Merchant of Venice Tests by trinidadc

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									THE AMERICAN SHAKESPEARE CENTER 2007-2008 Season Study Guides

The Merchant of Venice

The following materials were compiled by the Education and Research Department of the American Shakespeare Center. Special acknowledgement to: Colleen Kelly, Director of Education and Research; Ralph Cohen, ASC Executive Founding Director and Director of Mission; Jim Warren, ASC Artistic Director; Jay McClure, Associate Artistic Director; Sarah Henley, Education Program Manager; Audrey Guengerich-Baylor, Henrico County Schools; ASC Actors and Staff: Ellen Adair, Josh Carpenter, Ben Curns, Allison Glenzer, Susan Heyward, Ginna Hoben, Aaron Hochhalter, Lesley Larsen, David Loar, Jan Knightley, Greg Phelps, Paul Reisman, Elizabeth Rodgers, Christopher Salazar, Chris Seiler; Education Artists: Sybille Bruun, Jesse Manson; and ASC Interns: Andrew Blasenak, Chelsea Collier, Sara Landis, Lauren Mignono, Solomon Romney and David Techman.


• • Based on baptismal records, most biographers agree that William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. William, the son of wealthy shop owner John Shakespeare, received a traditional education: up to ten hours a day studying grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Later in his schooling, Shakespeare also studied Greek and Latin on a daily basis. Although we have little proof of Shakespeare’s academic career, the plays are evidence enough that Shakespeare was well versed in the language passed down from the ancient classicists. In 1582, when he was eighteen, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. He had three children: Susanna and twins Judith and Hamnet. Although no conclusive documentation remains about his whereabouts between 1582 and 1594, we do know that by 1590 Shakespeare had left his family in Stratford and was living in London. Throughout history, theatre companies have seldom enjoyed a good reputation. In early 16th Century England, actors and their companies were thought of as lazy and dishonest: o lazy because plays were performed during the day, which meant that a percentage of those attending were “absent without leave” from work; o dishonest because an actor on stage was pretending to be someone he was not, which meant that he was lying. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, however, there was a growing interest in play-going, so actors were given the right to organize themselves into troupes under the protection of a royal patron or sponsor. Shakespeare’s troupe secured the patronage of the Lord Chamberlain, therefore they became known as The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Patronage changed after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. During the reign of James I, and continuing to 1642 when the Puritans closed the theatres, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men were recognized favorites of the crown and known as The King’s Men. Shakespeare often visited Stratford and bought a house there for his family. His son Hamnet died in 1596 at the age of eleven, possibly of the plague. At the age of 47 in 1611, Shakespeare retired to Stratford, ending his tenure as a resident writer and actor with the company he helped form. William Shakespeare died on his birthday on April 23, 1616. His wife, Anne, lived until the age of sixty-seven. His two surviving children, Susanna and Judith, both married but left no family. Although Shakespeare’s family tree ended, his plays continue to carry his memory, and will do so well into the future. Shakespeare wrote 37-39 plays, 154 sonnets, and contributed over 2,000 words to the English language. Today his plays are performed in many languages including German, Russian, French, and Japanese. As Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare once wrote, “…he was not for an age, but for all time!”








1. In Shakespeare’s day, attending a play was an exciting community event. While waiting for the play to begin and during intermission, audiences would eat, drink, visit with friends, and enjoy specialty acts featuring jugglers, clowns, dancers, and musicians. At the Blackfriars today, we offer the same kind of experience during our pre-show and intermission entertainments. If you want to join in the pre-show fun, arrive up to a half hour early. During intermission there will be more entertainment, but this is also the time when you can stretch your legs, use the restroom, and purchase souvenirs and refreshments (no outside food or drink allowed). At most modern theatres you are asked not to bring food or drink back in the theatre with you, but this is permitted at the Blackfriars. 2. In Shakespeare’s day, plays were performed in the middle of the afternoon either outdoors under the afternoon sun or indoors under candlelight. This means that the actors could see the audience, the audience could see the actors, and the members of the audience could see each other. At the Blackfriars today, we perform with the lights on. As an audience member, you feel like you are in the same room with the actors—like you are actually part of the play. This is very different from seeing something at the cinema or in a theatre where the actors are lit and the audience sits in the dark. You get the feeling that at any moment the actors might start talking with you, and sometimes they will. 3. In Shakespeare’s day, there wasn’t such a pronounced division between the actors and the audience. The theatres were small, and audience members sat close to the stage. Sometimes, in theatres like the Globe, they stood around the stage in the pit. At other theatres they could sit on the stage itself. At the Blackfriars today, there are many different places to sit (for some performances this means different prices). Wherever you sit, let the action of the play draw you in. We have benches that can be occupied as is or, for comfort, can include cushions and seat backs. There are Lord’s Chairs and on-stage Gallant Stools very close to the action, and upper balcony seating which may require you to lean forward to look over the rail. Do be considerate, however, of others who are also trying to see. 4. In Shakespeare’s day, there were no electronic devices. At the Blackfriars today, no electronic devices should be used by the audience during the performance. Please don’t take pictures during the show. If you have cell phones, video games, CD players, walkmans, or MP3 players please turn them off so that they don’t distract the other audience members or the actors. No text messaging during the performance. Remember, this is a live event, so don’t be a distraction. Part of your role as an audience member is to make sure that seeing a play is an enjoyable community event for everyone in attendance. 5. In Shakespeare’s day, the audience often changed seats, mingled, and walked in and out of the theatre (much like a modern sporting event), but they always knew what was going on in the play—they knew the score. Who’d want to miss the best part? The swordfight, the kiss, the bawdy joke…a new word that Shakespeare invented. At the Blackfriars today, you may leave the theatre during intermissions and interlude entertainments. Return to your seat before the play resumes--you don’t want to miss the best part (or perhaps the part that might be on your exam). Unless it is an emergency, do not leave the theatre during the play itself.


