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Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers

Act I Scene 3

Extract 1

Bassanio: 

For the which, as I told you…………………

Bassanio:

Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?

1. Give the conditions to which Antonio is bound. How wise was Antonio to bind himself to such conditions?

Antonio is bound to a bond according to which if he fails to repay the amount in due time, Shylock will be entitled to take an exact pound of flesh from any part of Antonio’s body that he may wish. It was very unwise of Antonio to misjudge Shylock’s intentions and sign such a fatal bond.

 

2.  Give the meaning of:

May you stead me? Will you pleasure me?

Can you help me and will you do me this favour?

 

3.   Shylock says that Antonio is a good man. What does Shylock mean with the connotation ‘good’?

When Shylock says the above words, he means that Antonio is a reliable man, whose surety is sufficient to give a loan. 

 

4.   Enumerate the possible threats to Antonio’s business ventures as stated by Shylock, after the above extract.

Shylock enumerates the possible dangers to Antonio’s merchandise-ships being only planks of wood are apt to be broken; the mariners being merely human beings, are liable to be drowned; there are pirates on the waters; and there are all the dangers of the ocean from the gales, tempests and dangerous rocks. 

 

5.  How can it be proved that Antonio is a prudent businessman but he is overconfident?

Antonio can considered as a prudent businessman as his wealth is distributed over the whole world. one of Antonio’s ship is on its journey to Tripolis, another is bound for the Indies, a third is voyaging to Mexico, fourth to England and others to various other distant places. He is so overconfident of his riches that he agrees to an unreasonable and dangerous bond. 

Extract II

Shylock:

How like a fawining publican……….most do congregate

1.     What is meant by ‘a fawning publican’? Give three reasons why Shylock hates Antonio.

Publicans were tax collectors for the Romans and were generally oppressive. They were hated by the Jews because they were the agents of Rome, who collected taxes also from the Jews. Publican is a natural term of contempt and loathing in the mouth of a Jew. Shylock hats Antonio because he is a Christian, lends money without interest and hurls abuses on him. 

 

2.     Give the meaning of the following:

a)     Low simplicity: Childish foolishness

b)    Gratis: Free of interest

c)     Rate of usance: rate of interest

 

3.     Write the meaning of the following in your own words:

I can catch him once upon the hip,

I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him

The above words mean that if Shylock could get hold of Antonio at a disadvantage or in a weak spot, he will satisfy fully the long-standing hatred he has against him. 

 

4.     What old grudge does Shylock have against Antonio?

Shylock had a long-standing grudge against Antonio because Antonio was a Christian and looked upon the holy Jewish race with contempt. He used to lend money without interest. He even spat on Shylock, kicked him and called a ‘cut-throat dog.’

 

5.     What does the ‘sacred nation’ refer to? What insults has Antonio heaped upon Shylock? 

‘The Sacred Nation’ is a reference to the holy Jewish race. Antonio insults Shylock for his business deals and for earning profit by lending money on interest. 

 

6.     How does Shylock plan to get the money immediately? What light does this extract throw on Shylock’s character?

Shylock plans to get money immediately from a wealthy fellow-Jew, Tubal. It shows that Shylock wants to execute the bond as soon as possible and use the chance to take his revenge on Antonio.

Extract  III

Shylock:

When Jacob grazed……….

Shylock:

Should fall as Jacob’s hire.


1. What topic is referred to in the extract? Who were Jacob and Abhraham?

The topic referred to in the extract is lending money for interest. Jacob was the second son of Issac who became the third successor to Abraham. Abraham was the founder of the Hebrew nation and Jacob’s grandfather.

 

2. Give the story of Jacob who got his share as his payment from Laban.

Laban was Jacob’s uncle. Jacob and Laban entered into an agreement that Jacob would receive as his wages the lambs which were born with spots or stripes. During the breeding season, Jacob arranged the wooden rods in such a way that the shadows of the rods should fall on the sheep. Consequently, most of the lambs were born spotted or stripped, and thus, they became Jacob’s property.

 

3. What is the difference between taking interest and receiving payment for one’s labour?. 

Taking interest means to charge specific amounts on the money given as loan for a specified period. Receiving payment for one’s labour means to take remuneration for one’s service rendered. This is legitimate while taking interest is not in order. 

 

4. What role did Jacob’s wise mother play to make him the third possessor?

Esau and Jacob were Issac’s sons. Issac wanted to bless his elder son Esau but would do so after he brought him some savoury meant. Jacob’s mother Rebecca overheard this conversation. She wanted to get this blessing for Jacob. She told Jacob to fetch two goats to make a savoury dish. Rebecca then asked Jacob to go to his blind father with the savoury meat. In this way, Jacob, through the crafty assistance of his mother, got the blessing of his father.   

 

5.How does Antonio interpret Jacob’s success after this extract?

After this extract, Antonio tells Shylock that it was purely a matter of chance in Jacob’s case. He had no control over it himself, but providence guided and governed the event. It was not a matter in the hands of men, like the taking of interest. 

Extract IV

Antonio: 

 Well, Shylock, shall we be beholding to you?

….for all use of that which is mine own.

