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Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers

Act I Scene 1

Extract 1.

(i) Antonio and his friends are in a street in Venice. Antonio says that his sadness makes him depressed and dull. He further says that he is yet to learn about the origin and nature of his sadness.


(a) whereof it is born: how it originated. 
(b) a want-wit sadness: a dull sadness. 
(c) That I have much ado to know myself: That I have much difficulty in recognising myself. 

(iii) Salarino tells Antonio that he is sad because his mind is preoccupied with his ships filled with cargo, which are out at sea. 

(iv) Salarino compares Antonio's ships sailing on the waves with the great lords and wealthy citizens, who look down on lesser men as they walk along the street. He says that compared to smaller ships, Antonio's ships move swiftly on the sea with their canvas sails and look like grand spectacles or pageants of the sea. 

(v) Antonio is presented as a melancholic and passive character mainly for three reasons. Firstly, by portraying Antonio as a whimsical person, who is least bothered about the consequences of his actions, justifies his signing the bond-agreement. Secondly, Antonio's melancholy creates a tragic atmosphere suitable for the play. Thirdly, Antonio's melancholy creates a sense of mystery for the audience. 

Extract - 2.

(i) If Salanio had business ventures abroad, his thoughts would be fixed on the dangers to his ventures and methods of securing them. He would be plucking the blades of grass and casting them in the air to see which way the wind blew, to see if it was blowing in a direction favourable to the course of his ships or not. Further, he 
would look into maps for harbours, channels and open road-steads near to the shore where his ships could anchor in case of need. 


(ii) Every thought of Salanio would make him fearful of danger to his business ventures. Two examples which reminded Salarino of the danger to his ships were:

(a) While cooling his soup by blowing on it, reminded him of the stormy winds at sea causing terrible damages to his ships.

(b) The sandy hour-glass reminded him of the richly 
laden vessels wrecked on the sandy shore. 


(a) Plucking of grass and casting them in the air to see which way the wind blew. 
(b) Looking into maps for harbours, channels and even open road- steads near the shore. 


(iv) Despite danger to his ships, Antonio is not worried about his financial security because his business is neither dependent on any one ship nor on any single location or commercial transactions of the current year. 

(v) The opening scene describes the possible dangers that the sea could pose to ships such as Strong winds, dangerous shallow waters, sand banks and dangerous rocks. 


Extract - 3.

(i) This scene takes place in a street of Venice. Antonio, Salarino and Salanio are present in the scene. Salarino is in a talkative mood and wants to know the reason for Antonio's melancholy. He says that he too would be feeling melancholic if his ships were sailing on the sea. 

(ii) It would remind Salarino of the stormy winds at sea and of the terrible damages they might cause to the ships. 

(iii) Wealthy Andrew refers to a Spanish ship called Andrea captured by the British sailors in 1596. It ran aground when it was being brought to England. Since then Andrew refers to a big cargo ship. In the above lines Salarino imagines that his rich cargo ship is grounded in sand and her mast dipped down lower than her sides as if trying 
to kiss the sands that surround her. 

(iv) Sandy hour-glass is an apparatus used to indicate time. It would remind Salarino Of the dangers from hidden banks Of sand at sea, on wihch a ship may run aground. 

(v) Salarino refers to his richly laden ship as wealthy Andrew. It is so referred because Salarino feels that like the Spanish ship Andrea captured by the British in 1596, his ship too is majestic and rich with cargo. 

(vi) When Salarino would go to the church he would see the holy building made of stone. This scene would make him think of the perilous rocks of the sea and imagine that a collision of his ship with these rocks would be sufficient to break his vessel into pieces and scatter on the sea all her spices and silks. 

Extract - 4.

(i) Salarino has just said that Antonio was in love. Antonio calls the remark as nonsense and completely denies that he is in love. 


(ii) Salarino concludes that Antonio is sad because he is not happy. He remarks that there are some curious creatures in the world. He swears by Janus, the two-headed Roman God that some people have merry natures and are continuously laughing whether the things they see are subject for mirth or not. Again there are others with the sourest countenance who will not laugh at any thing though the gravest old warrior Nestor himself confirms the joke as most amusing. 

(iii) Janus is a Roman god usually depicted with two heads looking in opposite directions — one frowning and the other smiling. He had received from god Saturn, the gift to see both the past and the future. He is referred to in the extract to show that there are two types of people — one happy and the other sad. 

(iv) Nature has two types of people. The first type of people have happy natures and often laugh even if the subject of laughter is too trivial. The second type of people are those with serious and grave faces, who do not laugh even at the most amusing jokes. 

(v) Nestor was the King of Pylos. He was one of the greatest generals in the Trojan War. He was famous for his wisdom, justice, knowledge of war and profound gravity. If he laughed, it meant the joke was really funny. He is referred to in the extract to describe the sad and grave people.


(a) The second type of people who are grave and serious. 
(b) Even if the wise and grave Nestor certify the joke as funny. 

(vii) A class of people are compared to parrots because they laugh even at a bag-piper as foolishly as a parrot laughs at anything. 

(viii) At the end of Salarino's speech, Bassanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo come. Salarino leaves Antonio then because Antonio's friends, Bassanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo have come to give him company. 