6. In Shakespeare’s day, plays were meant to be seen and heard rather than read. In comparison to today, Elizabethans spent more time speaking and listening to language rather than reading and writing language. Figures of speech, for example, were more than a dramatic writing tool; they were meant to be spoken. At the Blackfriars today, actors create stories through speaking words and embodying actions. Attending a play is different than reading a play. We invite you to experience the play through listening, seeing, feeling, thinking and imagining. Even if you know you are going to have to write a paper or take a test about the play, don’t take notes and stay in your brain. If you do, you really haven’t experienced what it’s like to attend a play. 7. In Shakespeare’s day, audiences were asked to use their imagination. There certainly were theatrical events that used elaborate and expensive technical elements, but Shakespeare’s plays keep scenery, props, costumes, lighting and special effects to a minimum. Instead of a cast of thousands, Shakespeare’s actors played multiple roles— including young men playing all the female parts. At the Blackfriars today, you will also need to use your imagination. Shakespeare’s words are as powerful today as they were four hundred years ago. They tell stories that engage and challenge all of the senses. We limit technical elements so Shakespeare’s words can shine. Music and sound effects are always created live and in the moment of the action. Actors play multiple roles and often those roles are cross-gender cast. 8. In Shakespeare’s day, people loved talking about where they’d been, what they’d seen, who they saw, and what they thought about the plays—they voiced their likes and dislikes about the story and the actors. At the Blackfriars today, you will have an opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes. After the show you can talk with the actors about the story of the play, the characters, the actor’s process, and anything else you might want to know about theatre, Shakespeare, or the American Shakespeare Center.

“The Laughing Audience” by William Hogarth, 1733. Note the lighted sconces that permit socializing and a more communal response to the show. The man at the far right on the second row, for example, appears to be laughing at the laughter of his fellow audience members, while the gentleman in the row above is clearly annoyed with the shenanigans going on behind him.


In 2001 the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theatre, opened its doors to the public. To commemorate this historic occasion, Shenandoah Shakespeare (now the American Shakespeare Center) published Blackfriars Playhouse, a series of short essays by internationally renowned scholars about the history, construction, and function of the London and Staunton Blackfriars, as well as the companies that called them home. The following excerpt by Andrew Gurr, Professor of English at the University of Reading in England and former Director of Research at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, is from that collection:

The story of the original Blackfriars is a chapter—or rather a book—of accidents, a large volume that tells us about the evolution of London’s first theatres. It is a story that runs alongside and ahead of Shakespeare’s Globe. The Blackfriars was built in 1596, three years earlier than the Globe, and if Shakespeare’s company had been allowed to use the Playhouse immediately, they would never have bothered to build the open-air theatre. Despite the depiction in Shakespeare In Love of Queen Elizabeth attending the Rose Theatre, it was the Blackfriars that received the first-ever visit by a reigning queen; Henrietta Maria, Charles I’s French spouse, went four times to see a play at the Blackfriars. By the 1620s and 1630s the Blackfriars had become the place for England’s high and mighty to see the best plays, in the best society, complete with sea-coal braziers in the boxes alongside the stage to keep them warm. The Lord Chamberlain himself, the Privy Councillor responsible for plays and court entertainment, had a personal key to one of the boxes beside the Blackfriars stage. After the long closure of theatres between 1642 and the restoration of a king in 1660, it was the idea of the indoor Blackfriars that lived on rather than Shakespeare’s Globe. The Blackfriars’s chief imitator, the Cockpit, even reopened briefly during the Restoration for use as a playhouse, but by then the need for the French type of theatre— with a proscenium arch and a picture-frame stage—made the new players close off the boxes and tiers above the stage, leaving the theatre’s capacity so small that it could not thrive. Only now, 405 years after it was first created, and 392 years since Shakespeare’s company first started to use it, can the original Blackfriars once again come into its own, as the best playhouse of Shakespeare’s time.
--Andrew Gurr

At the end of each school matinee performance at the Blackfriars Theatre, the audience will have the opportunity to meet a few of the actors and ask questions. During this twenty minute session, actors will be glad to discuss a range of topics. They enjoy sharing their ideas about plot points and character relationships. You can also ask them about costumes, props, or other elements that might not be in the written script, yet are important to the performance. Perhaps you would like to know about the rehearsal process or how an individual actor made a specific choice about a character. You may ask behind-the-scenes questions and discover how a quick change of clothes was handled or a sound effect was made. Curious about the life of an actor? Go ahead and ask about how they got their start, where they studied, or what other roles they’ve played. This is your time to find out anything you want to know about the play, the actors, theatre, and the Blackfriars.


