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July 12, 2020, 11:12:34 pm

Author Topic: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice  (Read 690 times)

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laura_

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The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« on: June 25, 2019, 05:19:38 pm »
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Hey guys!
I just finished studying The Merchant of Venice and I really enjoyed it. Oh my goodness, what a lot to get your head around though! I figured that its a fairly commonly studied text and other people may want summaries, practice essay topics, good quotes and other general TMOV related stuff, so I thought I'd put some of the things I've learnt together.

A Quick Summary
TMOV follows the story of Antonio, a rich merchant whose wealth is tied up in ships, and his friend Bassanio. Bassanio has foolishly borrowed and spent a lot of Antonio's money in the past, but comes up with a plan to pay him back, which involves using even more of Antonio's money to woo and marry a young rich woman (named Portia) from a different area.

As Antonio does not have any money that is not tied up on his stock ships, he offers to take out a loan for Bassanio in his name. Enter Shylock, a Jewish moneylender who faces discrimination from society as a whole as well as specific bullying from Antonio. Shylock offers to lend Antonio the money with no bond if they could just be friends. Antonio, however, is appalled by the idea. This prompts Shylock to suggest that the bond be a pound of flesh. (Shylock claims that he would never really take a pound of flesh but Bassanio still attempts to convince Antonio not to sign it.) Antonio agrees and the bond becomes a legal contract.

Shylock then continues to suffer societal abuse, as well as having his servant ditch him for Bassanio. Directly following this, his daughter leaves stealing his money to marry a Christian man.

Bassanio takes the money and woos Portia. He wins her hand at marriage in a casket competition, only to find out that Antonio's ships have not arrived in time and that Shylock is insisting on exacting the bond and taking his flesh. (As the audience we can understand that this is due to the trauma he suffers.) Portia dresses up as a lawyer and proceeds to save Antonio, giving quite intelligent and compelling speeches.

Thus, all ends well for everyone except Shylock, who is tried for attempted murder and has all his wealth taken from him.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2019, 05:24:55 pm by laura_ »
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laura_

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2019, 05:25:59 pm »
+11
Some Character Notes
ANTONIO
Antonio is depressed and there does not seem to be an obvious reason.
Antonio has invested in cargo ships and is confident they will arrive safely.
He believes he has a sad nature.
He is adamant he is not in love.
Antonio treats Jewish people quite poorly, as that is the way they were viewed in society. This makes Shylock unlikely to lend him money.
Eventually, Antonio agrees to borrow the money from Shylock. If he does not repay it, Shylock is able to extract a pound of his flesh.
Antonio is well respected and wealthy. Other say that he thinks too much and has a strong moral compass, although this is not shown in the way he treats Shylock.
Antonio: concerned, generous, affectionate, patient, solem.
He is not as nice as he seems.
Plays the victim.
Somewhat hypocritical and expects to be treated with mercy when he will not do the same for others.

BASSANIO
Young and somewhat foolish but motivated by his mistakes and debts.
Very confident bordering on cocky, keen to impress his friends.
He intends to visit Portia and to attempt to take her hand in marriage.
Bassanio made mistakes in his youth.
He is good friends with Antonio but owes him a lot of money. He promises that he can repay the debt.
Bassanio does not like the deal that Antonio made with Shylock.
Bassanio: grateful, selfish, self-confident, brash.

PORTIA
She is beautiful and rich.
Her father passed away, leaving a challenge for anyone who wants to marry her,
She is sick of her life.
She does not like the challenge her father set, but her Lady in Waiting sides with him.
Portia does not like any of the earlier suitors.
She is intelligent and quick-witted.

