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Dramatic Tension in the Trial Scene of The Merchant of Venice Essay

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How does Shakespeare create dramatic interest for the audience in the trial scene, Act 4 scene 1 in ‘The Merchant of Venice’?

In the trial scene (act 4 scene 1), Shakespeare uses many different dramatic techniques to make the tension in the court room rise and build. He also uses dramatic irony and many other techniques to engage an audience in this particular scene in the play. These techniques would work have worked on an Elizabethan audience or a modern day audience. Although, these two eras do not share the same views on some of the things Shakespeare wrote about, the same mood and ideas are given across through Shakespeare’s use of dramatic techniques.
The previous knowledge which the audience holds about the previous acts and scenes makes the tension build because the audience knows of the bond which is held between Antonio and Shylock. This fear of the bond is even stronger when we enter the trial scene because the audience can see just how determined Shylock is to receive his pound of carrion flesh. Shylock is persistent to get his bond from Antonio. Shylock’s determination to get his flesh from Antonio makes him seem even more villainous and evil than the audience previously though.
Another thing which the audience previously knows is the fact that Antonio has called out Bassanio to tell him his final words; this indicates to the audience that Antonio is expecting himself to be killed by Shylock. This builds the tension because the audience is unsure when Shylock will kill Antonio, or if he will have mercy on him and spare his life.
We already know from our precious knowledge that Venice’s legal system is strong and cannot be altered. Shylock uses this as an advantage to himself because he understands that he will be allowed to take his bond. If they do not let him, then others will see a flaw in Venice’s legal system and they too will try to find ways of escaping their punishments.
The trial scene is set in a court in Venice, a male dominated society where the law is strongly upheld. Venice has a very strong legal system and although they find the situation which Antonio in very difficult and would spare his life, they could not because of how their legal system is run. It is very strict and is just, they would not let a man free of any crime, because it would make their law seem weak or to have a ‘dent’ in it. The law has to be strict because ...


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...nd mainly his religion. The audience feels sympathy for Shylock because of how devastated he is. In the 2004 version, directed by Michael Radford, Shylock breaks down and puts his head to the floor and this also happens in the Trevor Nunn National Theatre adaption. Shylock seems pitiful and the audience feels sorry for him because no mercy has been shown for him. Although, some members of the audience would feel not feel sorry for him, this is because he was planning to kill Antonio and to show no mercy for him. Overall, generally the audience members would feel sorry for Shylock because of the pain in which he is put through. Although, this does depend on the director of the play and how the play has been adapted.
In conclusion Shakespeare uses many different types of dramatic techniques to change the audience’s ideas and the dramatic tension in the play. He does this in a variety of ways, sometimes by the words spoken, sometimes by props used and also with the dramatic irony and tension. The tension in the scene can make the audience become more interested in the play or can cause the audience to develop thoughts and feelings about the characters and the situations in the play.


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