By following the basic principles of Renaissance theatrical production, the American Shakespeare Center gives its audiences some of the pleasures that an Elizabethan playgoer would have enjoyed. Universal Lighting Shakespeare's actors could see their audience; ASC actors can see you. When an actor can see an audience, they can engage with an audience. And audience members can play the roles that Shakespeare wrote for them-Cleopatra's court, Henry V's army, or simply the butt of innumerable jokes. Leaving an audience in the dark can literally obscure a vital part of the drama as Shakespeare designed it. Doubling Shakespeare's Macbeth has more than forty parts; Shakespeare's traveling troupe may have had fewer than fifteen actors. Like the Renaissance acting companies, the ASC doubles parts, with one actor playing as many as seven roles in a single show. Watching actors play more than one role, an audience can experience another aspect of Elizabethan playgoing - the delight of watching a favorite actor assume multiple roles. Gender Because women didn't take to the English stage until after the Restoration (1660), all the women in Shakespeare's plays were originally played by young boys or men. Shakespeare had a great deal of fun with this convention. In a production of As You Like It in 1600, a boy would have played Rosalind, who disguises herself as a boy, then pretends to be a woman. Let's review: that's a boy playing a woman disguised as a boy pretending to be a woman. Because we are committed to the idea that Shakespeare is about everyone - male and female – the ASC is not an all-male company, but we try to re-create some of the fun of gender confusions by casting women as men and men as women. Length We cannot know the precise running time of a Shakespeare play in the Renaissance, but the Chorus in Romeo and Juliet promises "two hours' traffic of our stage." The ASC tries to fulfill this promise through brisk pacing and a continuous flow of dramatic action, often without an intermission. Sets Shakespeare's company performed on a large wooden platform unadorned by fixed sets or scenery. A few large pieces thrones, tombs, tables - were occasionally used to ornament a scene. The ASC will sometimes use set pieces (and/or boxes) to indicate location and, like Shakespeare's company, we use these items to spark the audience's imagination to "piece out our imperfections with [their] minds." Costuming Costuming was important to the theatre companies of Shakespeare's day for three reasons. First, the frequently lavish costumes provided fresh color and designs for the theatres, which otherwise did not change from show to show. Second, costumes made it easy to use one actor in a variety of roles. Third, as they do now, costumes helped an audience "read" the play quickly by showing them at a glance who was rich or poor, royalty or peasantry, priest or cobbler, ready for bed or ready to party, "in" or "out." Costumes are important to the ASC in the same way. But costumes were NOT important to Shakespeare and his fellows as a way of showing what life used to be like in a particular historical period. They performed Julius Caesar, for example, in primarily Elizabethan (not ancient Roman) garb. For them, as for us, the play always spoke to the present. That's why we use costumes that speak to our audiences in the most familiar language possible while staying consistent with the words in the play. Music Shakespeare had a soundtrack. Above the stage, musicians played an assortment of string, wind, and percussion instruments before, during, and after the play. The plays are sprinkled with songs for which lyrics, but not much of the music, survive. The ASC sets many of these songs in contemporary style. The result is emblematic of our approach - a commitment to Shakespeare's text and to the mission of connecting that text to modern audiences


This study guide packet has been created to accompany the productions in the current season at The American Shakespeare Center. Each play has its own separate guide with a number of resources, activities, and assignments created specifically for that play, offering a broad range of materials for you to choose from as you plan your classes. Please feel free to reproduce these pages as needed. Some activities and assignments can be completed after reading the text of the play while others are based on specific choices in the ASC productions. Most activities can be adapted to serve either individual or group assignments. Answer keys appear at the end of each guide. The following is a list of the materials you will find in the study guide for each play. Stuff That Happens In the Play This is a description of the major events in the play to help guide students through general plot points. Who’s Who This is a list of the characters in the play, along with a short description of who they are and what they do. Director’s Notes This is a short essay written by the director of each ASC production for the season program, in which they give their thoughts on the play. Discovery Space Scavenger Hunt These simple questions are to be used in conjunction with the ASC performance. Before attending the play, teachers should assign each student one of the twenty questions to help them become more active viewers at the performance. Rhetoric and Figures of Speech This section focuses on the use of language in the play. Examples of a particular rhetorical device or linguistic feature in the text are followed by an activity that relates to the particular rhetorical device or figure of speech. Viewpoints This section of the guide contains activities and information built around a particular aspect of each play. A short examination of a theme or topic is followed with a related assignment. ShakesFEAR Activity These classroom teaching ploys are excerpts from ASC Co-founder and Executive Director Ralph Alan Cohen’s book ShakesFEAR and How to Cure It. Cohen developed these activities to help overcome students’ feelings of intimidation toward Shakespeare’s plays. ABC’s This is a fill-in-the-blank assignment that tests students’ knowledge of the text. Answers can be drawn from a word bank containing twenty-six words related to the play, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. Crossword Puzzles The study guide contains a crossword puzzle for each play with answers taken from the text. Actors’ Choice These thoughts and observations made by ASC actors about their performance choices can either be used as prompts for written responses or classroom discussion. Staging Challenges This section will help students to examine how technical aspects of the production tell the story of the play, and prompts them to consider what unique challenges they might face if they were to stage an original practices production of the play. Crossing the Curriculum These activities will help students examine various aspects of the play as they pertain to non-theatre and non-language standards. Quizzes and Essay Questions Each study guide contains one or more quizzes that teachers can use to test their students knowledge of the play, as well as prompts for essays in response to the production and the text. Answer Keys are available to teachers through emailing








IN VENICE: Antonio, a rich merchant Scot Carson Bassanio, his friend and suitor to Portia Josh Carpenter Shylock, a rich Jewish moneylender Christopher Seiler Jessica, his daughter Alisa Ledyard Tubal, his friend Daniel Kennedy

FRIENDS OF ANTONIO AND BASSANIO: Gratiano Evan Hoffmann Lorenzo, in love with Jessica Paul Reisman Salerio, a merchant Chris Johnston Solonio, a merchant Raffi Barsoumian Launcelot Gobbo, servant to Shylock Daniel Kennedy and later Bassanio Duke of Venice Ginna Hoben

IN BELMONT: Portia, a rich heiress Ellen Adair Nerissa, Portia’s gentlewoman Ginna Hoben and confidant Prince of Morocco, suitor to Portia Raffi Barsoumian Prince of Arragon, suitor to Portia Paul Reisman Balthazar, servant to Portia Evan Hoffmann