SHYLOCK
The antagonist, although a very multi-dimensional character that is humanised and able to be sympathised with.
A Jewish moneylender.
Has a daughter named Jessica.
Shylock is treated very poorly by Antonio and all of Venetian society.
He agrees to lend Antonio some money. However, if Antonio is unable to repay him, he will extract a pound of his flesh.
Shylock is subjected to many unfair and unfortunate circumstances.
Many people leave Shylock.
Start demanding flesh.
Values his relationship with Jessica but appears to care more about the money (and ring) she stole from him.
but there’s only so much shrinking a girl can do before she disappears

laura_

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2019, 05:26:43 pm »
+10
Summaries By Act and Scene
ACT ONE SCENE ONE
Antonio, a rich merchant from Venice, is not sure why he is feeling sad. He talks to his friends about his feelings. Salerio and Solanio suggest he may be depressed as some of his wealth is tied up in ships, however, he assures them that he is not worried. They suggest he may be in love which he vehemently denies. He then talks to his particularly close friend Bassanio, who owes him a lot of money. Bassanio explains how he requires a little bit more money to woo a rich heiress Portia, in an attempt to pay back his loans. Antonio agrees but must take out a loan to be able to immediately lend him the money.

ACT ONE SCENE TWO
As Portia’s father has passed away, he left a way in which Portia’s suitors must prove that they are worthy to be her husband and that they do not only intend to marry her for her wealth. He prepared three caskets: lead, silver and gold. Only one contained a portrait of Portia and lead to her hand in marriage, the other two lead to nothing. Each suitor must promise never to marry if they pick incorrectly. Portia spoke to Nerissa about the first six suitors who left without trying. She did not like them and is glad not to have to marry them.

ACT ONE SCENE THREE
Bassanio asked Shylock, a wealthy Jewish moneylender, for the loan on Antonio’s behalf. Shylock knows that Antonio’s wealth is tied up in ships at the minute and that anything could happen to them. He agrees to lend Antonio and Bassanio money, but if it cannot be repaid by the deadline, he will extract a pound of flesh. Although Bassanio feels uneasy about the deal, Antonio agrees.

ACT TWO SCENE ONE
The Prince of Morocco arrives to attempt to win Portia’s hand in marriage. She is not particularly fond of him and would prefer if he did not win. He knows the terms of the deals and prepares to choose a casket. During this scene, Portia’s wit and intelligence are seen.

ACT TWO SCENE TWO
Launcelot Gobbo has a conversation with himself about whether or not to leave his job with Shylock. Although he wants to go, he feels he must stay. He attempts to confuse his father, who comes looking for him. He tells his father that his son is dead, but eventually admits that he is his son. As Old Gobbo is blind this is meant to provide comedic relief. He then goes to Bassanio and asks him to take him on as his servant. Bassanio agrees. Bassanio’s current servant Leonardo gets everything ready for Bassanio’s trip to Belmont. His friend Gratiano asks to go with him, which Bassanio agrees to.

ACT TWO SCENE THREE
Jessica is sad that Launcelot is leaving and gives him a letter to deliver to her love Lorenzo.

ACT TWO SCENE FOUR
Lorenzo and his friends are planning their arrangements for the masque. Launcelot delivered the letter to Lorenzo and he sends one back to Jessica. They plan to elope, which will be funded by Jessica stealing money and jewels from her father Shylock.

ACT TWO SCENE FIVE
Shylock has a nightmare involving his money. He wakes up and goes to visit Bassanio, instructing Jessica to lock their house (to protect the wealth) and not to look out the window or to listen to the loud noises outside.

ACT TWO SCENE SIX
Jessica meets up with Lorenzo and his friends. She is disguised as a boy and is very unhappy about it. She has brought a casket full of the money she stole from Shylock. Lorenzo tells his friends how much he loves Jessica.

ACT TWO SCENE SEVEN
The Prince of Morocco now chooses a casket. He reads their inscriptions and straight away rules out the lead casket. He reaches for the silver but decides against it. He chooses the gold casket. He is wrong and is now bound never to marry another woman ever again. Portia is glad that he will not be her husband.

ACT TWO SCENE EIGHT
Shylock is found in the streets, mourning the loss of his daughter and the wealth she stole when she went. He is seen by Antonio’s friends Salerio and Solanio. Meanwhile, rumours reach Venice about a wrecked ship and the characters are concerned that it may be Antonio’s.

