Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers Act 1 – Important Notes – ICSE Class 10 & 9 English
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Word Meaning With Annotation
Act I Scene I
In sooth : truly. It wearies me : the sadness of which Antonio is complaining, it seems, is in born caught : Antonio speaks of his melancholy as if it had been “caught”, acquired like an infectious disease, came by : acquired, whereof : “of what parents;” “of what origin”, want-wit : a dull person, a stupid fellow, ado : difficulty, trouble, argosies : this word was chiefly used of large and important merchant ships, portly : literally “of good part, “ or of a carriage which suggest importance. The word HERE suggests stoutness or fatness, signiors : gentle me.
pageant : exhibition of any kind which appeals to the eye. Antonio’s ships are said to present such a spectacle, overpeer : literally “peer over,” or “look over the top of.” petty traffickers : unimportant trading ships, curt’sy : the manner in which the small and light ships pitch up and down on the waves while the larger ship, because of its greater weight, sweeps along steadily, woven wings : the sails of the ships are woven of canvas, and carry them along just like the wings of birds, venture : a trading expedition, in which money has been risked, forth : out on the sea.
plucking the grass : pluck a blade of grass, and hold it up in order to see from its movement the direction in which the wind is blowing, roads : a sheltered piece of water : where a ship can lie safe from storms, broth : a thick kind of soup, ague : fever which is accompanied by fits of shivering, sandy hour-glass : an apparatus consistsing of two glass bulbs or balls. The sight of the sand within the glass will bring on the thought of dangers from hidden bands of sand at sea, on which ships may run aground, shallows and of flats : a plateau of the sea bottom which rises up near the surface are both dreaded by mariners, my wealthy Andrew : a name applied to any big merchant ship, dock’d in sand : resting on a sand bank, if in dock.
Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs : the high top is the top of the mast; the ribs are the sides of the ships. If a ship is aground and has rolled quite over, then the top of the mast may be lower than the sides, vailing : lowering, to kiss her burial : to kiss the sands in which she is buried, which touching but : which, if they only touch etc. spices : aromatic substances and perfumes such as cinammon, musk, etc. stream : sea. Enrobe : cover; clothe, in a word : briefly. Shall I have the thought : shall my imagination make me think that such an unfortunate happening would make me sad. bechanced : having happened.
Fortune : ‘Luck’ and ‘Wealth’, ventures : business, bottom : ship, my ventures are not in one bottom trusted, nor to one place; nor is my whole estate, upon the fortune of this present year : nor is my financial position dependent on the business ventures of this year. Fie, fie : shame, not in love neither : The old English custom was to double a negative for emphasis, and there was no thought of two negatives cancelling each other out. Janus : He was the Roman God. He is always depicted with two heads, looking in opposite directions. He is mentioned here simply with the idea that Nature creates two different types of men, with different outlooks, peep through their eyes : the men here have such fat cheeks that their eyes are almost closed up, and they have difficulty in seeing through them.
laugh like parrots : indulge in shrill screams of laughter, bag piper : one who plays the bagpipe, vinegar aspect : this expression is used to describe a severe and gloomy expression of the countenance. Nestor : was a Greek warrior. He is mentioned here as symbolic of seriousness and gravity in general. Even he would laugh at a certain jest, but the people of “vinegar aspect” would refuse to join in. Prevented : “made it unnecessary.” worth : merit; value, laugh : the sense is “When shall we have a merry party together?” you grow exceeding strange : You are becoming strangers to me; I see you so seldom.
Respect upon the world : anxious thoughts concerning worldly affairs. They lose it that do buy it with much care : those who spend too much time worrying about worldly matters are never really happy, you are marvellously changed : not looking in his accustomed good health and spirits, and mine a sad one : Shadow of misfortune has fallen upon Antonio. But it may be that Shakespeare wishes to create a feeling of foreboding and destiny, on the principle that “Coming events cast their shadows before.” Play the fool : Gratiano says that if Antonio has chosen to play a tragic part, he himself will prefer to have a comic role.
And let my liver rather heat with wine : a liver enriched by wine would produce rich blood, and thus a lively personality, mortifying : “death-causing”, sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster : alabaster is a pure white stone used for making statues; hence this means simply “sit as still as a carved statue.” sleep when he wakes : appear sleepy in his waking hours, creep into the jaundice : It was believed then that jaundice was caused by mental worry, peevish : irritable; ill-tempered, there are a sort : ‘sort’ denotes a class containing a number, do cream and mantle like a standing pond : the figure is that of cream forming on the top of milk, or a green covering forming on the top of still waters in a pool. Certain men allow a grave look thus to form on their faces, do a wilful stillness entertain : and assume deliberately a pose of silence, with purpose : with the intention of.
Sir Oracle : an Oracle, in the old world, was the inspired utterance of a priest, a direct statement from God. It was received by all without question, let no dog bark : let not even the lowest dare to interrupt, therefore only : solely on that account. If they should speak, would almost damn those ears : these men earn a reputation for wisdom by saying nothing. But if they should speak, they would almost bring damnation or divine punishment on those who heard them, for those who listened could not help saying ‘Fools! melancholy bait : by using melancholy just as an angler uses a bait on his hook to catch a fish, gudgeon : is a worthless and stupid fish, very easily caught, exhortation : sermon; good advice.
