‘The Merchant of Venice’ Study

Choose any important scene from ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

Give an account of the play’s background and via analysis of language and staging, show its importance to the play as a whole.In the period of time that this play was written Jews were looked down upon. A few years prior to the play Jews were exiled from Great Britain. Therefore many people had never seen a Jew.

This, and accounts from other people led them to believe that Jews were ‘creatures’. Consequently audiences of this play would have been shocked when Shakespeare portrayed Shylock as a human being.For this essay I have chosen Act 4 Scene 2 ll. 1-115. This is the part where they are in court from the beginning upto the point that Nerissa enters. I have chosen this scene because I feel that it is one of the most important scenes in the play. It is the scene in which everything turns on its head and it’s also the scene in which Shakespeare introduces another story on the side (Bassanio and Gratiano giving their rings to Portia and Nerissa thinking they’ve given them to young lawyers).

I have only gone upto line 115 for the purpose of this essay. It would take too long to analyse any more.I am going to stage this in modern times as it gives you more freedom of props and equipment. The first event that would happen in this scene would be the entrance of the cast. I feel the best effect would be to have all the cast with the exception of the Duke already on stage. Then sharply raise the curtains, slowly brighten the lights and finally enter the Duke. He could wear clothing that would distinctly separate him from everyone else.

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Maybe a black tunic or something along those lines. He could also sit on a raised platform and as he enters everyone could stand. If you did all this it would highlight the importance of the Duke because he would be different and would be given special treatment. This would also make the audience look upto him. It will definitely signify to them that he is a figure of immense importance. The next step in staging would be the position of the cast on stage. I have drawn this diagram to show where I would place everyone:As you can see from my diagram the Duke is on a platform.

This once again highlights the fact that the Duke is a figure of authority and importance. Shylock is isolated on one side of the courtroom on his own; this indicates that he has no support. Antonio on the other hand is also isolated but has behind him all his supporters. This would indicate that he is in trouble (isolation) but is within touching distance of ‘innocence’.

On l14 the Duke says: ‘Go one and call the Jew into the court.’ This highlights how the racial front fits into the play. The Duke doesn’t say ‘Call Shylock’.

He uses the word Jew to refer to him. This suggests that Jews were just grouped and not treated as individuals. This is continued all the way through the scene. The Duke says: ‘We all expect a gentle answer Jew’. Once again he calls him Jew and he expects a gentle answer towards the Christian. This also suggests that Shylock has a certain degree of power within this scene. Therefore Shylock could deliver the lines following that with poise and plenty of confidence.The Duke highlights how much he despises what Shylock is doing by saying: ‘That thou.

..thy malice and remorse…apparent cruelty..

.poor merchants flesh.’ He is using emotive words (which have been highlighted) to try and persuade Shylock to rethink about what he’s doing. He would deliver these lines in a manner where he was pleading him to stop. This is also suggests that Shylock has a certain degree of power.The Duke also does not frighten shylock.

He says: ‘What, are you answered yet?’ This is implying a certain amount of frustration from Shylock. He could deliver these lines sarcastically.Shylock also bares his hate for Antonio within this scene. He refers to Antonio in an offensive manner. He says: ‘What if my house were troubled with a rat’ He was referring to the rat as a metaphor for Antonio. He could deliver these lines in a strong, confident and astringent manner.Antonio seems to be suffering from severe melancholy within this play.

He shows this when he says: ‘I pray you think you question the Jew. You may as well go stand upon the beach and bid the main flood bate his usual height.’ This shows that he has already accepted his fate and given up. He is almost pleading for Bassanio to stop quarrelling with Shylock. He could deliver these lines in a very sombre mood, very softly.Shylock shows his supreme hate for Antonio by means of rejecting offers of three times the original amount of money. He even says: ‘If every ducat.

..I would have my bond’ by saying that he has told that he doesn’t care about money. He only wants revenge.

He is almost acting like an infant who is determined to get what he wants. Therefore he could deliver those lines very persistently.I enjoyed this play enormously. Mainly because of all the twists and loopholes involved in the story. I feel that seeing everything turning out well was quite impossible at one stage and Shakespeare still managed to find a way.

This shows his absolute brilliance.