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Synopsis The_Merchant_Of_Venice

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					Bell Shakespeare TEACHERS’KIT THE MERCHANT OF VENICE©2006

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TEACHERS’ KIT: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE CONTENTS BELL SHAKESPEARE ABOUT THIS KIT SYNOPSIS BACKGROUND CHARACTERS KEY CHARACTER PROFILES THEMATIC CONCERNS OF THE PLAY MOTIFS SYMBOLS SETTING PRE-PERFORMANCE ACTIVITIES ENGLISH DRAMA CULTURAL POST-PERFORMANCE ACTIVITIES ENGLISH DRAMA CULTURAL REFERENCES 2 3

4 5 6 10 12 16 17 18

19 20 21

22 23 24 25

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BELL SHAKESPEARE
Launched in 1990, Bell Shakespeare is a dynamic, Australian theatre company with a broad mandate to educate and entertain the public. The Company strives to present – at the highest possible standard – the works of William Shakespeare, and, from time to time, other classics. Bell Shakespeare is Australia’s only national touring Shakespeare theatre company. We are committed to taking our productions and education programmes to audiences in capital cities, regional and rural centres across Australia. We are also committed to the development and training of actors and an ongoing examination of the role of theatre in the life of the community. We believe that great theatre is a source of spiritual enrichment, wisdom and pleasure.

BELL ON-LINE
Bell Shakespeare’s education website is useful, relevant and entertaining. www.bellshakespeare.com.au/education is the key to all your Shakespearean information needs.

About This Kit
This kit has been devised for use in English and Drama classes with preparatory and follow-up exercises for students. Exercises are denoted as:

English

Written activities.

Drama

Physical activities.

Cultural
play.

Research and discussion activities associated with cultural content in the

It is requested that teachers take students through the synopsis prior to the performance.

This Teachers’ Kit has been devised by Linda Lorenza, Education Manager at Bell Shakespeare. Linda Lorenza holds BA Grad Dip in English and ESL, COGE (Certificate of Gifted Education) and an MA in Theatre. She has more than ten years classroom teaching experience.

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SYNOPSIS: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Antonio, a wealthy merchant, is, he says, unaccountably deeply miserable, and this is making life tedious for his circle of witty young men friends, Salerio and Solanio, Gratiano, Lorenzo and Bassanio. Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan so he can try for the hand of Portia, a lady so wealthy, beautiful and virtuous that suitors are flocking to her from all over the world. Antonio promises the loan although all his money is invested in his ships at sea. At Bassanio’s request, Antonio borrows the money from Shylock, a wealthy Jewish money-lender. Antonio and Shylock have long despised each other. Instead of charging interest on the loan Shylock proposes a merry bond of a pound of flesh to be cut off Antonio's body if the loan is not repaid within three months. Shylock accepts a dinner invitation from Bassanio to confirm the agreement. While Shylock is out his daughter Jessica, stealing Shylock's money and jewels, elopes with Lorenzo. Shylock is tormented by this and swears revenge. Portia, according to her father's will, must marry the man who chooses the casket out of three which contains her portrait. Two suitors choose the gold and silver caskets and fail. Bassanio chooses the lead casket and wins her, and Gratiano wins her companion Nerissa. Their happiness is interrupted by the news that Antonio's ships are lost and Shylock is determined to have his bond of a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Bassanio and Gratiano marry their new loves and leave immediately to attend court with Antonio. Portia instructs Lorenzo and Jessica to look after her house as she and Nerissa will go to the convent until their husbands return. In fact Porita and Nerissa follow Bassanio and Gratiano to Venice. At the court where Shylock's claim is tested the Duke cannot persuade him to relent. A lawyer is sent for but Portia and Nerissa, disguised as men, arrive in his place. Portia also tries to persuade Shylock to show mercy. Again he refuses, and she has to award him his pound of flesh. Shylock is about to take it when Portia tells him that he must not spill any blood and must take the exact weight. He tries to withdraw, but she invokes a law against aliens who threaten the lives of Venetian citizens. Shylock is required to give half his wealth to Antonio who will hold it in trust for Lorenzo and Jessica, bequeath the rest to them also and to become a Christian. Portia refuses to accept any fee from Bassanio but insists on taking his engagement ring. Nerissa follows suit with Gratiano. When the two women return to Belmont they quarrel with their husbands for the apparent betrayal. Portia reveals their disguise and they are reconciled. She gives a letter to Antonio which tells him three of his ships have now returned safely. She gives Lorenzo Shylock's deed of gift bequeathing them his money.

