Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice
Antonio is a wealthy merchant living in Venice, Italy and is also the merchant
mentioned in the plays title. He is well known throughout Venice, amongst the Christians as a
good and generous man and amongst the Jews as the complete opposite – mainly due to his
extreme hatred for them. He lends his friend Bassanio money so that he can marry a wealthy
young woman, but in doing so needs to borrow money from Shylock, to whom Antonia
would have to give a pound of his flesh in the case of being unable to return the money. He is
the protagonist of this play and in many ways a two faced character.
Bassanio is one of Antonio’s closest friends, and they undertake many things together.
He has already wasted all of his own money and therefore wants to marry the rich Portia in
order to restore his fortune. In order to do so he needs to borrow money from Antonio and in
doing so gets him involved with Shylock and his bond. He moves the play along and starts the
action and the storyline, as it is his need to impress Portia that makes him borrow the money
in the first place.
Portia is a wealthy woman who lives on an island outside Venice with her court. She is
the heiress of her father’s fortune and in love with Bassanio. At the start of the play we do not
find out very much about her, but she seems to be much desired amongst a small group of
very rich suitors. Her father designed a test for everyone wishing to marry her, which consists
of three caskets, a lead one, a silver one and a gold one, and only one contains her picture.
The person who finds her picture gets to marry Portia, leaving her with no choice as to sit and
wait for the “winner”.
Shylock is a Jewish money-lender, with very greedy characteristics. His whole life
consists of money and he is hated and despised by the normal citizens of Venice. He is
portrayed as the antagonist of the play as it is his bond that Antonio is bound to, and therefore
he is threatening Antonio’s life. One could see him as the victim or as the perpetrator,
depending on how one interprets the play.
“I should not see the sandy hour-glass run, but I should think of shallows and of flats”
This is said by Salarino in Scene 1 of the first act of the book, as he is talking to
Antonio and Solanio. Salarino and Solanio are trying to find out why Antonio is a little bit
depressed, and Salarino guesses it is because all of Antonio’s fortune is at sea and he is
therefore uneasy about what could happen. What he is saying is that in Antonio’s position he
wouldn’t see the time go by, but he would spend every moment thinking about the dangers of
the voyages, and all the different catastrophes that could happen to his ships.
“In Belmont is a lady richly left, and she is fair, and fairer than that word”
This is said by Bassanio, also in the first scene of Act 1 as he is talking to Antonio
about Portia. He is describing her in this quote, saying that she is a rich heiress living in
Belmont, “and even better than that” of good virtues. He is about to ask Antonio for a lend so
he can go and become a suitor, in the hopes of marrying her to restore his own fortune.
“If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him”
Shylock says this whilst talking to the audience in the third scene of Act 1. He just
finished talking to Bassanio about lending them money and has agreed to see Antonio, who
comes in right before this little speech. He is telling the audience how much he hates Antonio
and states “if I can catch him off guard once, I will take all the revenge on him that I am
hungry for, and will satisfy this old hatred”.
“If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not to they friends, but lend it rather to thine
enemy, who, if he break, thou mayest with better force exact the penalty”
This is said by Antonio and directed at Shylock, also in the third scene of the first act.
Antonio is trying to convince Shylock that he should lend him money, and he uses a very
foreshadowing explanation as to why Shylock should. He is saying that if Shylock does lend
these 3000 Ducats, he should not lend it to his friends, but to his enemy so that if Antonio
doesn’t repay it in time, Shylock is able to punish him as harshly as possible. This is reveals a
lot of what might happen further on in the play.
“Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair as any comer I have looked on yet for my
Portia says this to the Prince of Morocco in the first scene of Act 2 whilst they are
introducing themselves. The prince of Morocco is one of the suitors that have come to try and
win her hand, not knowing of the test set up by her father. She is saying that if it weren’t for
her fathers test, he would have had the same chance as any of her other suitors, the word fair
implying that although he is a black man, he is not worse than any of the others that have
come for her hand.
The memorable speech I chose is by Shylock on the bottom of the page 15, going over
to page 16. He is talking to Antonio about lending him money and is being very sarcastic
about the treatment that he has received from Antonio. Basically, Shylock is making it clear to
Antonio that he is dependant on his money, and that without Shylock Bassanio wouldn’t be
able to marry, and it would be Antonio’s fault. I don’t know why exactly I chose this speech
but I think it sticks out in the play and seems kind of comic in a situation (or even play) like
this. He is taunting Antonio and trying to annoy him for his own pleasure, which very
accurately portrays Shylocks character.