Merchant of Venice: Quotes

I know not why I am so sad (Act One Scene One) Iambic pentameter, emphasis on adjective ‘sad’ presents Antonio as a melancholic character and suggests he will be one throughout. Before there has even been a complication, Antonio is sad and therefore in resolution, he will be unsatisfied. His sadness could be because all his money is on ships or his homosexuality.
A stage where every man must play a part, and mine a sad one Shakespeare is adding a comedic element to this scene by referencing a play whilst Antonio acts. Antonio seems to feel incomplete regardless of his financial prosperity. But, considering that all his money is at risk, we can infer that in the contextual background of Venice and the patriarchal hierarchy, having money defined status and respect among the people. So it is likely that his wealth determines his mood.
overpeer (salarino) Salarino is submitting to Antonio and drowning him in compliments about power ans status, elevating him in an attempt to comfort him. this signifies the importance of status, respect and admiration and how Shakespeare is highlighting how much this varied in the Elizabethan era.
My purse, my person, my extremest means (antonio) Using persuasive, hyperbolic language to convince the audience that his relationship with Bassanio is more than that of financial reliability. The use of the superlative ‘extremest’ and the repetition of ‘my’ presents Antonio’s devotion and care for Bassanio to be genuine and perhaps begins the construction of a friendship that is completely one sided and solely based on generosity.
“Three thousand ducats, well” These are Shylock’s first words and through this we learn how money is his only way of gaining some respect from the anti-semetic people of Venice. Our first impressions are that he is methodical, clever and manipulative. The word ‘well’ demonstrates how he must be lapping up the sudden change of authority in his relationship with Antonio. When performing this scene, Shakespeare may have intended to obviously put forward the malice that underlies Shylock’s intentions regarding the deal. Ironically, he was never bothered about the money in this instance.
‘bore it with a patient shrug for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe’ ‘patient’ is a quality that sits within good people. But although through this action of dismissing the abuse, Shylock may seem a victim. One must understand that this clever construction of being forbearing does infact highlight how he is deceptive and cunning. His ability to control his anger, which later find to have been stored, presents him as an even bigger threat, since his is capable of controlling and being deceitful about the nature of his frustration. By describing how bearing the hateful behavior toward him is like a ‘badge’ Shakespeare is referring to how, regardless, Shylock is remaining passionate about his faith and the struggles that come with it. Through this we understand he is not a submissive and negotiable character, his compromise regarding the forfeit must be with bad intentions.
‘misbeliever’, ‘cut-throat dog’ ‘spat upon my Jewish gaberdine’ Throughout the novel, Jews are regularly spoken of as being ‘dog-like’. The noun ‘dog’ and the dehumanizing comparison to an animal highlights the antisemetic views of society in the time and how disrespected and disregarded Jews were.Dogs are viscous, impulsive and less worthy than humans. All these characteristics connote an image of utter hate. More importantly, by calling him a ‘misbeliever’ and to physically ‘spit’ on his religion is the epitome of abuse. They are ridiculing and targeting his very identity and purpose in life. There is nothing worse. In this, Shakespeare is not only playing to the stereotypes of the Elizabethan Era, but presents an underlying unjust within these Christians and perhaps sheds light on Shylock being presented as a victim for once. A justification for his anger. The modern reader is able to appreciate this over someone in the Elizabethan time because we see the mistreatment and compare it to other antisemetic events e.g. WW2
our house is hell (jessica) ‘house’ detachment – not a home, a house’hell’ Christian imagery, already establishing herself as not wanting to be a Jew. Hell has connotes of having no happiness, being in eternal pain and misery
there is a ducat for thee (jessica) showing generosity which strongly contrasts her father. her father is a passionate jew who plays very comfortably to the ‘greedy jew’ stereotype. in comparison, Jessica, who doesn’t want to be a jew, refrains from playing to this stereotype. contextually, she would instantly be liked by the audience for showing these rebellious Christian traits – they would’ve perhaps sympathized with her terrible situation of being trapped as a Jew.