1.     What is meant by ‘shall we be beholding to you’? What is Rialto?

‘Shall we be beholding to you’-this statement was made by Antonio and he wants to say to Shylock, “Are you going to lend us money?”

Rialto was the Venetian Stock Exchange where the merchants met for the transaction of business.

 

2.     Give some examples to show that Shylock was ill-treated by Antonio. How did Shylock react to Antonio’s insults?

Shylock speaks of his ill-treatment at the hands of Antonio. He says that Antonio had spat upon    his Jewish robe in contempt and called him an unbeliever and a cur. He had also spat upon his beard. On another day, he had pushed him aside with his foot as if he were a stray dog being kicked out of his house. Shylock reacted to Antonio’s insults patiently.

 

3.     Why did Shylock bear Antonio’s insults patiently?

Shylock bore Antonio’s insults patiently since, as a shrewd Jew, he was waiting for an opportune time to take revenge on Antonio. Earlier, in the scene Shylock admits that patience is the badge of his race.

 

4.     Give the causes, financial and racial, for Shylock’s hatred for Antonio.

Financially Antonio is a threat to Shylock’s money lending business because he lends money without charging interest and thus brings down the rate of interest charged by money lenders. Besides, he hates Antonio since he is a Christian, who despises the Jewish race.

 

5.     What is the need for Antonio to borrow money from his enemy?

Antonio needs to borrow money from his enemy Shylock to give it to Bassanio, his friend so that he can go to Belmont  to woo the rich lady Portia. 

 

6.     Which trait of Shylock’s character emerges in this scene?

In this scene, Shylock is presented as shrewd, cunning and crafty. However, the most evident trait of his character is that of revenge- to take revenge on Antonio for all the insults heaped on him by Antonio. He is eager to execute the bond-document for this purpose.

Extract V

Shylock: 

Why, look you, how you scorn!

…..kind I offer.

1.     What were the ‘shames’ which stained Shylock?

Shylock is referring to the insults hurled on him by Antonio such as speaking abusively of him and his money-lending, spitting on him, kicking him, calling him a dog and ridiculing the Jews.

 

2.     What is meant by ‘the present wants’? On what terms is the speaker willing to supply the wants?

‘The present wants’ refer to the immediate need of Antonio-three thousand ducats to provide for Bassanio’s trip to Belmont to woo Portia. The speaker is ready to supply the wants provided Antonio signs a bond, according to which if Antonio is unable to pay him the money on the specified date, the penalty to be paid will be an exact pound of flesh from any part of Antonio’s body.

 

3.     How does Antonio storm Shylock? Why was Shylock willing to lend money without interest? 

Antonio storms Shylock by saying that in future too he is likely to abuse and disgrace him and that he should lend the money as to an enemy rather than a friend. He challenges him exact the penalty if he fails to repay on time. Shylock is willing to lend the money without interest because he wants to trap Antonio in a fatal bond and take his revenge.

 

4.     What did the speaker propose to do immediately after this?

Immediately after this, the speaker proposes to Antonio to accompany him to a lawyer and execute a bond with his signature wherein the forfeit to be paid will be an exact pound of flesh from any part of Antonio’s body.

 

5.     What is meant by Shylock when he says: “This is kind I offer’?

‘This is kind I offer you’ means this is the kindness that I offer you. This refers to his lending of money without charging any interest on it. 

 

6.     Who is the third person, present at the scene? Why is he reluctant to agree to Shylock’s terms?

The third person present at the scene is Bassanio. He is reluctant to agree to Shylock’s terms because he did not trust the kind words uttered by Shylock. He tells Antonio that he will not  have him make such an agreement on his account. He would rather remain as poor as he is now and do without his wants supplied at such a price. 

 

Extract VI

Shylock;

Go with me to a notary…….pleaseth me.

1.     Who is a notary? Whom does Shylock want to take to the notary? Why?

A notary is a lawyer who has the authority to execute official and legal dealings and agrrements.  Shylock want to take Antonio to the notary to sign the bond document which stipulates that the forfeit to be paid will be a pound of flesh from any part of Antonio’s body.

 

2.      Give the meaning of:

a)     Single bond: agreement in which Antonio will be the only signatory

b)    Merry sport: for a pleasant joke.

3.     What does Bassanio say to prevent Antonio from signing the bond?

Bassanio tells Antonio that he will not have him make such an agreement on his account. He adds that he would rather remain as poor as he is now and do without his wants supplied at such a price.

 

4.     Why is Antonio confident that there is no danger in signing the bond? What aspect of Antonio’s character is shown in this incident?

Antonio is confident that there is no danger in signing the bond because he is confident that one month before the date of payment, his ships  will have brought nine times the amount they are borrowing and they will not have to pay the penalty. This incident shows Antonio’s overconfidence and generosity towards Bassnio.

 

5.     Why does Shylock insist on a pound of Antonio’s flesh in the bond? Which aspect of his character is shown in his absurd demand?

Shylock insists on a pound of Antonio’s flesh to take revenge on him and to put him completely at his mercy. Shylock’s hatred for Antonio and Christians is shown in his absurd demand. Taking advantage of the situation, he wants to take revenge on Antonio and all Christians, who persecuted him and his race. 

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