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BACKGROUND: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
The Merchant Of Venice was written in the 1590s and played between 1596 and 1598. It was registered on the Stationer’s Register in 1598. Anti-Semitism was apparent in this period in Elizabethan history following the trial and execution of Elizabeth’s Jewish doctor, Roderigo Lopez, for apparently attempting to poison the queen. Christopher Marlowe had already written his play, The Jew of Malta in 1589. Shakespeare wrote his play stimulated by the events of the court and Marlowe’s work. He may well have been inspired by Ser Fiorentino’s novella Il Pecorone (1558) which contains the ‘Lady of Belmont’, a rich widow who tests her suitors.
Shakespeare’s play was written as a comedy and after a period of neglect was revived in 1701 when George Granville reworked the script as The Jew Of Venice initiating the portrayal of the Jew as comic which is how it remained until late in the 1700s when Shylock was then portrayed as a true villain. In 1814 Shylock was portrayed as a character to be pitied and frequently Act 5 was cut, ending the play at the point of Shylock’s defeat in court. Much later, about 1879, Shylock was portrayed as tragic. In 1943 the Nazi Governor of Vienna, Baldur von Schirach, ordered the local theatre to mount a production of The Merchant Of Venice. The Nazis used the play as propaganda. Since World War II there has been debate about the portrayal of Shylock and most often he has been presented as a tragic character. The play is set in Venice, which in Shakespeare’s day was a diverse haven of multiple cultures. It was a marketplace where Eastern goods were taken to the West. It was unlike England where a Jew would scarcely be found and gave Shakespeare a forum in which to explore race and religion. The portrayal of the Jewish money-lender, Shylock, is debated with regard to whether Shakespeare was intending to be anti-Semitic or critical of anti-Semitism. The play would have been performed without a break in Elizabethan times, although it divides logically into five movements. Versions and variations of The Merchant Of Venice on film Michael Radford’s The Merchant Of Venice (2004) Don Selwyn’s The Maori Merchant of Venice" (2002)- New Zealand Jack Gold’s The Merchant Of Venice aka ‘The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice’ (1980) - USA (video title) Pierre Boullion’s Le Marchand de Venise (1953)

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CHARACTERS

Magnificoes DUKE LAUNCELOT GOBBO (earlier servant of Shylock) ANTONIO merchant close friends LEONARDO servants BASSANIO friends lovers
SOLANIO* SALERIO* LORENZO GRATIANO

Prince of Prince of MORROCO ARRAGON

BELMONT

[BELLARIO] suitors cousins lovers PORTIA (Balthasar) BALTHASAR* waiting servants woman STEPHANO* NERISSA (Clerk)

VENICE

deb t

or

TUBAL friends OLD GOBBO* son servant

Ga o

ler

SHYLOCK daughter

Fo llo we rs
rs ve lo

ns cia usi M

LAUNCELOT JESSICA GOBBO (later servant to Bassanio)

Diagram from Crystal, D. and Crystal, B., (2002) Shakespeare’s Words: A Glossary and Language Companion * These characters are condensed or combined with other characters in Bell Shakespeare’s 2006 production. The characters in the script are listed in the chart above. The characters in the Bell Shakespeare 2006 production are detailed below: Venice Shylock, the Jewish money lender Launcelot Gobbo, servant to Shylock and later servant to Bassanio Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, later to become Lorenzo’s wife Magnificoes Duke, the ruler of Venice Launcelot Gobbo servant of Bassanio former servant of Shylock Antonio, the merchant Lorenzo, young friend, later to be Jessica’s husband Bassanio, young friend, later to be Portia’s husband Gratiano, young friend, later to become BELMONT Prince of MOROCCO, suitor of Portia Prince of ARRAGON, suitor of Portia Portia, rich heiress, later to become Bassanio’s wife Balthasar, servant to Portia Nerissa, friend and clerk to Portia, later to become Gratiano‘s wife Nerissa’s husband

CHARACTERS: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE Shylock
Shylock is a Jew and a moneylender. He is downtrodden and considered a moneyobsessed monster by the Christians of Venice, Antonio is one of these Venetian Christians. Shylock is angry and resentful of this treatment. When Bassanio approaches him for a loan for which Antonio will be guarantor Shylock commands a pound of flesh as penalty if Antonio defaults on the loan. Shylock’s anger and resentment resonate throughout the play. He is furious when betrayed by his daughter, Jessica. His anger is never physical but rather eloquent and composed even when he demands the pound of flesh in court.