curs’d be my tribe if i forgive him ‘tribe’ playing to the inhumane characteristics of Jews, they aren’t sophisticated people. they are undeveloped and vicious in their ways. alternatively, the use of the noun ‘tribe’ could connote how Shylock views this ongoing conflict between religions as a battle. It is more than just verbal abuse, it is war. By speaking so passionately about how Antonio will never gain his forgiveness, we begin to question the truth in his polite and forgiving nature towards Antonio.
a hot temper leaps over a cold decree Portia foreshadowing law issues later on in the play. here Portia is suggesting that the law can be manipulated. this is the first time we get a hint of Portia’s influence justice and mercy in the play. she introduces herself as feeble and ‘aweary’ of ‘this great world’ and yet in the trial scene, we see a completely different character. it’s almost as if, this persona is hidden within her but unable to blossom due to her gender. Portia is only fully able to express her passion for justice when she is disguised as a man. the use of ‘hot temper’ could be Shakespeare exploring the theme of biased and unjust judgement in courts in the context and how inevitably the Jew will always end up wrong. the ‘cold decree’ can be bent and adjusted to suit the authority and identity of the victim it holds.
if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes this attempt at comforting Portia strongly contrasts Antonio’s admirers who fawned over him and elevated him. instead of being told she’s the best and that she should ‘over peer people’ Portia is reminded of how lucky she is to be in the position she is. She has little choice but perhaps Shakespeare is highlighting how the little choice she has is great in comparison to the other, less fortunate, women of society. portia, who is a wealthy woman, is in ‘good fortunes’ but other women in the context would have no fortunes at all. the concept is something that men encounter, not women. the scene signifies the contrast between what men and women seek for comfort and how women bond over their shared lack of power, and men bond over the very different thing.
richly left, fair, of wondrous virtues portia’s initial description is tells us alot about Bassanio, Portia herself and the contextual struggle of women in the era. the use of ‘richly left’ tells us how although Portia does have money she is also owned by her father as we are reminded that he has ‘left’ her and she is now in a position of vulnerability. contextually, it would have been the norm for a woman to be passed on like a possession. we can infer that she has been ‘left’ ready to be taken and her riches seem to dominate Bassanio’s motif. There sudden love and Bassanio’s seemingly romantic and gentleman-like character can be interpreted as deceitful through this because he seems to value her beauty and price over her virtue.
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him Here, Shylock is feeding the concept of his hatred for Antonio and therefore further persuading the audience that he is in fact seeking revenge and that the deal he is about to make is not fair and just. The use of the verb ‘feed’ once again plays to this dog-like stereotype and describing his grudge against Antonio who he say he hates ‘for he is a Christian’ as ‘ancient’ we understand how deep and intense this hatred is and how Shakespeare is presenting the universal hatred between Jews and Christians at the time.
The devil can cite scripture for his purpose ***** Even things that are good in themselves (such as the Bible) can be twisted to serve bad purposes. By using Christian imagery , Antonio is claiming that anyone can alter any document to back them up, even the devil can use the bible to support him given he alters it correctly.
antonio tells shylock he will ‘spit’, ‘call’ and ‘spurn’ him again, he should ‘lend to thine enemy’ antonio is expecting a completely business like deal
may neither ‘choose’ nor ‘refuse’ – she is ‘a living daughter curbed by the will of her dead father’ portia has no choice
“I’ll go in hate, to feed upon the prodigal Christian.” ‘feed”hate”wasteful’use of Christian highlights his unchanging and ever-growing hate for Christians
Jessica, my girl,Look to my house. Shylock is shunting Jessica away essentially. He’s lost his wife and he doesn’t want to lose his daughter. His money and his daughter are the only 2 things he has – he doesn’t have respect as such. Further more, the possessive pronoun ‘my’ can be interpreted as affection, but, more understandably considering Jessica’s horrible time at home, it is simply a verbal sign of possession and Shakespeare continuing to emphasizes the concept that women were owned. To be seen and not heard.