ACT TWO SCENE NINE
The Prince of Arragon is about to make his casket choice. He, like the Prince of Morroco immediately dismisses the lead casket. He briefly considers gold, but in the end, chooses silver. He is unsuccessful and leaves. News then reaches Portia that another suitor is approaching. They wonder if it may be Bassanio.

ACT THREE SCENE ONE
Shylock confronts Solanio and Salerio. He believes that they knew of Jessica’s plan to elope. He is angry and hurt by this situation and makes it very clear that he really will take a pound of Antonio’s flesh if he cannot pay him. He talks about the humanity of Jews and Christians. Tubal then reports to Shylock about more rumours about Antonio’s ships and Jessica’s use of his money. Although it is unclear how much of this is true and how much is merely a rumour.

ACT THREE SCENE TWO
Bassanio is about to choose a casket, but Portia asks him to delay. She wants him to stay a bit longer for if he makes the wrong choice he is forced to leave immediately. She considers allowing him to wait months and stay with her until then. She considers helping him figure out which is the right casket but decides against disobeying her father. He cannot wait so Portia organises some music for when he chooses. As the music plays, Bassanio contemplates the way that external appearance can hide things much less attractive and for that reason picks lead. He is correct and they are both ecstatic. Portia gives Bassanio a ring to confirm their engagement. Nerissa and Gratiano also decide to get married. Bassanio then gets the bad news about Antonio and is forced to admit how dire things are to Portia. She immediately offers as much money as is required to save him. They wed quickly and Bassanio hurries to Venice.

ACT THREE SCENE THREE
Shylock has Antonio arrested and he is put in goal. He knows that he will surely die as Shylock demands his bond and is unable to be reasoned with. The forfeit is due the following day. Antonio hopes that Bassanio will come to meet him.

ACT THREE SCENE FOUR
Portia and Lorenzo discuss the predicament that Antonio and Bassanio are in. Lorenzo is impressed by Portia’s character. She then asks him and Jessica to keep an eye on her house while she and Nerissa spend time at the monastery. She then contacts a lawyer, Doctor Bellario and intends that she and Nerissa will dress as men and play a part and promises to share the rest of the plan with Nerissa at a later stage.

ACT THREE SCENE FIVE
Launcelot and Jessica share a joke, which she and Lorenzo quite enjoy. They then go to dinner.

ACT FOUR SCENE ONE
The court case for Antonio’s flesh ensues. The Duke attempts to convince Shylock to change his mind, when he refuses, Bassanio and The Duke continue to persuade him. Portia and Nerissa appear as a lawyer and clerk, while Shylock makes a show of sharpening his knife. Portia speaks to Antonio and then to Shylock. She seems to appeal to his mercy, before telling him he is allowed to have his bond. He is excited by this.

Portia calls for scales to weigh the flesh, before mentioning that he may not spill any blood. Realising this is impossible, Shylock attempts to just take the money, but he is too late. A case is built against him and he loses more than the bond. They threaten to kill him or take all his possessions. Antonio offers his part of the wealth inherited from Shylock to Lorenzo and Jessica.

ACT FOUR SCENE TWO
Bassanio’s ring is handed over to Portia as thanks for her legal skills. Nerissa attempts to also get her ring back. Portia believes that they will make fools of their husbands.