Portia
Portia is a wealthy heiress form Belmont. She is as intelligent as she is rich and she is also beautiful. Her father’s will contained instructions that for her to inherit his wealth she must marry the suitor who chooses the correct of the three caskets. She longs to marry Bassanio, whom she has met prior to when the play begins. Portia disguises herself as a young male law clerk in an attempt to save Antonio from Shylock's knife. In this scene her true intelligence is revealed.

Antonio
Antonio is a wealthy shipping merchant. Antonio is inexplicably sad, even depressed throughout the play. The true motivation for his sorrow is never clearly identified and is a facet that some directors may allude to. He loves his friends dearly, perhaps as a father loves his sons. He signs the contract with Shylock out of his loyalty and love for Bassanio, his friend. Shylock notes Antonio’s strong dislike of Jews.

Bassanio
Bassanio is a dear friend to Antonio and a gentleman of Venice. Bassanio is in love with the wealthy Portia and in his determination to wed her borrows money from Shylock with Antonio as his guarantor. Bassanio correctly identifies the casket that contains Portia's portrait.

Gratiano
Gratiano is rough-edged and rather gregarious friend of Bassanio's and another in the group of friends of Antonio. He accompanies Bassanio to Belmont. In court, Gratiano is the most vocal and insulting critic of Shylock. Gratiano falls in love with and eventually marries Nerissa, Portia's lady-in-waiting,

Jessica
Jessica is Shylock's daughter. She detests her life in her father's house and elopes with Lorenzo, a young Christian gentleman. Launcelot jokingly calls into question what will happen to her soul, wondering if her marriage to a Christian can overcome the fact that she was born a Jew. She sells a ring given to her father by her mother and this may suggest a certain callousness in her character.

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Lorenzo
Lorenzo is another friend of Bassanio and Antonio. He is in love with Shylock's daughter, Jessica. He helps Jessica escape from her father's house and eventually elopes with her to Belmont.

Nerissa
Portia's lady-in-waiting and her close confidante. Nerissa marries Gratiano and escorts Portia to Venice by disguising herself as Portia's law clerk.

Launcelot Gobbo
In the original script, Launcelot is Bassanio's servant. He is an old man and a comical figure who is rather clown-like in his manner and is constantly making puns. In this production the character has been removed and his lines have been taken by other characters as need be

The Prince of Morocco
He is the first of the suitors to seek Portia's hand in marriage. He asks Portia to ignore his complexion and seeks to win her by picking one of the three caskets. He is rather superficial and obsessed by appearances and is certain that the caskets reflect Portia's beauty and stature. consequently the Prince of Morocco picks the gold chest.

The Prince of Arragon
This Prince is a somewhat arrogant Spanish nobleman. He too has come to choose the casket in the hope of winning Portia’s hand in marriage. Like the first Prince Arragon is somewhat superficial and egocentric. He picks the silver casket, which gives him a message calling him a fool rather than offering him Portia's hand.

Salarino
He is a gentleman from Venice and friend to Antonio, Bassanio, and Lorenzo. Salarino is often almost indistinguishable from his companion Solanio.

Solanio
A Venetian gentleman, and friend and accomplice to Salerio.

Salerio
Another gentleman of Venice and a messenger. Salerio returns with Bassanio and Gratiano for Antonio's trial. In this production these three characters have been merged into the group of men which surrounds Antonio and Bassanio.

The Duke of Venice
The ruler of Venice, who presides over Antonio's trial. He is a powerful man, but the state depends on respect for the law, and he is unable to manipulate the law to help Antonio in his trial.

