Hi again! Your homework this week is to read the rest of The Merchant of Venice, watch my videotaped lectures below, and then post a comment about the assigned reading at the bottom of this page. The speeches that I refer to in my lectures are printed below each video. 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.
Some important speeches from Merchant 3.3-4.2:
Antonio explaining why Shylock's bond must be honored, 3.3.26: The duke cannot deny the course of law; For the commodity that strangers have With us in Venice, if it be denied, Will much impeach the justice of the state, Since that the trade and profit of the city Consisteth of all nations. Therefore go. These griefs and losses have so bated me That I shall hardly spare a pound of flesh Tomorrow to my bloody creditor. Well, jailer, on. Pray God Bassanio come To see me pay his debt, and then I care not! Portia devising the cross-dressing plot, 3.4.60: They shall, Nerissa, but in such a habit That they shall think we are accomplished With that we lack. I'll hold thee any wager, When we are both accoutered like young men, I'll prove the prettier fellow of the two, And wear my dagger with the braver grace, And speak between the change of man and boy With a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps Into a manly stride, and speak of frays Like a fine bragging youth, and tell quaint lies, How honorable ladies sought my love, Which I denying, they fell sick and died -- I could not do withal. Then I'll repent, And wish, for all that, that I had not killed them. And twenty of these puny lies I'll tell, That men shall swear I have discontinued school Above a twelvemonth. I have within my mind A thousand raw tricks of these bragging jacks, Which I will practice. Shylock rails at his Christian audience, 4.1.89: What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong? You have among you many a purchased slave, Which like your asses and your dogs and mules You use in abject and in slavish parts, Because you bought them. Shall I say to you, "Let them be free! Marry them to your heirs! Why sweat they under burdens? Let their beds Be made as soft as yours, and let their palates Be seasoned with such viands"? You will answer, "The slaves are ours." So do I answer you. The pound of flesh which I demand of him Is dearly bought, 'tis mine, and I will have it. If you deny me, fie upon your law! There is no force in the decrees of Venice. I stand for judgment. Answer: shall I have it? Portia's famous speech at 4.1.182: The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown. His scepter shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; But mercy is above this sceptered sway. It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself, And earthly power doth then show likest God's When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, Though justice be thy plea, consider this: That in the course of justice none of us Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy, And that same prayer doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much To mitigate the justice of thy plea, Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there. Bassanio seems to choose Antonio over Portia, 4.1.280: Antonio, I am married to a wife Which is as dear to me as life itself; But life itself, my wife, and all the world Are not with me esteemed above thy life. I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all Here to this devil, to deliver you. Portia has the key idea in the trial scene, 4.1.303: Tarry a little, there is something else. This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood; The words expressly are "a pound of flesh." Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh; But in the cutting it if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods Are by the laws of Venice confiscate Unto the state of Venice. Portia punishes Shylock severely, 4.1.345: Tarry, Jew! The law hath yet another hold on you. It is enacted in the laws of Venice, If it be proved against an alien That by direct or indirect attempts He seek the life of any citizen, The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive Shall seize one half his goods; the other half Comes to the privy coffer of the state; And the offender's life lies in the mercy Of the duke only, 'gainst all other voice. In which predicament I say thou stand'st, For it appears by manifest proceeding That indirectly, and directly too, Thou hast contrived against the very life Of the defendant, and thou hast incurred The danger formerly by me rehearsed. Down therefore, and beg mercy of the duke.
Some important speeches from Merchant, Act 5:
JESSICA I am never merry when I hear sweet music. LORENZO The reason is, your spirits are attentive. For do but note a wild and wanton herd Or race of youthful and unhandled colts Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud, Which is the hot condition of their blood; If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound, Or any air of music touch their ears, You shall perceive them make a mutual stand, Their savage eyes turned to a modest gaze By the sweet power of music. Therefore the poet Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones, and floods; Since nought so stockish, hard, and full of rage But music for the time doth change his nature. The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, strategems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
Write a comment on The Merchant of Venice Act 3, sc. 3-Act 5, sc. 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. What can you say about Bassanio and Antonio’s same-sex romance? How does it take up or depart from the language used to describe heterosexual romance in this play? Do you think it has anything to do with Antonio’s depression? Does Portia and Nerissa’s friendship present any parallels with Bassanio and Antonio’s?
2. Shakespeare’s comedies typically depict their young heroes and heroines being transformed for the better, so that they deserve their happy ending. In The Merchant of Venice, the transformation of the characters is less apparent than usual (i.e., in other Shakespearean comedies). Do you think it is present at all? Or do these characters really not learn anything?
3. How does the cross-dressing subplot play around with notions of gender, especially when considered alongside Bassanio and Antonio’s homoerotic friendship?
4. The punishment of Shylock at the end of Merchant is difficult to stage for a modern audience, who won’t automatically take pleasure in seeing a Jewish person stripped of property, publically humiliated, and barred from practicing their faith. If you were directing a performance of this play, what are some decisions you might make when staging this crucial scene?
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.