DIRECTOR Assistant Directors Costume Designer Costumer

PJ PAPARELLI Aaron Hochhalter, Jesse Young Jenny McNee Erin M. West



STUFF THAT HAPPENS… Stuff that happens in the play...
• Antonio, “the merchant of Venice,” is sad; his friends try to cheer him up. Bassanio, Antonio’s closest friend, asks Antonio for financial help in wooing Portia, the rich heiress of Belmont. Antonio’s “fortunes are at sea,” so he cannot provide Bassanio with cash, but he agrees to “inquire where money is” and leaves with Bassanio to find somebody who will loan him the money. • Portia and Nerissa lament the “lottery” provision in the will of Portia’s dead father: a potential suitor must choose between three caskets; the suitor who chooses the correct casket, which contains a portrait of Portia, wins Portia’s hand. Suitors risk much: “if [they] choose wrong never to speak to lady afterward in way of marriage.” Portia and Nerissa then mock the suitors who have already come courting. • Bassanio and Antonio ask Shylock, a rich Jewish moneylender, for a loan of three thousand ducats. Shylock offers to lend the money under the condition that, if Antonio is unable to pay back the appointed amount on the appointed day, Antonio must forfeit a pound of his “fair flesh.” Antonio agrees. • The Prince of Morocco arrives in Belmont to woo Portia. • Launcelot Gobbo decides to leave the service of Shylock and becomes Bassanio’s servant. • Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, says goodbye to Launcelot and makes plans to elope with Lorenzo, a Christian friend to Antonio and Bassanio. • The Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Arragon choose caskets. • Shylock discovers that his daughter has eloped with a Christian and that Antonio's ships will not arrive in time to repay the loan; Shylock decides that he will demand the pound of flesh promised to him in Antonio's bond. • Bassanio arrives in Belmont, chooses a casket, and his friends from Venice arrive in Belmont to tell Bassanio that Shylock is demanding a pound of flesh from Antonio. • Marriages, disguises, judgments, and things with rings ensue.



Antonio- A rich merchant, father to Jessica. When Bassanio tells him that he wants to wed Portia and how he needs money to be a viable suitor, Antonio takes a loan of 3,000 ducats on his own credit with Shylock while he waits the arrival (and income) from his several ships abroad. When his ships are presumably lost and the loan comes due, Antonio’s life is in danger. Bassanio- Close friend to Antonio and suitor to Portia. He accepts Antonio’s kind assistance and is able to pass the test that determines Portia’s husband. As soon as he hears that Antonio’s ships have wrecked, he tries tirelessly to save him. Shylock- A rich Jew living in Venice who is willing to loan money to Antonio, also master to Launcelot Gobbo and father to Jessica. When Antonio comes to him for a loan, Shylock asks for a pound of Antonio’s flesh as collateral. When Antonio can’t pay on time, Shylock is determined to get his collateral. Portia- A rich young lady of Belmont, later Bassanio’s wife. Her late father set up a lottery that tests each of her suitors. After many suitors fail the test, Bassanio attempts the test and wins Portia as his wife. She tries to help Antonio by disguising herself as a lawyer in their court hearing. Nerissa- Portia’s maid and confidante, later Gratiano’s wife. She comforts and cheers Portia throughout the suitors’ wooing and falls in love with Bassiano’s friend, Gratiano, in the meantime. She later serves as Portia’s clerk in the courtroom scene. Gratiano- A friend of Antonio and Bassanio. He goes with Bassanio to woo Portia and there falls in love with Nerissa. He stands with Bassanio in trying to help Antonio at trial. Lorenzo- Another friend of Antonio and Bassanio, and husband to Jessica. Lorenzo elopes with Jessica and they visit Portia’s house at Belmont. Portia asks Lorenzo to watch over her house while she’s gone. Jessica- Shylock’s daughter. She steals her father’s money, runs away and marries Lorenzo. Launcelot Gobbo- Servant to Shylock, later to Bassanio. He hates Shylock and vows to leave his service. He runs into Bassanio and convinces him to take him as a servant. Salanio, Salarino, and Salario- friends of Antonio and Bassanio. The Duke of Venice presides trial and gives the final sentences. Prince of Morocco- Suitor to Portia. He attempts the lottery, but fails. Prince of Aragon- Another suitor. He attempts the lottery, but fails. Old Gobbo- Launcelot’s blind father who puts in a good word for his son with Lorenzo. (Does not appear in this production) Tubal- A friend of Shylock. He searches for news of Jessica and tells Shylock that Antonio’s ships are lost. The Clerk reads the courtroom the letter announcing Portia’s arrival. Balthasar- Portia’s servant. He aids in Portia’s plan to help Antonio. (Portia also assumes the name of Balthasar when she posses as a lawyer) Stephano- Another servant of Portia. Leonoardo- Bassanio’s servant.