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Gobbo (or Old Gobbo)
Launcelot's father, also a servant in Venice. In this production this character has been removed and the sideline story of his being reunited with his son, Launcelot is not included.

Tubal
A wealthy Jew in Venice and one of Shylock's friends.

Doctor Bellario
A wealthy Paduan lawyer and Portia's cousin. Although Doctor Bellario never appears in the play, he gives Portia's servant the letters of introduction needed for Portia to make her appearance in court.

Balthasar
Portia's servant, whom she dispatches to get the appropriate materials from Doctor Bellario.

Stephano
A messenger who works for Portia.

Leonardo
One of Bassanio's servants.

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KEY CHARACTER PROFILES: THE MERCHANT OF VENICE Shylock
Shylock is most often considered the most prominent figure in the play, although the title does not derive from him. He is the antagonist of the play and puts the happiness of the young lovers and Antonio in jeopardy through his determination to have his bond. There is debate over his character. He can be portrayed as bloodthirsty and downright evil, yet he can also be portrayed as a clownish Jewish stereotype or a tragic figure who is a victim of the persecution he suffers from the Christians and who as a result of this persecution loses his own sense of decency and determines to take the bond, perhaps out of spite. Shakespeare toys with our response to Shylock through his references to his humanness and his suffering at the hand of the Christians when he defends his right to take the bond of flesh. Shylock is not responsible for the disappearance of Antonio’s fleet, this is an extraneous fact that affects his circumstance. Yet Shylock is cold and calculating in exacting his revenge upon the Christian, Antonio who has persecuted him. Shylock is set on his revenge yet does show moments of sensitivity, but only with regard to himself. Such as his ‘Hath not a Jew’ speech to Salarino in Act 3 Scene 1: 46-55.

Portia
Portia is the antidote to the malice of Shylock. She is intelligent, wealthy, beautiful and quick witted. At the beginning of the play, Portia is trapped by the regulation of her father’s will. Portia’s conversation with Nerissa reveals her wit and her disdain for her suitors. Portia watches the other suitors come and go but once Bassanio arrives she tries to convince him to put off choosing a casket in the hope that she might spend more time with him before he might choose the wrong casket and be forced to leave her life for ever. In this situation she seeks the loopholes and it is suggested that in her song every word rhymes with lead in her effort to give Bassanio the clue to the correct casket. She is even more intellectually resourceful when it comes to taking on Shylock in the court to save her husband’s friend Antonio. She agrees with Shylock that the contract entitles him to the pound of flesh but she finds that the contract does not allow for the loss of a single drop of blood and it is with this that she defeats the contract and saves Antonio’s life. Just as she upholds the law in her vehement fight in the court, she simultaneously defies it by being there disguised as a man. Her deception is carried further with her demanding the ring from Bassanio and then chastising him for giving it up when they are back in Belmont. A powerful and clever woman is Portia.

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Antonio
He is the merchant in the title. At the opening of the play he is sad, depressed. He cannot explain his sadness. There is evidence that may suggest his being in love, despite his denial of this idea in Act 1, Scene 1. The most likely object of his affection is Bassanio, who takes advantage of the Antonio’s feelings for him. Antonio offers everything he has, including his life, to guarantee the loan Bassanio secures from Shylock. This love of Bassanio could be perceived to be a father’s love for his son. Antonio seems less depressed when he is persecuting Shylock. A sixteenth century audience may have seen his demand that Shylock become Christian as merciful, but an audience today is unlikely to perceive this as such. Once Shylock has been defeated Antonio loses the one activity that distracts him from his sorrow.

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THEMATIC CONCERNS OF THE PLAY Fairytales
This play is reminiscent of two fairytales: the princess in the tower and the bond. The story surrounding Portia reflects the story of Rapunzel or Cinderella: a beautiful young woman trapped until rescued by her prince. The story of the bond is that of Antonio and Shylock. Shylock determined to attain the pound of flesh even when he is offered twenty times the 3000 ducats in the loan. Antonio is the defending party in this issue of the bond.

Family relationships
A further focus of the play is that of fathers and daughters: Shylock and Jessica, Portia and her father. Antonio is a father figure to his young male friends Bassanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo. Just as Portia and Jessica are leaving their fathers to start a life with their new husbands, the young men are leaving the father figure, Antonio, to start their new lives with their wives. Shakespeare addresses the issue of changing family relationships in this play, an issue as vital today as in the 1590s when he wrote The Merchant Of Venice.