ashamed to be my father’s child! this phrase suggests that Jessica is not only embarrassed of her religion, but of her father – a renowned Jew. The use of the noun ‘child’ tells us she feels inferior and disgusted not only by the religion that is in her ‘blood’ but of the people she is related too. In the modern day, we value our family no matter what and mentioning that people are connected by ‘blood’ is a symbol of why we should devote and depend on them. Jessica’s behavior would be frowned upon because it is simply immoral. The contemporary audience however would relish in her rebellious and disrespectful attitude toward her father, they would view Jessica as a hero for leaving the bad religion and even sympathize with her being a Jew before.
‘ become a christian and thy loving wife’ She describes herself as being trapped into this stereotype of being a Jew and a house of hell and being part of a family she is ‘ashamed’ of. All this presents Jessica as someone who is unable to be controlled and enjoys freedom and choice. Yet, she immediately submits to falling into the role of a ‘wife’ and being owned by another. She seems to be rebelling against society’s expectations by being this independent woman, when in reality, she is playing to the gender roles and using the nouns ‘child’ and ‘wife’ to illustrate the lacking freedom women have. they are a child, owned by their father and then a wife, owned by their husband.
‘gold and jewels’ when he is describing his new wife, he focuses on her materialistic attributes. perhaps their marriage is based off a greed for Shylock’s wealth?
lorenzo and thy love ‘thy’ shows ownership’love’ is Lorenzo assuring Jessica that their love is genuine.the statement is addressing both of Lorenzo’s identities – a lawful christian, and the lover of a jew
catch this casket it is worth the pains casket – connotes death, the death of her jewish identity. she’s throwing away her life in a way.the verb ‘worth’ evokes a marriage based on finance. contextually, Lorenzo would’ve received lots of praise and wealth for his deeds suggesting his motif isn’t love after all
love is blind here Jessica is implying that love is blind to religion, appearance and moralities. love is what is compelling her to go against her own blood, she’s almost deluded into not realizing the consequencesironically, the modern reader understands that in those times, love was never blind. it was meticulously calculated from power, money and self-gain.
‘strange, outrageous, variable’ Here, Shylock’s unpredictability would’ve been his scariest feature. His unpredictable nature combined with the vicious characteristics as a ‘dog jew’ would’ve frightened the contemporary reader and presented him as a villainous character. Further more, the use of ‘outrageous’ evokes anger and frustration regarding his daughter’s escape, not concern and worry for her well being.
My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! the central positioning of ducats tells us that this is what Shylock prioritizes. He’s more concerned about money than his own family. he later describes these ducats being ‘christian’ now which shows the transfer in ownership and how important to Magwitch it is that his money has been stole by none other than a Christian.
stolen from me by my own daughter the verb choice of ‘stolen’ presents jessica as not like a daughter to Shylock but as a villain. there is no affection, but disgust
all the world desires her – Morocco hyperbolic languagepersonification of the world creates the image that many men want Portia. she is almost illustrated as being like a prize, an object, not a person with choice or will. she’s later described as being like a ‘shrine’. something to show off, not to actually love. this depiction of women in the context would’ve been completely normal
All that glitters is not gold***
unlesson’d girl, unschool’d, unpractised – uneducated as a wife, appears to be more submissive at this stageaccpets being ‘directed’ connects to her being ‘little’ and ‘aweary of this great world’repetition of ‘sum’ in this speech is in the same semantic field as money and loans – she is depicting the marriage as being a financial agreement
where i stand such as i am in a way, she is submitting to him’such as i am’ refers to her worth’stand’, she’s presenting herself before him like a statue. she is his to look at now – but all that glitters is not gold
the law hath yet another hold on you**** ‘an alien’ he’s an outsider
the words ex-pressingly ‘a pound of flesh’ she’s showing the power of words and ridiculing Shylock by reflecting his own mistake onto him
the quality of mercy is not strain’d it dropeth from the gentle rain Portia is saying that being forgiving isn’t something that can be forced or taught. It is something that is a ‘quality’ in only some of us. it’s pure and heaven-like (water is a symbol of purity)
tis mightiest in the mightiest iambic pentameter highlights unteachable power of being merciful and just. the emphasis falls onto the noun ‘might’ and it’s repetition showcases how it is the most powerful force one can have. it becomes a hyperbole and effective superlative in capturing Portia’s passion for power and justice and how her character plays a key role in this theme throughout
portia describes mercy as being ‘enthroned in the heart of kings’ in the context, it was believed that royalty were the closest things to God we have and so this would be referring to the fact that mercy is a God-like quality. the contemporary reader would’ve recognized this reference and been in complete awe of how Shakespeare is using the role of a women to dictate this inspiring speech. the theme of religion and pride is embedded in the piece.
