Q. Discuss the significance of Act I of The Merchant of Venice.
Ans: The first act is significant in all Shakespeare’s plays. Thye first act introduces all the major characters of the play. Here, shakespeare has also introduced the main plot of the play alongwith the sub-plot. Antonio and Bassanio are good friends. Bassanio needs money to try his luck in order to marry Portia his love and a rich lady from Belmont. Bassanio has no money and goes to requests Antonio to help him financially. Antonio is not in a condition to help his friend. He is sad because he has risked all his money and investments on different ships. On the other hand, Portia is bound by a will from her father. Her father had signed a will that one who chooses the right casket with Portia’s picture in it will be her husband. Antonio decides to help his friend Bassanio in every possible way. He decides to go to a Jewish moneylender, Shylock. Antonio seeks a loan of three thousand ducats from Shylock. He stands as a guarantee for the loan. Initially, Shylock is not willing to help Antonio. He is aware that Antonio has risked all his investments at the sea. But after Bassanio’s persistence and keeping in mind Antonio’s reputation, Shylock finally agrees to give three thousand ducats to Bassanio for a period of three months without any interest. Shylock bears a deep rooted grudge against Antonio. He hates Antonio as he is a Christian. He however, cleverly entices Antonio to sign a bond, just for the sake of fun. According to the bond, if Antonio fails to repay the loan within three months, Shylock will take a ‘pound of flesh’. Antonio falls into the trap laid down by Shylock without realising his evil design. Finally, he signs the bond.
Q. Discuss the casket episode and its significance as described in The Merchant of the Venice.
Ans: The casket episode forms an important sub-plot of this play. Portia was a daughter of a rich man. Her father wanted her to marry a smart and a decent man. Therefore, he devised a plan. This casket story as described in The Merchant of Venice was a brain child of Portia’s father. There were three caskets: one was made of gold, the second silver, and the final casket was of lead. Each casket had a riddle imprinted on its back. Portia’s father had willed that each suitor must choose a casket, and the one who chooses the casket containing a picture of Portia will be able to marry her. The first casket was made of gold. The inscription on the back read: “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” The Prince of Morocco, choose this casket. He thought that this casket represents Portia wealth, which many men would desire. This reflected that his reason for courting Portia was her money. When the prince opened the casket, a portrait of death gazed at him. The Prince of Morocco was greedy in choosing the gold casket. He went away dejected. The second casket was made of silver. The inscription on the back read: “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” The Prince of Aragon choose this silver casket, thinking that he rightly deserved Portia. The casket contained a picture of a fool. The Prince of Arragon was unwise in thinking that he deserved Portia. He too leave immediately. The third casket, was made of lead. The inscription on the back read: “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he haths” Bassanio choose this casket. The casket contained the picture of Portia. He chooses the lead casket. The inscription on the lead showed how he would have to sacrifice and risk all he has for Portia. Portia’s father hoped her to marry this kind of man. There was a scroll inside the casket that had the blessings of her father. Finally, Portia gets her suitor. They both are happily married.
Q.Write a detailed note on Jessica’s elopement with Lorenzo.
Ans : Jessica , daughter of Shylock, a Jewish moneylender is in love with Lorenzo, an impoverished Christian. In the play Jessica’s role is a minor but crucial. In the play, she elopes with Lorenzo alongwith the chest of her father’s money, finally she converts to Christianity , ending up in Portia and Bassanio’s household. Launcelot Gobbo, Shylock’s servant decides to leave the services of Shylock and join Bassanio. Jessica is initially unhappy at Gobbo’s decision. She gives Gobbo a letter to be handed over to Lorenzo. The letter contains Jessica’s plans to elope with Lorenzo with her father’s valuables. Lorenzo is happy to read the letter. Shylock decides to join Antonio and Bassanio for dinner. He hands over the keys of the house to Jessica, warning her not to go out from the house and be vigil. He also warns her that there will be a masquerade and asks her to close the windows as well. Lorenzo and his friends come to Shylock’s house, and Jessica welcomes them from a window, dressed as a boy. After confirming the identity of Lorenzo she lowers a casket of her father’s Ducats. After realising Jessica’s elopement with Lorenzo, Shylock runs here and there on the streets of Venice, crying for his lost wealth and daughter. Dramatically, Jessica’s elopement arouse Shylock’s revengeful persistence on his “pound of flesh” from Antonio. Her conversion to Christianity further aggravates Shylock’s hatred towards the Christians.
Q. Draw a detailed character sketch of Portia.
Ans. William Shakespeare’s art of characterization is one of the most distinguishing characteristic of the play, The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare has created numerous female characters like Desdemona, Rosalind, Juliet, Ophelia etc. but Portia, undoubtedly stands tall among them. Portia is the protagonist of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Portia is one of the greatest noticeable and pleasing of the heroines in Shakespeare’s plays. She is good-looking, courteous, rich, clever, and intelligent. She is a rich heiress of Belmont as an obedient child she follows her father’s will while choosing her husband. Her father in his will had stated that the one who chooses the right casket of the three will be Portia’s husband. She follows her father’s will. She loves Bassanio, a young Venetian noble, soldier and a scholar. Later in the play, she disguises herself as a man, then assumes the role of a lawyer’s apprentice (named Balthazar) whereby she saves the life of Bassanio’s friend, Antonio, in court. She feels extremely happy when Bassanio chooses the right casket. Her generosity is visible in her offering money to Antonio, Bassanio’s friend. Later in the play, she disguises herself as a man and appears in the role lawyer’s apprentice (named Balthazar) Here, she intelligently saves the life of Bassanio’s friend, Antonio, in the court. Displaying her humane values, Portia delivers a powerful speech on the quality of Mercy in The Merchant of Venice: The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. Her shrewdness and intelligence comes to the fore, when she realizes that Shylock is adamant in having his pound of flesh. She acts as a savior and brings down Shylock on his kneels. Portia displays an impeccable sense of humour and wit. Her empathetic nature, intelligence, humility, modesty and commitment to her father makes her a great character.