C dited out; most of the coincidental events could have e His attempt to exact vengeance with a pound of only a man of wisdom would choose the casket which Gold, silver, and lead represent the sun, the moon, been explained in that scene Antonios flesh is racial revenge contains her portrait; she will marry that man (Act II, and star youth, respectively cene 7) Prince of Morocco is fooled by appearance S Wind suddenly changes; it becomes urgent for Antonio hates Jews (e.g., he spits on them, calls them The caskets may be representative of woman and the (Act II, Scene 9) After learning the rules of casket Bassanio and Gratiano to leave for Belmont that night dogs); Shakespeares audience would side with Antonio hoice between types of women c choice, Prince of Arragon judges himself worthy but is Jessica and Lorenzo will elope the same night; Jessicas theft and escape from Shylock would be ings R rong (Act III, Scene 2) Bassanio and Portia marry w uspicion that they are all on the same ship rouses s pplauded because, in marrying a Christian, she a Symbolic of unity and continuity lopement Jessica elopes with a Gentile, a man E Shylocks hatred of Christians renounces heathen ways Serve to teach moral lessons to Bassanio and Gratiano whom Shylock would never choose (Act II, Scene 6) Shylock has not had time to return to his house after In the court scene, Christians attempt to persuade She robs him to pay for elopement (Act III, Scene 2) Portia and Nerissa show that it is better to break a learning of the cancelled party, yet Antonio has had Shylock to mercy; they try to convert him hey arrive at Belmont; Jessica becomes a Christian T promise by giving rings to people who have saved your ime to look all over Venice for Gratiano to tell him to t Shylocks conversion comes as a result of all the laws best friends life than not to acknowledge their deed mprovement Nerissa will marry a man because her I get ready to embark eing against him b mistress is marrying his master (Act III, Scene 2) Unity of love cannot be broken by giving away a token All of Antonios wealth is obliterated within three Any nonChristian who threatens the life of a Christian Gratiano is bettered by association with Bassanio n gratitude for a truly great deed i months of having borrowed money from a money forfeits half of his wealth to that individual and the other Conversion Christianity symbolically overcomes ender for the first time in his life l half to the State udaism as Jessica converts because of her husband J Shylock converts due to his loss in court Characters Just the Facts CHARACTER SKETCHESCHARACTER SKETCHES NameDescriptionNameDescription WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE m AntonioMerchant of Venice Central character Directly or indirectly involved with JessicaShylocks daughter Elopes with Lorenzo Raised by a religious man who Born 1564; died 1616 all other characters Wealthy and respected gentleman Borrows money squashed her funloving nature Rebels against her father and her religion Author, playwright, actor, and poet o from Shylock to loan to Bassanio for voyage to Belmont Duke believes him Like her husband, she sees her conversion as deliverance No principles Usually credited with writing 37 plays and 152 sonnets when he says that Jessica was not on Bassanios ship Secures wealth for Remorse at stealing from and leaving her father is expressed in 2 lines c Lorenzo Urges Bassanio to give ring to young judge Undeveloped (Alack! what heinous crime it is in me To be ashamed to be my fathers Plays are divided into the early plays(e.g., The Taming . character;
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