The Power of Act IV Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Length: 1059 words (3 double-spaced pages)
This scene is so powerful because it is the climax of the whole plot.
We know that Shakespeare gives it a lot of importance because it is a
very long scene. It is given great importance because all the
characters are there. Its location is very important because it is
set in a court and as soon as the certons are lifted, the audience
know this is a serious scene. It is also important about the location
because in the olden days the Venetian court were seen as a powerful
place so this means that they could not show mercy to Antonio because
this would make the court look week. It is also a very serious scene
it is a dispute over another persons life. The language in this scene
provides lots of opportunities for action. Conflict plays a very big
part in this scene because of the hostility between Antonio and
Shylock. There is lots of contrast in this scene. There is contrast
in the characters moods, movements and the language they use.
There is a lot of dramatic tension building up to this scene. It
starts with Antonio and Shylock disliking each other. They dislike
each other because Shylock and Antonio are from rival religions.
Antonio is a Christian and Shylock is a Jew. They also dislike each
other because Shylock lends out money to people and when he collects
it, in he collects interest. Antonio don’t like this he thinks it is
wrong. Antonio also lends out money to people as a favour and does not
collect interest. This upsets Shylock because he is losing out on
business because of it. The plot starts when Antonio wants to lend
some money from Shylock to give to Bassanio so he could go off and
court a lady called Portia. Antonio would of lent Bassanio the money
from him self but his money was out on investment at sea.
decides to lend the money from Shylock because he was his only
option. Antonio went to Shylock and Shylock agreed to lend Antonio
the money with no interest. The only catch was that is the money was
not paid back by the due date they Shylock could have a pound of
Antonio flesh closest to Antonio’s heart. Shylock said this as a joke
and Antonio took it as one. The audience know this is not a joke.
Antonio could see no problem in him being able to pay the amount of
money due by this date and could see no problem in putting the flesh
joke in the bond. Then a while after this, a rumour was started that
all of Antonio’s ship with all his my in investment had sunk. Antonio
then realised that he could not pay the bond by the date. This is
when Antonio get arrested and Antonio realises that Shylock was not
joking about the threat of taking a pound of flesh if the debt was not
paid by the date set. We then find out that Bassanio has been given a
ring by Portia to signify their love and is said that he should never
remove the ring from his finger. We also find out that Portia is
planning to go and dress up as a lawyer and defend Antonio. This is
when it goes into Act IV scene 1 and gets to the plots climax.
This scene starts it is in the courtroom in Venice. This tells you
that this is an important scene from when the curtains open because a
courtroom seems a serious place to be. It opens with nearly all the
main characters there. This also shows it is an important scene.
There are only two of the main characters missing in this scene they
are Shylock and Portia. The reason these two are missing at the start
of the scene is because it creates a lot of suspense in delaying their
arrival. The reason for this suspense is because Shylock and Portia
arrivals will determine whether Antonio will live or die. Then reason
they have the power to decide if Antonio dies or lives is because
Portia is the lawyer and could pull him out of this predicament and
Shylock has the power to show mercy or let him carry out his
punishment. Shylock and Portia not being there creates a lot of
dramatic tension because if they don’t show up then the court has to
be adjourned. This is what the audience would be hoping for because
this would mean that Antonio’s life would be safe for another day.
The director could emphasise that the court is on Antonio’s side by
having the Duke, the Magnificoes, Antonio, Bassanio and the guards on
the right side of the stage and only Shylock on his own central left
of the stage. The director could also emphasise that having two
guards chained on to him, one on each arm, traps Antonio. In this
scene the director would make Narrissa would look silly as she comes
in trying to look like a male lawyer.
The audience would feel very on edge at the important parts of the
scene with Antonio in. This is because he is expected to die for most
of the scene. One thing the audience would notice for most of the
scene is that when Antonio’s life is being threatened he does not show
fear he does not grovel for his life like most people would is faced
with this situation. All he does is accepts his fate and keep his
dignity. The audience would admire this. He also tries to make his
friend accept what they all thought was going to happen. At the point
when it seems most likely that he will die because he has been shown
no mercy Antonio tells Bassanio that he hold no grudges he don’t blame
him, showing mercy.
“Most heartily I do beseech the court.
To give the judgement.”
This line shows Antonio accepts his fate.
“Grieve not that I am fall’n to this for you.”
This is the line when he tells Bassanio that he should not feel guilty
it is not his fault and that Antonio holds no grudges. This scene is
very dramatic in the way that Portia finds the loophole for Antonio.
When Portia finds the loop hole audiences goes from feeling great
worry that Antonio is going to die a horrible death and Shylock will
get his way to great relief and happiness that Antonio was going to
survive and Shylock had been stopped. Then when Portia turns the
tables on Shylock and Shylock is put in the same precision that
Antonio was in with Antonio with the chance to show mercy. But unlike
Shylock Antonio shows mercy even though the man that he is showing
mercy would not show him any. For this the Audience would have
respect for Antonio. When the tables are turned, Gratiano mocks
Shylock but Antonio does not and in not doing this holds his grace.
After this, the scene leads back into the Portia and Bassanio plot.
Before this scene starts Bassanio is given a ring from Portia to
signify there love which he should never remove from his finger.
Bassanio asks for away for them to repay the lawyer Portia at first
she asks for nothing but then realises that she could cunningly tests
out Bassanio loyalty so she asks for the ring and only that. Bassanio
at first refuses but he eventually gives in. This is when the
audience know that the play is not over and this also leads nicely
into the next scene. This also lightens the mood and the audience
know that the worst part is over.
In this scene Portia is disguised as a male lawyer this creates a lot
of dramatic irony because of the audiences awareness of this. There
is a lot of dramatic irony at line 280 when Bassanio says that he
would give up his wife and his world to Shylock to free Antonio there
is a lot of dramatic because he does not know that he is saying this
in front of his wife. At the end of this scene there is a lot of
dramatic irony when Portia tests out Bassanio loyalty by asking for
the ring the audience would find this comical because they would know
he is being tricked.
Shakespeare creates suspense at the end of the scene by giving us half
a plot that we know is not over and we expect something to happen and
we want to find out how it is going to happen and what the outcome
will be. This is different from the tensions built up in the earlier
scenes because in is a different feeling before you were worried about
the out come this time it is a pondering feeling instead.