Triangles
Threes are rife in this play: three caskets, three rings, three friends, three settings, three weddings, three stories. In order to win Portia the suitors of Portia must choose between three caskets: gold, silver, lead. Portia and Nerissa each entrust a ring to their husbands and Jessica steals Shylock’s ring. Bassanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo are three young men— three musketeers in essence. The settings are Verona, Belmont and the court. Bassanio marries Portia, Gratiano marries Nerissa and Lorenzo marries Jessica. The three stories are that of Portia and her father’s will, Shylock and the bond and Antonio losing his young friends. The triangular set is representative of these threes in the script.

Mardi Gras
This play is set in the time of Mardi Gras which was the time of partying and celebration before Lent. In the case of the young men in the play it is their final celebration before marriage. There is wildness in the air and the boys are wild in the court.

Money
All the relationships in the play are based on money. The boys are linked with Antonio, the merchant who has money. Bassanio asks Antonio for money, so that he might seek to marry Portia, who has money. Portia has the wealth of her father’s estate which she must give over to the man who chooses the correct casket. It is not until the revelation after the trial that Bassanio realises the depth of Portia’s love. Nerissa works for Portia. Antonio is competing with Shylock and this competition is based on money, although it grows into a dispute of life and death and religion.

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Oaths
The rings represent an oath between the couples. They reflect gratitude and what you owe, what your word is worth. Shylock’s ring is not a representation of such an oath although he links it to Jessica’s mother, but for him the ring is another reflection of money.

Relationships
These are the focus of the play and are derived from the big events in the play: the bond, the caskets and religion. The Christians are portrayed as being a well-bonded group, almost family. The friendship of Antonio and the three young men has on occasion been considered to have homosexual overtones. Antonio gives money that he doesn’t have to Bassanio without a second thought. The generosity and friendship of these Christian men is undermined by their racist words and actions. Antonio shows pride in his behaviour: he kicks and spits upon Shylock. Even the Christian women show a dislike of non-Christians: Portia does not disguise he relief and joy when the black Prince of Morocco fails to choose the correct casket. She says, ‘Let all of his complexion choose me so (2:7:79). Shakespeare’s Christians are hypocritical when they expect Shylock to release Antonio from the bond. Shylock points out that Antonio has been bought by the bond as would any other slave have been. Antonio’s Christian friends believe he should be treated differently to any other slave. Shakespeare challenges the apparent virtue of the Christians through these interactions. The differences in Christian and Jew are highlighted in Shylock’s adherence to law and contract, money and possessions and the Christians’ characteristic generosity portrayed in their apparent lack of concern or ignorance of monetary detail. This being so, Bassanio can say with some honesty, ‘all the wealth I had ran in my veins’ (3.2.253254).

Jewishness
Shylock’s Jewishness is highlighted in his focus on money with the references he makes to pork and the hate of Christian to the Jews. It could be considered that his persisting in claiming the bond is a religious act. Just as Abraham was prepared to kill Isaac to show his love to God, Shylock is prepared to kill Antonio as it is required by God. Shylock could be perceived to be proving himself to God. This is not the interpretation chosen by Robert Alexander in his portrayal of Shylock in this production.

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Self-Interest Versus Love
Shakespeare highlights the different values of the two religious groups: Christians and Jews. Through Shylock Shakespeare suggests that the Jewish value business and wealth over human relationships. He shows the Christians to value human relationships above wealth through the court scene and also through Antonio’s willingness to lend money, which he doesn’t have at the time, to Bassanio. He lends this without interest, accepting Shylock’s bond and later writes to Bassanio that he is willing to give up his life, ‘…all debts are cleared between you and I if I might but see you at my death’. (3:2:3167) Shylock, on the other hand is obsessed with his money. He determines his house must be locked up on the Mardi Gras night, ‘There are my keys.’ Look to my house. I am right loath to go,…For I did dream of money bags tonight’. (2:5:12, 15, 18). When Jessica and his money are gone he reportedly cries, ‘O, my ducats! O, my daughter!’ (2:8:15) Shylock seems to be sentimental about the ring Jessica has sold, which belonged to his now dead wife. It is this moment and his insistence on the pound of flesh that challenges the notion he is solely interested in money and wealth. Shylock’s determination to have the pound of flesh is a sign of his resentment of his treatment by Antonio and the Christians as he is offered much more money than that which he loaned to Antonio. This human relationship derived from hate certainly means more than money to Shylock. The Christians are not so pure and loving themselves. Bassanio initially seeks out Portia as she has wealth which appeals to him as he is broke and in debt. Antonio tells Bassanio that he lends him the money out of love although Bassanio believes he will make money in pursuing Portia, ‘I have a mind presages me such thrift/ That I should questionless be fortunate’. (1:1:175-6)