Extract - 5.

(i) Gratiano gives the example of a warm-blooded young man who represses his spirits and forces himself to stillness till he looks like the marble image of his grandfather. He does so to advise Antonio not to remain in melancholy. He is likely to be infected with jaundice due to his bad temper. 

(ii) (a) Some men overcast their faces witha pale expression as unchanging as the cream that forms on the surface of milk and as the scum that forms on the surface of a stagnant pool. 
(b) maintain an obstinate silence not to disturb the solemnity of 
their faces. 

(iii) In the extract, Gratiano speaks about people who try to obtain a reputation for wisdom, seriousness and deep thought by remaining silent. Such people mean to say that they speak with the authority of the Greek Oracle and they alone are infallible in their utterances. When they speak, other should keep quiet.


 (iv) 'I am Sir Oracle' means 'I speak with the authority of the Greek Oracle'. The Greek Oracles made known the will of Gods and were received by all without questions. 'Let no dog bark' means 'let no one speak'. It refers to the attitude of those wise men who consider themselves as the fountain of wisdom and want that when they speak, others should remain silent. 

(v) At the end of his speech, Gratiano advises Antonio not to be one Of those who try to gain a reputation for wisdom by being silent. He further tells Antonio not to use melancholv as a bait to win the reputation of wisdom and cheap popularity. which is like a worthless cheap fish, a gudgeon.


Extract - 6

. (i) Bassanio and Antonio are in a street in Venice. Prior to this extract. Antonio asks Bassanio to tell him about his plans. He adds, that if Bassanio's plan is as honourable as he is, he then promises him everything that he has— money, influence, personal help and utmost resources. 

(ii) The above lines mean that at any rate Bassanio could pay the *cond loan and remain his grateful debtor for the first. 

(iii) Earlier, Bassanio confesses to Antonio that he has spent his wealth by having a more lordly way of living than his moderate incorne allowed him. Therefore, he has incurred heavy debts because Of his youth and extravagance. This proves that Bassanio is a spendthrift. 

(iv) Bassanio says that when he was a boy at school and he lost one of his arrows while shooting, he would shoot another arrow in the same direction. Thus, by risking the second, he often regained both the arrows. 

(v) Bassanio proposes to pay back his previous loan as well as the 
present loan by carefully managing the expenditure Of his second 
loan amount. 

Extract - 7.

(i) 'Fair speechless messages' mean glances which are silent messages of love. Bassanio wants to say that sometimes he received from Portia's eyes lovely silent messages. The words 'nothing undervalued' mean not less precious. Bassanio says that his Portia is no less precious than Cato's daughter. 

(ii) Cato, the father of Brutus' wife Portia, was the great-grandson of the famous Cato, the Censor. In the Civil War between Pompey and Caesar he supported Pompey and was defeated by Caesar. Brutus, husband of Portia, was the chief of the conspirators against Caesar and caused his assassination. They are referred to show that Portia of Belmont is as precious and great as Cato's daughter, Portia. 

(iii) The passage says that Portia's fame had spread throughout the world as suitors from every part of the world come to Belmont to win her hand in marriage. 

(iv) Jason was a Greek hero, who was sent by Pelias, his uncle who had usurped the throne, to fetch the golden fleece from Colchos. In Greek mythology, golden fleece is referred to as the fleece of the winged ram Chrysomallos. It was kept at an oak tree in a grove sacred to god Ares and guarded by a dragon in Colchos. Bassanio compares Portia to the golden fleece and himself in his quest for Portia, to Jason on his voyage to fetch the golden fleece. He refers to Other suitors as Jasons. 

(v) Bassanio's description of Portia in the opening scene reveals that she is a paragon among women. She is rich and beautiful with golden hair. She has wonderful mental qualities and is virtuous as well. Her fame has attracted suitors from all over the world. She is in no way inferior to her namesake, Cato's daughter and Brutus' wife. 

Extract - 8.

(i) Antonio is unable to help Bassanio at once since he has no money in hand as all his business ventures are at sea. 

(ii) The sum was three thousand ducats. It was required urgently for Bassanio to go to Belmont and present himself before Portia as a worthy suitor. 

(iii) Antonio instructs Bassanio to find out a merchant who is ready to give him money against his name. 


(a) The credit shall be stretched to the utmost limit. Antonio says that he is ready to stretch the credit as far as to equip Bassanio to go to Belmont to woo Portia. 

(b) Either on the security of my name or from feelings of personal friendship. 

(v) In the opening scene, Bassanio comes to Antonio to borrow money so that he can go to Belmont to win his lady love. But Antonio confesses that he has no ready cash and instructs Bassanio to borrow money from a merchant against his security or name. Thus, Shakespeare links the first scene to the Bond story which involves the loan from Shylock 

(vi) Antonio is introduced in the scene as a rich merchant having many shipping ventures at sea. He is in a state Of melancholy and not interested in love. Loyalty and generosity towards Bassanio are the major traits of his character. Compared to Antonio, Bassanio is shown as a spendthrift young gallant, who lives a life of luxury beyond his means. He seems to take undue advantage of Antonio's generosity. Unlike Antonio, he is a romantic man, who wants to marry Portia, a rich and beautiful heiress from Belmont.