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy *** here portia is saying that praying is simply not enough, we have to be merciful.
LONG: portia’s speech According to Portia’s speech, mercy is a form of compassionate treatment and is comparable to justice, which is applied by man as law. However, mercy should be natural ,never forced. This makes it sincere in its application. The expectation, according to the poem is for everyone to have mercy since this is the only way one can be like our God, our creator. While justice appeared bound to the earthly system, it condemns unlike mercy. In the speech, Shylock is deeply concerned with justice while Portia preaches the significance of mercy in human beings. If one, therefore, has mercy, then it will be possible to have godlike powers and status. In this poem, there is the use of biblical allusions to offer greater meaning the intended message. read this
the law hath yet another hold on you once again, Shylock is being defeated by justice. this cleverly links to Portia’s prior speech which is her giving Shylock a chance to show mercy to Antonio. instead, the law, which is personified to ‘hold’ him defeats Shylock, because the next most powerful thing after natural justice, is law. alternatively, the image of Shylock being held, and unable escape his fate, could be referring to his Jewish identity and how the law will always have a ‘hold’ on him for he is a Jew.
‘O Jew! An upright judge, a learned judge!’ Here, gratiano is mimicking Shylock to show how the tables have turned
The words are expressly are ‘a pound of flesh’ Portia is showing the power of words by repeating and unpicking the term and then using it against shylock
“Down therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke.” the command ‘down’ resembles a dog command and links to the constant reference to Jews being like dogs, he’s being told to reduce himself and the begging of ‘mercy’ of the Duke is an instant switch in roles of Antonio and Shylock – it’s in imagery of the power of struggle
which is the merchant here and which is the Jew? Portia attempting to establish fairness and justice before beginning
become a Christian Antonio is taking Shylock’s identity which is perhaps worse than death
you may as well stand upon the beach and bid the main flood bate his usual height antonio is comparing the hope of Shylock to be reckoned with as likely as a flood striking at the same wave measurement – impossible. it is impossible to control the nature of some, or their religion
i am arm’d and well prepared,- antonio arm’d and ‘prepared’ connote ready to fight, to go into battle, antonio is playing to his ‘honourable’ stereotype
fortune shows herself more kind than is her custom, ‘she cut me off’ personifying fortune , she is smiling at bassanio through antoniofortune is doing antonio a favour
speak me fair in death – antonio honour was central to society
i am content shylock
and by our holy sabbath shylock linking with religion, using it as something valuable
if you deny it – shylock threatening language
in his final speech shylock says he has a ‘lodged hate’ for antonio permenant
are you answered? – shylock villianous, uncaring behavious – he doesnt care if he has answered them ,he is speaking for jsutice
What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong? Shylock is saying he is doing nothing wrong lawfully but we know he is morally incorrect
his pound of flesh is ‘dearly bought’ it cost him his wifes ring, lots of money and his daughter
there is no force in the decree of Venice. I stand for judgement: answer, shall i have it? Shylock finally has power
‘lead’ ‘gold’ ‘silver’
If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.
“Hath a Jew not eyes?” if you prick us do we not bleed
shylock – i will sell with youbut i will not eat with you