The Divine Quality of Mercy
The apparent justice of the Christians in the courtroom renders Shylock a broken man. His estate is stripped from him and through Portia, Antonio demands he become Christian. Although the Christian characters talk about mercy, love and charity, their application of this is selective. They expected him to show mercy. Portia responds to Shylock with ‘The quality of mercy is not strained … ’ (4:1:179). She explains mercy in Christian terms. Portia’s understanding of mercy is based on the way Christians in Shakespeare’s time understood the difference between the Old and New Testaments. According to the writings of St. Paul in the New Testament, the Old Testament depicts God as requiring strict adherence to rules and exacting harsh punishments for those who stray. The New Testament, in contrast, emphasizes adherence to the spirit rather than the letter of the law, portraying a God who forgives rather than punishes and offers salvation to those followers who forgive others. Thus, when Portia warns Shylock against pursuing the law without regard for mercy, she is promoting what Elizabethan Christians would have seen as a pro-Christian, anti-Jewish agenda. The strictures of Renaissance drama demanded that Shylock be a villain, and, as such, patently unable to show even a drop of compassion for his enemy. A sixteenth-century audience would not expect Shylock to exercise mercy—therefore, it is up to the Christians to do so. Once she has turned Shylock’s greatest weapon—the law—against him, Portia has the opportunity to give freely of the mercy for which she so beautifully

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advocates. Instead, she backs Shylock into a corner, where she strips him of his bond, his estate, and his dignity, forcing him to kneel and beg for mercy. Given that Antonio decides not to seize Shylock’s goods as punishment for conspiring against him, we might consider Antonio to be merciful. But we may also question whether it is merciful to return to Shylock half of his goods, only to take away his religion and his profession. By forcing Shylock to convert, Antonio disables him from practicing usury, which, according to Shylock’s reports, was Antonio’s primary reason for berating and spitting on him in public. Antonio’s compassion, then, seems to stem as much from self-interest as from concern for his fellow man. Mercy, as delivered in The Merchant Of Venice, never manages to be as sweet, selfless, or full of grace as Portia presents it. From www.sparknotes.com.au/shakespeare

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MOTIFS
Motifs are recurring devices that develop and enhance the major themes of the play.

The Law
The law and rules are the drive behind The Merchant Of Venice. Law as can be manipulated for cruel individual purposes as seen in Shylock, but they are also capable of producing good when so utilized, as by Portia. The caskets place Portia in a lottery of sorts. Yet by following the rule of the caskets the suitor who truly represents her desire wins. This choice is an apt indication of human nature. The Venetian law is strictly adhered to. Shylock determines to stick to the contract as this is the law and does so until Portia’s arrival, whereby she manipulates the law and creates the ‘happy’ ending.

Cross-dressing
Jessica dresses as a boy in her bid to escape her father’s house and Portia and Nerissa dress as young men to take on the role of officers of the court. By assuming the clothes of the opposite sex, Portia enables herself to assume the power and position denied to her as a woman. Shakespeare was a great fan of the potentials of cross-dressing and used the device often, especially in his comedies.

