Hi there! Your homework this week is to read Act 1 of The Merchant of Venice, watch my videotaped lectures below (sorry for the lousy production values — I’m working on it!), and then post a comment about Act 1 at the bottom of this page. Note that the speeches that I single out for mention in my lectures are printed below each video. Also note that at the bottom of this page, below all of the videos, I give you some simple study questions to help you formulate a post. The study questions follow up on things I say in my lectures, so you may want to watch the videos first. Leave your post in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
Speeches of note in Act 1, scene 1:
Antonio, 1.1.1: In sooth I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn; And such a want-wit sadness makes of me That I have much ado to know myself. Antonio to Bassanio, 1.1.119: Well, tell me now what lady is the same To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage, That you today promised to tell me of. Bassanio's reply: 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio, How much I have disabled mine estate By something showing a more swelling port Than my faint means would grant continuance. Nor do I now make moan to be abridged From such a noble rate; but my chief care Is to come fairly off from the great debts Wherein my time, something too prodigal, Hath left me gaged. To you, Antonio, I owe the most in money and in love, And from your love I have a warranty To unburden all my plots and purposes How to get clear of all the debts I owe. Bassanio on Portia, 1.1.161: In Belmont is a lady richly left; And she is fair, and fairer than that word, Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes I did receive fair speechless messages. Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued To Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia; Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth, For the four winds blow in from every coast Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strand, And many Jasons come in quest of her. O my Antonio, had I but the means To hold a rival place with one of them, I have a mind presages me such thrift That I should questionless be fortunate!
Speeches of note in Act 1, scene 2:
Nerissa to Portia, 1.2.26: Your father was ever virtuous, and holy men at their death have good inspirations. Therefore the lottery that he hath devised in these three chests of gold, silver, and lead -- whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you -- will no doubt never be chosen by any rightly but one who you shall rightly love. But what warmth is there in your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come? Portia at 1.2.122: If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach. If he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me. Come, Nerissa. Sirrah, go before. Whiles we shut the gate upon one wooer, another knocks at the door.
Speeches of note in Act 1, scene 3:
Shylock speaking of Antonio, 1.3.15: Ho no, no, no, no! My meaning in saying he is a good man is to have you understand me that he is sufficient. Yet his means are in supposition. He hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies; I uderstand, moreover, upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for England, and other ventures he hath squandered abroad. But ships are but boards, sailors but men; there by land rats and water rats, water thieves and land thieves -- I mean pirates; and then there si the peril of waters, winds, and rocks. The man is, notwithstanding, sufficient. Three thousand ducats -- I think I may take his bond. Shylock turning down a dinner invitation, 1.3.31: Yes, to smell pork, to eat of the habitation which your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into! I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you. What news on the Rialto? Who comes here? Shylock on Antonio, 1.3.38: How like a fawning publican he looks. I hate him for he is a Christian; But more, for in that low simplicity He lends out money gratis and brings down The rate of usance here with us in Venice. If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. He hates our sacred nation, and he rails, Even there where merchants most do congregate, On me, my bargians, and my well-worn thrift, Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe If I forgive him. Shylock to Antonio, 1.3.105: Signor Antonio, many a time and oft In the Rialto you have rated me About my moneys and my usances. Still have I borne it with a patient shrug, For suff'rance is the badge of all our tribe. You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, And all for use of that which is mine own. Well then, it now appears you need my help. Go to then. You come to me and you say, "Shylock, we would have moneys" -- you say so, You that did void your rheum upon my beard And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur Over your threshold: moneys is your suit. What should I say to you? Should I not say, "Hath a dog money? Is it possible A cur can lend three thousand ducats? Or Shall I bend low, and in a bondman's key, With bated breath and whisp'ring humbleness, Say this: "Fair sir, you spit on me Wednesday last, You spurned me such a day, another time You called me dog; and for these courtesies I'll lend you thus much moneys." Shylock to Antonio, 1.3.141: This kindness will I show: Go with me to a notary; seal me there Your single bond, and -- in a merry sport -- If you repay me not on such a day, In such a place, such sum or sums as are Expressed in the condition, let the forfeit Be nominated for an equal pound Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken In what part of your body pleaseth me.
Write a comment on The Merchant of Venice Act 1 and post it in the comments section below. Be sure to quote the text of the play at least once in your post. Consider answering any of the following study questions:
1. Shakespeare always has each of his characters use language a little bit differently. This is one of Shakespeare’s most important and most subtle means of characterization. For example, I note in my lectures that Shylock uses a lot of legal and contractual language, which he means very literally: this portrays him as a literal-minded, lawerly character who traps people with his precision. Can you describe how any other character in Act 1 uses language in a distinctive way that fleshes him or her out as a character?
2. As I note in my lectures, the language of money is everywhere in this play. Can you give another example (i.e., not one I discuss in my videos) of money-themed figurative language in Act 1?
3. I always find it odd that this play begins with Antonio’s depression (“In sooth I know not why I am so sad…”). We never learn–at least not explicitly–why Antonio is depressed. Can you make sense of the play’s opening? In other words, what do you think is the meaning or the dramatic significance of Antonio’s depression? Make sure your theory refers to explicit lines of text later on in Act 1.
4. As I point out in my videos, there are many parallels between Shylock and Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, even though the two merchants are supposed to be bitter enemies. Can you point out and discuss some similarities between Shylock and Antonio that I do not talk about in my lectures?
I encourage you to reply to your classmates’ posts if you want to. Also, feel free to ask questions that I can answer when we meet over Zoom.
Lastly, please refer to the Instructions for Posting (in the main menu of this website) in order to avoid confusion when making your first post. WordPress likes to try to get you to create an account and give them your contact information, but this is unnecessary and you should not do it. Posting is really easy once you’ve done it already.