the merchant of venice

a summary of the themes, plots, characters and context of shakespeares’s, the merchant of venice.

useful to remember: the quality of mercy speech

the ring speech

shylock’s prejudice and revenge speech

  • Created by: niah earl
  • Created on: 25-03-18 12:25
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  • the merchant of venice
    • themes
      • love and personal interests (money)
        • does bassanio really love portia or is he only  attracted to her wealth and beauty?
        • jessica gives up her home, family and religion to get married and take lots of her dad’s money
      • societal prejudice and revenge
        • shylock has spent his life being squashed down, spat on, kicked and insulted for his beliefs and so when he gets the opportunity he grabs his revenge with both hands
      • mercy and justice
        • christians: “turn the other cheek”- (new testament) jews: “an eye for an eye”- (old testament)
      • obedience and desire
        • portia knows that she is obligated to obey her fathers will however she expresses  feelings of resentment and longing to have a choice in who she marries
        • jessica abandons her father and steals his money to marry a christian (lorenzo) who her father hates
    • important characters
      • antonio
        • the merchant, bassanio’s friend, borrowed money from shylock, a very sad man, anti-semitic towards shylock
      • shylock
        • jessica’s  father, a jewish money lender, very wealthy, victim of extreme anti-semitism, wants revenge against antonio
      • bassanio
        • marries portia, friends with antonio, young and attractive, got antonio to borrow money from shylock for him
      • portia
        • a powerful yet obedient to her father, marries bassanio, saves antonio’s life while in disguise as balthazar, prejudice against black people and jews
      • jessica
        • shylock’s daughter, marries lorenzo and converts to christianity, steals a lot of her fathers money and jewels
      • lorenzo
        • a christian, marries jessica
      • nerissa
        • portia’s maid and best friend, kind, clever, marries gratiano
      • the duke
        • richest and most powerful man in venice, upholds the law, a christian
      • gratiano
        • a christian, marries nerissa, jokey, funny
    • key quotes
      • “If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be...? Why revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute”
      • “In Belmont is a lady richly left, And she is fair, and -fairer than that word”
      • “If you ***** us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?”
      • “Myself and what is mine, to you and yours is now converted. I give them to you with this ring, Which if you part from, lose, or give away, Let it presage the ruin of your love,”
      • “If he have the condition of a saint, and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.”
      • “The quality of mercy is not strained,  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven”
      • “Though justice be thy plea, consider this :That in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation . We do pray for Mercy”
      • “‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest ... an attribute to God himself,”
      • “take thou thy pound of flesh, But in the cutting of it, if thou dost shed one drop of Christian blood thy lands and goods are... confiscate”
      • “so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none?”
      • “In sooth I know not why I am sad”
      • “You call me mis believer, cut-throat dog and spit upon my Jewish gabardine”
    • context
      • most of the audience were very ignorant about judaism because all jews were expelled from britain in 1290 by king edward 1 after he raised their taxes so high that they were all in poverty and he could no longer profit from them
      • patriarchal society: women were viewed as possessions of their fathers or husbands and were expected to remain silent and obedient ,they had very few rights.
      • shakespeare was always trying to impress the queen in his plays and it is thought that shylock may be based on one of her doctors who tried to poison her
      • written in the late 1590s and first performed st the globe theatre in london 1600.
    • plot
      • main plot: antonio borrows money from shylock so that bassanio can go and marry portia when antonio fails to pay back the bond shylock demands a pound of flesh, portia in disguise saves antonio and makes shylock convert to christianity.
      • ring plot: portia and nerissa give bassanio and gratiano rings that symbolise their love and commitment to test their loyalty, they then ask for them back as thanks when they are disguised as balthazar and the clerk and are given them. they reveal their actions at the end of the play.
      • jessica (shylock’s daughter and only family) runs away with loads of her fathers money and jewels to be with lorenzo (a christian).
      • caskets: at the start of the play portia’s father is dead and has left a gold, a silver and a lead casket one of which contains portia’s painting. whoever opens the right one has to marry portia but if they get it wrong they are forbidden to marry anyone


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