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SYMBOLS
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Three Caskets
The caskets: a gold, a silver, and a lead casket resemble the cultural and legal system of Venice. Like the Venice of the play, the casket contest presents the same opportunities and the same rules to men of various nations, ethnicities, and religions. Also like Venice, the hidden bias of the casket test is fundamentally Christian. To win Portia, Bassanio must ignore the gold casket, which bears the inscription, ‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire’ (2:7:5), and the silver casket, which says, ‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves’ (2:7:7). The correct casket is lead and warns ‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath’. (2:7:15). Christian teachings are reflected in the casket competition, principally that appearances can be deceiving. This is represented in the unattractive and least desirable casket, the lead casket, being the winning casket. Portia’s father has presented marriage as one in which the proper suitor risks and gives everything for the spouse, in the hope of a divine recompense he can never truly deserve. Bassanio wins in this instance, yet one ponders whether he will continue to gamble in married life after the resolution of the play.

The Pound of Flesh
The pound of flesh is the constant reminder of the inflexibility of Shylock and the law. It also symbolizes the closeness of Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship, that they have almost become ‘one flesh’ through their binding friednship. It has been suggested that Shylock doggedly seeks the pound of flesh as compensation for the loss of his own flesh, Jessica. Shylock never demands that Antonio die, but repeatedly asks in his numerical mind, for a pound of flesh in exchange for his three thousand ducats. All the other characters measure their emotions through words, Shylock measures everything through numerical quantities.

Leah’s Ring
The ring is a symbol of Shylock’s humanity. The ring was given to Shylock most likely by his wife, Jessica’s mother. This is an object of great importance. When told that Jessica has stolen it and traded it for a monkey, Shylock very poignantly laments its loss: ‘I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys’ (3:1:101–102). Shylock is uncharacteristically vulnerable when he is told of the ring’s loss and here we see love and grief in him in contrast to his constant anger.

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SETTING
Shakespeare’s plays tend to conclude in the city in which they began, but in this play the action ends in Belmont, suggesting the Christians have abandoned Shylock and the woes of Venice for a new beginning. Belmont in itself represents wealth derived from inheritance. This inheritance has been accumulated by the merchandising of Venice and thus the Utopia, Belmont, is actually founded on the despised trade it claims to hate. Ending the play in Belmont serves to remind the audience that the play may seem to be a comedy, but it is in fact, in many ways a tragedy.

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PRE-PERFORMANCE ACTIVITIES ENGLISH
The play revolves around three principal characters: Shylock, Antonio and Portia. For each of these characters something is at stake. Shylock is determined to maintain what is his by law. Antonio may lose his life by the contract he signed with Shylock and Portia must marry as determined by her father’s will.

ACTIVITY
1) Select one of these characters and write a soliloquy for the character which presents their feelings about their situation at the start of the play. Pay attention to the character’s manner of speech. 2) Write a soliloquy by Antonio about Shylock by combining his comments about Shylock from throughout the play. 3) Write a soliloquy by Portia about Bassanio by combining her comments about Bassanio from thoughout the play.

LISTENING ACTIVITY
Download the podcast of Director, Anna Volska talking about the production from www.bellshakespeare.com/education then answer these questions: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) How does she describe three of the characters in the play? How is the issue of religion dealt with in this production? Who is the designer for the play? What does she say about the concept for the design? Who wrote the music for the play? What does she say about the ideas in the music?

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DRAMA Playing Shylock
Shylock has been played in a multitude of ways. The three general styles of portrayal have been: 1) A clownish caricature 2) An evil blood-thirsty villain 3) A tragic victim of his circumstance

ACTIVITY
Look at the following: 1) Shylock’s dialogue in Act 1 Scene 3 at first with Bassanio, lines 13-31 and then with Antonio, lines 32-43. 2) Shylock’s dialogue Act 1: 3: 98-121 3) Shylock’s dialogue Act 3: 1:42-56, 66-76 4) Shylock’s dialogue Act 4:1:35-62, 231-8, 370-3 Which of these excerpts lend themselves to which portrayal of Shylock? Put your own directions on two excerpts to create one of the possible portrayals of Shylock. Perform these in class and identify the contrasts.

The Women
There are few women in the play: Portia, Nerissa and Jessica. In this production Balthasar is played as a woman.

ACTIVITY
Consider the status and purpose of each of the three women. 1) How does Shakespeare differentiate them in terms of statue and personality through dialogue? Consider what they say and what other characters may say about them. 2) How has the costume design represented these characters? Consider shape, colour, texture, coverage or exposure of skin

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CULTURAL
Similarities and Differences
The play deals identifies that there are considerable differences in the Jewish and Christian faiths. Both faiths recognise the Old Testament. The Christian faith also recognises the New Testament.

