William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

In Act 1 Scene 1 we are introduced to Antonio, Salerio, Solanio,
Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratiano.

Antonio is a wealthy businessman. He is a trader. He also gives people
loans but he does not charge them any interest. Salerio, Solanio,
Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratiano are all good friends of Antonio and of
each other. Lorenzo is in love with Jessica the daughter of Shylock.
Bassanio is also in love with Portia and wants to marry her.

In Act 1 Scene 1 Antonio is feeling unhappy, so his friends try to
cheer him up. He is feeling sad because he is worried about his ships
which have taken goods abroad. Salerio compares Antonio with his
ships. He tells Antonio “Your mind is tossing on the ocean, there
where your argosies with portly sail, like signors and rich burghers
on the flood, or as it were the pageants on the sea, do overpeer the
petty traffickers that curtsy to them, do them reverence, as they fly
by them with their woven wings.” He means to tell Antonio that just
like your ships are on the sea, it seems Antonio is like that. He says
that because Antonio is worried about his ships and his mind is
concentrating on the ships. Bassanio asks money from Antonio because
he wants to get married to Portia. He asks Antonio for money because
he has the problem of spending a lot of money and he is in debt.
Antonio says to Bassanio that he has not got the money and tells
Bassanio to go to Shylock and ask Shylock for money and he will pay
him back.

In Act 2 Scene 2 we are introduced to Portia and Nerissa.

Portia is the lady of Belmont. Her dad passed away and left her a
challenge which a man had to pass to marry her. Nerissa is Portia’s
waiting-woman.

In this scene the suitors of Portia Neapolitan prince, Country
Palatine, French Lord, Falconbridge, Scottish Lord, young German,
Bassanio, and The Prince of Morocco come and do the test.

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The test
contains a gold, silver, and lead box. The suitors have to choose one
of these boxes and who ever chooses the correct box marries Portia.
Portia talks to Nerissa about what she thinks about the suitors. For
example she says to Nerissa that the Neapolitan Prince is boring,
talks about horses all the time, etc.

In Act 1 Scene 3 we are introduced to Shylock.

Shylock is a business man. He hates Antonio because Antonio has
insulted him because Antonio does not approve of him charging
interest. He has a daughter called Jessica. He also has a friend
called Tubal and a servant called Launcelot.

In this scene Bassanio goes to Shylock to borrow the money. Shylock
takes his time to reply to Bassanio whether he will or will not give
the money to Bassanio. Shylock then talks to Antonio. Just before
talking to Antonio he says what he feels about him. Some of the things
he says about Antonia are “How like a fawning publican he looks. I
hate him for he is a Christian, but more, for that in low simplicity
he lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of asance here with
us in Venice.” Shylock expresses very strong feelings of hatred
towards Antonio. Shylock carries on talking to Antonio. Shylock agrees
to give the money to Bassanio but he says with only one condition that
Antonio agrees to his deal. Shylock says “Go with me to a notary, seal
me there your single bond, and in a merry sort, 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.” Shylock means he and Antonio go to the notary and then Antonio
signs the paper work there. The deal (the bond) is Antonio should pay
Shylock his money back by the day they both have agreed, if Antonio
fails to pay the money on that day Shylock will cut off a pound of
flesh from Antonio’s body. Antonio agrees to this deal.

The theme of friendship carries on throughout Act 1 Scene 1. We see
very strong friendship between Antonio and his friends. When Bassanio
is asking Antonio for money, Bassanio talks about their days in
school, how long they played games with bows and arrows, etc. This
shows that they have been friends for a long time. Antonio is also not
disappointed when Bassanio asks him for money, in-fact he tells
Bassanio that everything he has, Bassanio is welcome to. We see
Antonio’s friends cheering him up when he is sad. They also give him
advice not to be sad, like Gratiano says to Antonio he would rather
grow old feeling happy and lively, and enjoying him self, not by being
miserable. Throughout this scene, we see the theme of friendship
developing.

In Act 1 Scene 2, we see the theme of friendship carrying on by Portia
and her waiting-woman Nerissa. We see Portia talking to Nerissa about
the suitors. She treats Nerissa as her friend not her waiting-woman.
There also seem to be strong friendship between these two characters.

In Act 1 Scene 3 the theme of friend ship still carries on but we also
see the theme of anger and hate developing between Antonio and
Shylock. Shylock tells Antonio how he feels about him and why. There
seems to be conflict between these characters. Throughout this scene
we do not sense any theme of friendship between these characters.
However in this scene we also sense theme of strong friendship between
Antonio and Bassanio. Antonio agrees to Shylocks bond and risks his
life for his friend. Bassanio is also shocked by what Antonio is doing
for him. He says to Antonio “You shall not seal to such a bond I’ll
rather dwell in necessity.” Bassanio is saying to Antonio not to agree
to this bond, he would rather leave it. This also shows how strong the
friendship between these characters is.

The friendship between Antonio and friends saves his life. Antonio’s
friends stand beside him throughout the other acts especially in Act
4. Antonio’s friends do everything to stop Shylock from cutting a
pound of Antonio’s flesh because Antonio could not pay him the money
back. At the end they win and stop Shylock from cutting a pound of
flesh from Antonio’s body. This shows how friendship is important
throughout the rest of the play. We also see Antonio’s friends
insisting that Shylock should not cut Antonio’s flesh, in-fact he
should cut theirs. We also see friends supporting each other in other
scenes for example when Gratiano, Solanio, and Salerio help Jessica
and Lorenzo to runaway in Act 2. This also shows the importance of
friendship throughout this play.

Throughout the play, friendship plays an important role and draws
together the experience of it. Without the friendship of Bassanio and
Antonio, and the other characters, the play would not have taken
place. The play teaches us a lot about the importance of loyalty in
friendship, but also the dangers involved. They show the importance of
friendship by being there and helping each other.
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