ACT FIVE SCENE ONE
Lorenzo and Jessica enjoy the moonlight. Portia and Nerissa confront their husbands for their betrayal. Bassanio and Antonio attempt to explain and then Portia and Nerissa clear up any misunderstandings. Antonio discovers that his ships have arrived in the harbour safely after all.
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laura_

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2019, 05:28:20 pm »
+9
More Character Summaries with Quotes
BASSANIO
Bassanio is the character which triggers the entire plot of this play. He falls in love with Portia and attempts to woo her by borrowing money in Antonio’s name. Although he is not keen on the bond Shylock, the moneylender, sents, he does allow Antonio to go through with it. This sets up the climax of the day and allows Portia’s wit and intelligence to be seen by the audience.
 Bassanio is portrayed as quite a confident (bordering on cocky) character with youthful stupidity. He is very self confident and the way that he takes money from Antonio is selfish yet he is extremely grateful.
When Bassanio wins Portia’s hand in marriage but still chooses to ask her first, rather than assuming she will agree. This is one example of where we see his kindness and the way that he treats others with respect. We also see this in the way that he and Antonio attempt to make a deal with Shylock. Antonio refuses to borrow the money as Shylock's friend and agree to stop mocking him but Bassanio strongly encourages him to do that. He is also unwilling to let Antonio put himself at risk of a bad bond on his part but is unsuccessful at convincing him not to agree.
-  “To you Antonio, I owe you the most in money and in love.” - Bassanio A1S1:130-131
- “I remember him well, I remember him worthy of thy praise.” - Portia A1S2:118-119
- “You shall not seal to such a bond for me, I’ll rather dwell in my necessity.” - Bassanio A1S3:151-152
- “The word is still deceived with ornament.” - Bassanio A3S2:74
- “As from her lord, her governor, her king.” - Portia accepting Bassanio’s hand in marriage. A3S2:165

ANTONIO
Antonio is quite an influential character. In fact, the entire play is named after him. He provides a motive for Shylock’s eventual evil. He is shown as a kind and caring mentor figure for Bassanio, and is very generous with him. However, we also see a very cruel side of him, in the way he chooses to treat Jewish people, the outcasts of society.
Antonio has two very clear sides to him. He is rich and well respected. We see the fond way he treats Bassanio and how he is very generous towards him. We also see the disdain with which he treats Shylock. In the beginning of the play, he is clearly upset and not himself, but unable to pinpoint why. He says it is not because of the ships containing his wealth and certainly not because he is in love.
In the beginning of the play, we believe Antonio to be quite a respectable and kind mentor figure for Bassanio,  but very quickly his true colours are revealed in the cruelty that he inflicts upon Shylock. Calling him names and spitting on him is one thing, but his refusal to be remorseful shows us that Antonio is a product of his time, with very racist beliefs.
- “I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, A stage where every man must play a part, And mine a sad one.” - Antonio A1S1:77-79
- “My purse, my person, my extremest means Lie all unlocked to your occasion.” - Antonio to Bassanio A1S1:138-139
- ”Antonio is a good man.” - Shylock A1S3:12
- “But Antonio is certainly undone.” - Tubal A3S1:118
- “I am a tained wether of the flock, Meetest for death.” A4S1:114-115


SHYLOCK
Shylock is one of the most influential characters in the plot of “The Merchant of Venice.” His interactions with Antonio help to develop Antonio’s character and the bond he sets with Antonio is what forces the plot forwards. When Shylock chooses to honour the bond they have set, this provides the climax of the action.
Shylock can be seen as both a villain and a victim. We see how he loves his daughter Jessica and values his relationships with his servants. We see how he is made an outcast by society. We see how he is bullied by Antonio and left by the people who love him. We then see him hell bent on getting revenge at Antonio’s expense.
In the beginning Shylock seems to be quite a good character who is in a terrible situation by no fault of his own. By the end of the play we see how Shylock has been betrayed and will now do anything he can to make Antonio play. The play ends with “justice” being served, where everything that Shylock has left is taken from him.
- “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing a holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart. O what a goodly outside falsehood hath.” - Antonio A1S3:95-99
- “For sufferance is the badge of our tribe. You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gabardine.” - Shylock A1S3:107-109
- “This were kindness.” - Bassanio about Shylock’s offer of friendship. A1S3:139
- “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?” - Shylock A3S1:54-56
- “I would my daughter were dead at my foot.” - Shylock A3S1:83-84