RESEARCH TASK
1) Find out why and how the Jews and Christians were separate religious groups in Shakespeare’s day. What was the state of these two groups at the time Shakespeare wrote the play? Consider status, power, acceptance and rejection.

2)

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POST-PERFORMANCE ACTIVITIES ENGLISH
Who is right? Christian or Jew? For a time the play was frequently concluded at the end of Act 4 when Shylock is defeated in court. How would this sudden ending effect audience response to the court’s resolution?

DEBATE
That Shylock is justified in wanting to take the bond as per the contract.
Debate this in your class. Use quotations from the play as your evidence. Consider the law of contracts in Elizabethan times.

WRITING TASK
A Shakespearean comedy is one that depicts amusing events with a jovial uniting of lovers in the end.  On the other hand, a Shakespearian tragedy has a more serious tone with a tragic theme, often involving an heroic struggle and the downfall of the main character.  
After seeing the production: 1) 2) 3) 4) List the moments that you recall as being funny of comic List the moments that you recall as being sad, shocking or tragic. Which list is longer? Use the evidence in your two lists to write your own commentary on The Merchant Of Venice to convince your readers that the play is a comedy or a tragedy.

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DRAMA Storylines
The play contains three storylines: 1) Portia’s pending marriage 2) Shylock’s pound of flesh 3) Antonio’s loss of his young friend.

GROUP ACTIVITY
In a small group select one of these storylines and create a series of tableaux or still pictures, which present the moments of the play that present this storyline. Identify a line of dialogue that reveals the crux of each scene. Present to the class.

Anna Volska’s production has been specifically designed to tour to 38 venues around Australia in 2006. In order to do this, the set and costumes have been kept simple for transporting and quick bump in and bump out at each venue. In addition to this some of the cast play more than one character keeping the cast to just 9 actors.

ACTIVITY 1) Set Design
The triangle of pillars is the central piece of set for this production.. It is moved at points in the play to suggest a different place. • • • • Sketch the positions of the set used in the production. Name the place represented by each of the three positions. Choose a quote from the dialogue to represent each of these three set positions. What does the triangular set represent?

2) Costume Design
The play opens with a Mardi Gras, this is a carnival, a street party. This is a time of celebration before the abstinence of the period of Lent. • What costumes are used in the opening sequence to show this ‘party’? • Choose a character and follow their costumes during the play. Consider colour, style, texture, shape. How do these attributes reflect the character and his/her experience in the play?

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CULTURAL
This Bell Shakespeare production maintains the Christian versus Jew focus as in the script. A New Zealand film version of the play is The Maori Merchant suggesting Maori versus white New Zealander. Think about how rival cultures may be presented through the script.

ACTIVITY
1) Choose a culture or religion. 2) Reseach it to discover what culture or religion may oppose it. 3) Write a synopsis for The Merchant Of Venice which encompasses this culture. Which culture is represented by Antonio and which by Shylock? Why?

Hint: Consider how the Nazis found this play a useful piece of propaganda in World War II.

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REFERENCES
Bayley, P, (1985) An A-B-C Of Shakespeare, Longman Group, UK Crystal, David & Crystal Ben, (2002) Shakespeare’s Words: A Glossary & Language Companion,Penguin Books, London Mahood, M.M. (Ed) (1987) The New Cambridge Shakespeare: The Merchant Of Venice, Cambridge University Press, UK Morris, J & Smith, R. (Eds.), (2005) Cambridge School Shakespeare: The Merchant Of Venice, Cambridge University Press, UK Rozakis, L, (1999) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Shakespeare, Penguin, USA www.william-shakespeare.info www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/msnd/context.html www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/titles/merchantvenices

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THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS COMMUNITY PARTNERS
THE FOLLOWING COMPANIES, TRUSTS, FOUNDATIONS AND PRIVATE DONORS ARE SUPPORTING OUR NATIONAL INITIATIVES

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PERTH SEASON THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

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Bell Shakespeare is assisted by the NSW Government through the NSW Ministry for the Arts.

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