Love, Hate, and Commerce
Our approach to this production of The Merchant of Venice at the American Shakespeare Center stems from two aspects of Shakespeare’s profound and unparalleled talent: his keen observation of human behavior and his sensitivity to the social and political consciousness of the world around him. We wanted to explore both the artist’s personal journey, reflected in his characters, as well as his social commentary on modern England. Penned among the complex comedies of Much Ado about Nothing, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It, Merchant combines the maturation of romantic coupling with a deep-seated darkness that dangerously affects the characters’ ability to judge. But before we began to connect to the characters, we needed to be clear about the social commentary. I began with the ambiguous title; it refers to a merchant, one who participates in commerce. Commerce is at the heart of almost every interaction in the play; it is often mistaken for or masked under the guise of love. Between all of the relationships in the play there is a gray area between commerce and love that clouds intent. In addition, Shakespeare specifically sets the play in Venice, the center of commerce in the Elizabethan world. The characters are inescapably surrounded by the gains and losses of business transaction. I kept asking myself, “If money is at the heart of this community, how does this affect the lives of the people who live there? What would they do for money? And what does money do to them?” Just below the surface of Shakespeare’s mercantile society lies an all too familiar undercurrent of hate. Although Elizabethan England was saturated with an openly racist and anti-Semitic point of view, Shakespeare aims its release during business transactions. There is no reason for these characters to hate each other, except for their competition in business. Healthy bartering turns to religious attacks in an instant. As with any bigoted mentality, they stop realizing there is a human across from them. All they see is what is different from them, and that must be wrong. Along with the timelessness of romance, friendship, and sacrifice, Shakespeare observes a society that perpetually attacks what it does not understand. Whether we say it out loud or think it in our heads it is there. When we judge from the outside we continually find ourselves taking less and less time to understand the true value of another person. We take one look and place an uninformed value on someone. If it takes too long to understand, we dismiss it. Shakespeare pits our human capacity for love and hate together in his world of commercial transaction. Just as we can have sympathy for Shylock, we can also find Portia distasteful. Once again, he is holding the mirror up to nature, and we don’t always like what we see. As you may know, the American Shakespeare Center has a wonderfully focused canvas on which to paint. These guidelines have created much of the world of this production. As in Shakespeare’s time, we have an ensemble of performers who have taken elements of their contemporary world in order to tell a story about a world far from their own. Just as Shakespeare’s company would have taken costumes and props from his world, so has this company from ours. The play is not modernized; the story, the characters, the place is entirely Elizabethan. However, the world that we have mined to tell this story is our own: contemporary America. Along with our talent and love of Shakespeare, the artists involved all have one thing in common: we are fueled with a passion to tell this story. Just as Shakespeare has done with The Merchant of Venice, we are commenting on the world around us with the hope that our two-hours traffic will effect some small change in the world today.

PJ Paparelli, Director



Discovery Space [di-skuhv-uh-ree speys], n. 1. The
curtained area at the upstage center portion of an Elizabethan stage where something is revealed to or discovered by characters or audiences.

Instructions to Teacher: Shortly before attending the ASC performance of The Merchant of Venice, assign each student one question from the following list for which to discover the answer as they watch the production. 1. What covers the two tables onstage? 2. How many bottles does Gratiano carry in the first scene? 3. What does the Prince of Morocco carry that frightens Portia and her household? 4. What does Jessica prevent Launcelot from taking upon his departure from her household? 5. Which character wears a different-shaped mask? 6. What does Launcelot give to Jessica for Lorenzo? 7. What color(s) neckties do Bassanio, Gratiano, Lorenzo (and their friends), and Jessica wear? 8. What instrument is played when Morocco chooses his casket? 9. On what prop does Nerissa present the keys to the caskets? 10. What article of clothing do all of Portia’s suitors wear? 11. In court, which characters do NOT wear robes? 12. What does Gratiano do to Shylock’s yarmulke upon leaving court? 13. How many times does a coin (or coins) fall to the floor throughout the performance? 14. What color is Graziano’s sweater? 15. Who sings while Bassanio selects a casket? 16. What item does Aragon remove from the casket? 17. When Lorenzo and Jessica run away, which character first carries the lantern? 18. Name one of the two instruments used during Bassanio’s casket selection. 19. Which actor begins the song “One”? 20. What does Antonio throw at Jessica’s feet?
In case you were wondering A yarmulke [yahr-muh l-kuh, yah-muh l-kuh] is a head covering worn by Jewish men during religious ceremonies or, in some orders, daily life.




Rhetoric [ret-er-ik], n. 1. The art or science of all specialized literary uses of language in prose or verse, including the figures of speech. 2. The study of the effective use of language. 3. The ability to use language effectively.

Through the use of rhetorical devices (or figures of speech), Shakespeare provides a map to help an actor figure out how to play a character and communicate the story of the play to the audience. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare uses rhetorical questions in Shylock’s famous speech to create a line of logic leading to revenge through pointing out what all humans have in common. Rhetorical Question: a question asked for any reason other than to get an answer. Sometimes the answer is obvious or implied and sometimes the answer is provided by the person asking the question. Activity 1: Read the following passage. How many questions does Shylock ask? Identify the questions to which Shylock provides an answer. Now identify the questions that he does not answer. What is the implied answer to these questions? Re-read the passage taking time to insert the implied answers. When you reach the line “and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” try the following variations of how Shylock might imply an answer: answer the question with “yes”, answer the question with “no”, answer the question with silence. How do these variations change how Shylock continues to the end of the speech? SALARINO Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh: what's that good for? To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath



not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. ACTIVITY 2 Rhetorical questions can be personal, such as when we ask ourselves questions about our destiny (Why me?) or behavior (Where did I put my keys?). They also serve important functions in several professional fields: • Courtrooms: look at the trial scene (Act 4, scene 1) and identify any rhetorical questions you find. In contrast, what questions are begging for an answer? • Give additional courtroom examples from real or fictional trials. • Advertising: find examples from TV, radio, newspapers, or magazines • Political campaign speeches: find examples from three different candidates