PORTIA
Portia plays a very important role in the plot. She is Bassanio’s goal, which is what prompts him to ask Antonio for yet another loan. She also plays an important part as the lawyer in the court case, who is able to save Antonio’s life.
Portia is a very intelligent character. She is very witty and quick thinking. She is bound by her father’s will and intends to honour it even if she doesn't like it.
She acts as though she is quite naive and innocent, but when she becomes Antonio’s lawyer towards the end of the play, we truly see her intelligence. Although she insists that she in incapable of running her estate, her boldness as a lawyer makes us doubt this.
-”I may neither choose whom I would or refuse whom I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.” - Portia A1S2:21-25
-”In Belmont is a lady richly left, And she is fair, and fairer than the world.” -Bassanio A1S1:161-162
- “In terms of choice I am not solely led By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes.” - Portia A2S1:13-14
- “Is an unlessoned girl, unschooled, unpractised.” - Portia A3S2:159
- “I never did repent for doing good, Nor shall I now.” - Portia A3S4:10

but there’s only so much shrinking a girl can do before she disappears

laura_

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2019, 05:30:24 pm »
+9
Important Quotes
Firstly, here is the quizlet I used for my English exam when I wrote an essay on TMOV: https://quizlet.com/_6sdjzv

And here are some quotes by category:
REVENGE
“A goodly apple rotten at the heart.”
“I will feed the fat ancient grudge I bear him.”
“The badge of our tribe.”
“The villainy you teach me I will execute.”
“Tis’ mine and I will have it.”
“The quality of mercy is not strained.”

ROLE OF WOMEN
“Double six thousand, and then treble that.”
“The quality of mercy is not strained.”

IMPRESSIONS
“All that glisters is not gold.”

WEALTH
“O my ducats, O my daughter.”
“My purse, my person, my extremest means, Lie all unlocked to your occasion.”
“In Belmont is a lady richly left.”
“I have disabled mine estate.”
“Our house is hell.”
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laura_

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2019, 05:31:19 pm »
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Key Themes and Topics (Short and Sweet)
KEY THEMES OF THE MERCHANT OF VENICE:
Revenge
Mercy
Antisemitism/Prejudice (who is the real victim)
Role of Women
Perceptions
Wealth
Relationships (love/self interest)

KEY CHARACTERS:
Antonio: The Merchant
Bassanio: Antonio’s slightly younger friend.
Shylock: The Jewish moneylender.
Portia: The rich and clever woman from Belmont.
Nerissa: Portia’s lady in waiting.
Belthazar: Portia disguised as a lawyer.
Jessica: Shylock’s daughter.
Lorenzo: The Christian man Jessica wants to marry.
Salerio and Solanio: Minor characters.
Lancelot: Shylock’s servant who becomes Bassanio’s.
Lancelot Gobbo: Lancelot's blind old father.
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laura_

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2019, 05:36:31 pm »
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Practice Essay Topics
1. “The pound of flesh which I demand of his is dearly bought. Tis’ mine and I will have it” (Act 4 Scene 1) In TMOV, it is revenge that clouds all attempts at justice and mercy. Discuss.

2. In TMOV, who is the victim and who is the villain?

3. In the male-dominated world of The Merchant of Venice, it is the women who wield the ultimate power. Do you agree?

4. Shylock is the true victim in TMOV. Do you agree?
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laura_

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2019, 05:41:17 pm »
+8
Other Resources
https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/merchant/ : Could not recommend using SparkNotes more! They have great summaries and quotes, as well as good descriptions of the key themes. The most useful thing for me was being able to read the lines in plain English.

http://shakespeare.mit.edu/merchant/full.html : The whole play.

If your school has ClickView or you have access to ClickView for your local library you should watch the video called The Merchant of Venus. It's a really great summary!

https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-plays/merchant-venice/ : A nice summary!

Hope these help!
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brenden

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Re: The Merchant of Venice: Summary and Advice
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2019, 09:03:57 pm »
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Well done.
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