It is said that plays are a mirror to nature, that storylines and character behavior can reflect the inner and outer world of societies and individuals. It is important to note, however, that although the written text of a play is fixed to a particular time in history, the actors who perform the play and the audience who gaze in the mirror are not. What ever is happening at a particular time in history, place in the world, or moment in our life influences the view. It is for this reason that plays such as The Merchant of Venice, Othello and The Taming of the Shrew can provoke much controversy. Through what moment in time, through what society, and through whose eyes should we look out from or in to the play? And for what purpose? Clifford Williams, director of the 1965 Royal Shakespeare production of The Merchant of Venice even raises the question of whether the play should be performed at all when he notes: “It is often suggested that a closed season should be declared on some of Shakespeare’s plays, and The Merchant of Venice would probably qualify for early inclusion”. ACTIVITY (for groups or individuals) • The Artistic Director of a theatre company is considering including The Merchant of Venice in the upcoming season and has asked your advice. Supported by research, provide ten reasons why this is not a good idea and ten reasons why it is a good idea. The following will help you get started: Research the production history of The Merchant of Venice. Give examples of how the date of a performance may have influenced how it was performed and received. Why should or shouldn’t the play be performed today? Research the two schools of thought about Shylock as a villain and Shylock as a victim. Does one school of thought provide a stronger reason for producing or not producing the play? Research director notes (program notes), reviews of productions, and actors who have played the role of Shylock to discover a variety of points of view about approaching the play and the character. Research anti-Semitism. Find organizations that offer guidelines for addressing issues of bias, prejudice, defamation, and tolerance. Does a decision to produce the play carry any additional responsibility with it? Is a decision not to produce the play a form of banning or censorship? Is anti-Semitism the only controversial issue in the play that needs to be considered?



(adapted from Ralph Alan Cohen’s book, ShakesFEAR and How to Cure It)

Tipping off Bassanio.
Portia may be bound by her father’s will to take the man who chooses the right casket, but she does not appear bound to play fair. Though she may have been at the mercy of chance when Morocco and Aragon were choosing caskets, she does not stand helplessly by when Bassanio is making his choice. She gives him clues. As Shakespeare twice before informs us, the lead casket—the right casket—bears the inscription, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath” (II, vii, 16). In her opening line to Bassanio before he makes his selection, she identifies the casket by saying the key word: “pause for a day or two / before you hazard . . .” (III, ii, 1-2). And while he is choosing between the three caskets, she sings—as she has not before—a song whose first three lines end with a rhyme of “lead” (“bred,” “head,” and “nourished”) and asks for a “reply.” But these are merely the hints we can see in the text; let your students explore how many other “silent” ways Portia could help Bassanio to find the right casket. To do that, 1. Choose a Bassanio and send him out of the room. 2. Arrange three boxes in front of the room (your class will benefit from a discussion of the best theatrical arrangement of the boxes). Differentiate the boxes in some way—number them, put pictures on them, color them, make them different sizes, &c. 3. Put booby prizes in two of the boxes and a real prize in the third (your students can enjoy choosing “treasures” that accord with Shakespeare’s inscriptions). 4. Choose a Portia and instruct her to do all she can—without making a sound or gesturing to the correct box in any way—to help her Bassanio make the right choice. A variation on this game is to let her sing a song of her choice (she may not change the words) while her Bassanio is choosing. Her classmates may disqualify her if she chooses lyrics that are too specific (for example, if you have numbered the boxes, she cannot sing “One Is a Lonely Number”). 5. Call your Bassanio back into the room and give him one or two minutes to make the right choice. Repeat this exercise using several pairs of students (each Portia finds new ways to cheat, and of course the real prize would not necessarily stay in the same box), and then let your students discuss the value of each solution. How does it work theatrically? How does it work to characterize the two lovers? Might an actor playing Portia use any of those choices? If she or he did use those choices, how would they fit with the text? With the other things we know about Portia and Bassanio in the rest of the play?



1. Shylock’s bond calls for a pound of Antonio’s ______ if Bassanio cannot repay the loan. 2. Portia’s gentlewoman. _____ 3. Portia tells Bassanio she wishes she were “______ times myself” to better deserve him (answer given in Roman numerals). 4. As part of his pardon from Antonio, Shylock must give up Judaism and become a ______. 5. This man marries Nerissa. _____ 6. Portia says that, when she portrays a man, she will “tell _____ lies” of women who sought her love. 7. Shylock asks this man, a member of his tribe, to help furnish Bassanio with his money. _____ 8. Jessica and Lorenzo ______ while Shylock is at Bassanio’s house for dinner. 9. Shylock leaves these with Jessica, with orders to lock up the house. _____ 10. Portia and Nerissa make their husbands swear an ______ never to remove their rings. 11. Most of the play’s action takes place in this city. _____ 12. Graziano takes Nerissa as his ______ on the same day Bassanio takes Portia. 13. This suitor chooses the silver casket. _____ 14. Bassanio borrows three thousand ______ from Shylock. 15. This shines so brightly, Nerissa and Portia almost miss the candlelight from the house. _____ 16. Portia argues that had Bassanio defended his ring “with any terms of ______,” the doctor would not have taken it. 17. Portia poses as a ______ in court to save Antonio. 18. Portia’s father devised a ______ system to find her a husband. 19. When Shylock grants the bond, Antonio snidely remarks “The ______ will turn Christian: he grows kind.” 20. A place in the city where Antonio has often insulted Shylock. _____ 21. Portia’s suitors must agree to remain ______ forever if they fail to choose the correct casket. 22. One of the countries where Antonio’s ventures failed. _____ 23. Portia uses a loophole in Shylock’s bond, punishing him if he draws one drop of Antonio’s ______. 24. Antonio’s investments were carried in these vessels, all lost at sea. _____ 25. Portia’s suitors will know they have chosen correctly if they find her ______ in the casket. 26. After protesting at length, Bassanio and Graziano reluctantly ______ their rings to the doctor and his clerk.

a. Aragon b. blood c. Christian d. ducats e. elope

f. flesh g. Graziano h. Hebrew i. India j. judge

k. keys l. lottery m. moon n. Nerissa o. oath

p. portrait q. quaint r. Rialto s. ships t. Tubal

u. unwed v. Venice w. wife x. XX y. yield

z. zeal






Ellen Adair – Portia in ASC’s The Merchant of Venice
Responds to the question, “How do you imagine Portia's relationship with her late father?” “I’ve made the decision that I did not have a very close relationship to my father, but the reasons for that do not entirely come from I.ii (Portia’s first scene). Portia’s maturity and independence are traits that may have blossomed in the wake of her father’s death, but I think these qualities are more deeply ingrained. Many provisions were clearly made for me regarding my education, and I don’t doubt that my father set parameters for my upbringing, but it seems that I grew up learning to take charge of myself.”

Ellen Adair – Portia in ASC’s The Merchant of Venice
Responds to the question, “How does Portia's relationship with her late father affect her feelings about the lottery?” “I feel a great deal of frustration in the first scene. It’s bad enough that I am unable to have my own will in the most important decision of my life, and that my fate is subjected to a kind of ridiculous game show trick where any fool has a 33.3% chance of winning me and setting the course of my life, but that a rule from the grave should hold such sway over life seems most unjust. However, I’m clearly able to come to a point of reckoning with this situation during the scene, so it’s helpful to imagine that I did love my father, and can put a certain amount of faith in his desire to do his best for me. My frustration comes from his posthumous control, rather than because I disliked my father.”

Paul Reisman – Lorenzo in ASC’s The Merchant of Venice
Responds to the question, “What would you like the audiences to take away regarding Lorenzo and Jessica’s relationship?” “I'd like audiences to take away the idea that relationships take work to last. Lorenzo and Jessica are young and get excited very fast, and rush into things. But there is a genuine attraction there, and a love between them. In all relationships there comes a point, I think, where you see people for who they really are, after the glow of first excitement passes. And then there comes a choice to stay and work things out. And Lorenzo stays. And tries. I think he cares for her and wants things to work. It will take time and patience, but it'll be worth it.”


Chris Seiler – Shylock in ASC’s The Merchant of Venice
Responds to the question: “Does awareness of the controversy surrounding Merchant [of Venice] effect your portrayal of Shylock?” “…As a non-Jewish actor playing an iconic figure such as Shylock, I have to realize that any choice I make may be viewed as commentary rather then character. It’s not an easy situation to be in. So I guess the answer to the question is yes, in that initially it was necessary for me to consider the big picture and to understand the responsibility I would be carrying, and no, in that I can only trust that Shakespeare’s words, the director’s vision and my instincts as an actor will allow me to portray a flawed human being in a way that will tell a clear story and cause the audience to question human nature.”

1. Ellen Adair talks about how she views Portia’s relationship with her father. Seeing that the lottery he created is a form of an arranged marriage, in what way do you see this as an act of love by her father and in what way might it be viewed as a cruelty? How does Portia find ways to control her destiny within the conditions of the will? 2. Paul Reisman observes that there comes a time in a relationship when “you see people for what they are.” Through Lorenzo’s eyes, consider the several acts of deception and betrayal executed by Jessica and explain how he might view this behavior is admirable and how he might view it as dishonest. 3. Chris Seiler states that Shylock is flawed. In the tradition of dramatic tragedy, a protagonist has a tragic flaw—a character trait that brings the character to ruin or sorrow. What is Shylock’s tragic flaw? If the play would have been written with a different focus, what would you identify as a potential tragic flaw in other characters? Give three examples.

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Belmont and Venice
The action of The Merchant of Venice takes place in two cities: Belmont and Venice. In fact, the two locations switch with almost every scene: Act I Scene 1. Venice. A street. Scene 2. Belmont. A room in Portia’s house. Scene 3. Venice. A public place. Act II Scene 1. Belmont. A room in Portia’s house. Scene 2. Venice. A street. Scene 3. The same. A room in Shylock’s house. Scene 4. The same. A street. Scene 5. The same. Before Shylock’s house. Scene 6. The same. Scene 7. Belmont. A room in Portia’s house. Scene 8. Venice. A street. Scene 9. Belmont. A room in Portia’s house. Act III Scene 1. Venice. A street. Scene 2. Belmont. A room in Portia’s house. Scene 3. Venice. A street. Scene 4. Belmont. A room in Portia’s house. Scene 5. The same. A garden. Act IV Scene 1. Venice. A court of justice. Scene 2. The same. A street. Act V Scene 1. Belmont. Avenue to Portia’s house.

Part 1
In a contemporary production, the designer might signal a change-of-location to the audience by changing a few pieces of scenery or even the entire set. 1. Using the above chart, count how many times the scene would need to be changed … a. counting only the times when the city is changed (ie. Belmont vs. Venice) b. counting every time the location changes slightly (Venetian street to Venetian house, Venetian street to Belmont house, etc.). 2. Assuming it would take at least 30 seconds to change the set each time, figure how much time a director or designer would add to the play by: a. having a set change between each city-change b. having a set change between each slight location-change.

Part 2
During Shakespeare’s time, there was no elaborate scenery or sets to change between scenes, making it possible for actors to overlap theirs scenes; while one scene (group of characters) exited one door, another scene (group of characters) could be entering the other door, already talking and beginning the next scene. Not only does this cut out the time needed for even minor set changes, but it cuts out the seconds of “dead space” while the actors leave the stage and the new group of characters arrives on stage. But you may be wondering how an audience might know that the scene has changed when they seem to overlap in such a manner. Playwrights had several conventions at their disposal that audiences would recognize as a signal of the beginning or ending of a scene.



1. BEGINNING A SCENE a. Characters arriving in a new location might tell one another where they are. EXAMPLE (from Twelfth Night) Viola: What country, friends, is this? Captain: This is Illyria, lady. b. Characters arriving in a new location might describe the scene. EXAMPLE (from Titus Andronicus) Titus: The hunt is up, the morn is bright and grey, The fields are fragrant and the woods are green: c. Characters enter from two different locations and meet. EXAMPLE (from Julius Caesar) Cicero: Good even, Casca: brought you Caesar home? Why are you breathless? and why stare you so? 2. ENDING A SCENE a. Scenes might end in a rhyming couplet (AA rhyming format). EXAMPLE (from Romeo and Juliet) Prince Bear hence this body and attend our will: Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill. b. One character tells another to leave or gives an order. EXAMPLE (from The Winter’s Tale) Leontes: Leave me | And think on my bidding. c. One character says what he/she is about to do. EXAMPLE (from Othello) Iago: …Myself the while to draw the Moor apart, And bring him jump when he may Cassio find Soliciting his wife: ay, that's the way Dull not device by coldness and delay. d. And, the most obvious, all of the characters leave the stage

Find examples of at least four of the above scene change clues in the text of The Merchant of Venice. Name three additional ways that Shakespeare’s company could signal the beginning or ending of a scene in The Merchant of Venice without relying on the text (such as the use of costumes, props, music, etc.)



Venetian Trade & Politics
Venetian Trade
At the time Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice, what is now known as Italy had been the leader in nearly every aspect of the Renaissance for centuries; notably art, architecture and trade. Although Genoa was strong in trade on the Western side of modern-day Italy, it could not compare to the sea trade that Venice (then in the Republic of Venice) boasted. The characters of The Merchant of Venice make many references to trade throughout the play, especially where it concerns Antonio’s expected shipment. Activity 1.

2. 3.



The thirty cities listed are the ports of the Venetian trade route. Find and mark 28 cities on the map. (Cities with an * are located outside the range of this map, but you may look at a modern map or search online to discover their relative location.) Connect the Venetian trade route ports. Examine the map of Renaissance Europe and discuss with your class why Venice’s location was so important to trade. Research what goods different locations might have to offer. Name two other ports whose operations might increase Venetian trade or competed with the trade. According to Bassanio, Antonio is expecting ships from Tripolis, Mexico, England, Lisbon, Barbary and India. Find and mark as many of these locations as possible on the map. How many of these ports do not appear on the map in this study guide? Research the locations of these missing ports. In the play, Bassanio says Antonio has ships in India and Shylock says Antonio has ships in the Indies. Distinguish between these two locations. Is this a discrepancy, or can Bassanio and Shylock’s statements both be true? (Note that this trade map represents Venetian trade in 1500, while Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice in 1596.)

The Council of Ten Renaissance Venice was formally lead by a doge (a title similar to the English duke) – elected to a lifetime position by city officials. The Council of Ten, however, held the power and ultimate authority in Venetian politics. The Council of Ten engaged themselves in domestic intelligence on all levels; from seeking out gossip to soliciting formal complaints and suspicions of the citizens. The Council of Ten would investigate a promising situation and deal out their justice quickly and quietly – without trial or appeal. Once a prisoner was found guilty, they were usually executed in any number of gruesome ways: strangulation, hanging, drowning, quartering, beheading or live-burial. While the investigation and interrogations were secretive, the executions (or at least their aftermath) were often anything but; though some prisoners simply “disappeared”, citizens were constantly reminded of The Council of Ten’s power as they encountered either the prisoners’ execution or their gory remains at very public locations. The Council of Ten began in the 14th century and lasted through the fall of the Republic in 1797. 1. In light of social climate uner The Council of Ten’s behavior, what do you now think of Shylock’s request for Antonio’s flesh? 2. How do you think The Council of Ten might have settled the dispute between Antonio and Shylock? 25


Aigues-Mortes Alexandria Almeria Barcelona Beirut* 26

Bruges Cadiz Candia Constantinople Crotone

Famagusta* Gaeta Jerba Lisbon London

Malaga Marseille Melilla Modon Naples

Nice Oran Palma Paphos Piombino

Pisa Rhodes Syracuse Tripoli Valencia

Murray, Chris, ed. Cultural Atlas of the Renaissance. New York: Prentice Hall General Reference, 1993.


Directions: Select the BEST multiple choice answer. 1. Which of the following is NOT one of Antonio’s friends? a. Salanio b. Salerio c. Tubal d. Salarino 2. Why is Antonio unable to pay Shylock on time? a. He gets robbed b. All his ships are lost c. Shylock’s interest rates are too high d. He is able, but unwilling to pay. 3. Which of these is NOT obtained by one of Portia’s suitors? a. A knife b. The right to marry her c. A mirror d. A skull 4. Which casket is the “winning” casket? a. Platinum b. Gold c. Silver d. Lead 5. With whose aid does Portia pose as the magistrate? a. Belerophon b. Bassanio c. The Duke of Venice d. Bellario 6. Where does Portia live? a. Venice b. Mantua c. Belmont d. Sardinia 7. Who is the Merchant of Venice? a. Antonio b. Shylock c. Bassanio d. Lorenzo 8. What kind of animal does Shylock say Antonio has often compared him to? a. A monkey b. A goat c. A cat d. A dog 9. This character does not marry in the play a. Antonio b. Bassanio c. Gratiano d. Lorenzo 10. What do Portia and Nerissa request as thanks for getting Antonio acquitted? a. Additional money b. A share of forfeited lands c. A watch d. Two rings

How does money play a part in all three of the following plot lines in The Merchant of Venice: Antonio and Shylock’s bond, Portia’s caskets/the suitor-lottery and Jessica and Lorenzo’s elopement?


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