More : many, for this gear : Antonio is supposed to say humorously, “Well, you have converted me: I shall be a talker instead of a silent man.” in a neat’s tongue dried and a maid not vendible : “In a dried ox tongue ready for the table, or in a woman who has missed the chance of making a marriage.” inflnte deal of nothing : a vast amount of nonsense, have them, they aren’t worth the search. Well; tell me now, what lady is the same to whom you swore a secret pilgrimage, that you to-day promis’d to tell me of : Antonio’s words introduce Portia and prepare us for her appearance in Scene II.
disabled mine estate : reduced my resources; strained my means, something : to some extent; somewhat, swelling port : an appearance of wealth and ostentation, than my faint continuance : that my scanty income can enable to continue or keep up. make moan to be abridged : grumble at having to be reduced (in my expenditure.) noble rate : noble style of living, to come fairly off : to come out honourable from, wherein my time, something too prodigal, Hath left me gaged : in which my life, which has been rather wasteful, has left me involved. I have a warranty : mean “an assurance” or “I have the privilege of’, unburthen all my plots and purposes : to unfold to you all my schemes and intentions, how to get clear : by means of which I hope to get clear, within the eye of honour : within honourable limits; within what men would regard as honourable, advised watch, careful observation, my person : my very body. Antonio only offers this in the exaggeration of speech, but the events of the drama make it come literally true., extremest : utmost resources, unlock’d to your occasions : open to your every need.
His fellow : Here it means “a similar arrow.” of the self-same flight : “with equal range.” to find the other forth : the word forth will give the simplest meaning if we take it as going along, childhood proof : illustration from childhood, because what follows is pure innocence : Bassanio’s meaning is that he produces an illustration from the innocent days of his childhood, like a wilful youth : as is usually the case with a reckless youth, self way : “the same way”, or to find both : the or here is used in the sense of “either”, circumstance : hints, uttermost : my extreme efforts, may by me be done: is possible for me to do. prest Into it : drawn to your aid.
Fairer than that word : what is even better than the word “Fair,” fair speechless messages : silent glances which revealed her thoughts, nothing undervalued : in no way inferior to. Portia : Shakespeare wife, Portia, is a daughter of the famous Roman scholar and orator, Cato, four winds : North, South, East, and West, golden fleece : the reference is to a famous legend of ancient Greece. “Fleece” usually refers to the crop of wool from the back of a sheep or ram. many Jasons : many suitors came, just as Jason come of old. hold a rival place with : oppose them as a rival. I have a mind presages me such thrift : I have in my mind an instinct telling me that I shall be so fortunate as to be the lucky one. commodity : goods; merchandise, rack’d : strained; stretched to the utmost, to furnish thee to Belmont : to equip you suitably for your expedition to Belmont. I no question make : I have no doubt that I shall.
Act I Scene II
By my troth : A mild form of oath, surfeit : to be supplied with anything to excess, it is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean: Nerissa says, “It is no small happiness to be situated in a position mid-way between poverty and riches.” superfluity : the man who lives wastefully through excess of luxuries, comes sooner by : obtains more quickly, competency : the man who possesses just sufficient for a reasonably comfortable life, good sentences : fine opinions. Chapels had been churches : a chapel is a church, which accommodates a small number of worshippers. Portia says that if it were as easy to follow out the moral ideal as it is merely to know about it, then there would be so many worshippers that all the small chapels would have to be replaced by big churches.
It is a good divine : he is a good preacher. I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching : the general sense of the lines is that to obey instructions is twenty times more difficult than it is to give good instructions, brain : the reasoning powers; the mind, blood : passion; the desires of the body, such a hare is madness the youth, to skip o’er the meshes of good counsel the cripple : here madness typifies a reckless young man, while wisdom typifies an old man. The youth is as agile and active as a hare, while the old man is as feeble and slow as a lame man (cripple), in the fashion : of the proper type, would : would like; care for. nor refuse none : an example of Shakespeare’s double negative, which is used as being stronger than a single negative. We should expect “nor refuse one.”
Have good inspirations : receive divine guidance, the lottery that he hath devised : “lottery” signifies the winning of a prize by drawing numbers or chances at random. The belief in olden times was that such a method was not decided by chance, but was directed by divine guidance and intervention, princely suitors : It has been thought that there is a topical reference in the mention of the “princely suitors” for the hand of Portia. Over name : name them over; read over their names, level at : conjecture; arrive at.
appropriation to his own good parts : addition to his own merits, county Palatine : The count from Palatine, as who should say : just as if he were saying, an you will not have me, choose : Palatinate has an abrupt manner which infers, “If you do not want me, you can do whatever you like. I don’t care.” weeping philosopher : the old Greek philosopher, Heracleitos of Ephesus, who “wept at everything in the world.” death’s head with a bone in his mouth : the emblem of a skull with two bones crossed underneath was usually known as a “death’s head.” Portia speaks of a different type, of a grinning skull with a bone in its mouth, just as if it were smoking a pipe, monsieur Le Bon : The description which Portia gives of this character is a satire on the traditional, affected, vivacious Frenchman.
Throstle : name often applied to the common English bird, the thrush, falconbridge : the young English baron, is a good-humoured satire on the typical travelled Englishman of that time, pennyworth : very little knowledge, he is a proper man’s picture : he is certainly a man of fine appearance, dumb show : knowing no French, the young man had to converse by means of signs, his behaviour every where : he had acquired certain manners and customs from all the nations which he had visited.
The Scottish lord, his neighbour : King James I of Scotland had then ascended the throne of Great Britain, and it was thought advisable to change this lest it should give offence to the King, that he hath a neighbourly charity in him; for he borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman, and swore he would pay him again when he was able: I think the Frenchman became his surety, and sealed under for another : there was great jealousy between Scotland and England at this period, owing to the long wars and numerous causes of quarrel between the two countries. In order to please his audience, Shakespeare makes the Scotsman and Frenchman both deficient in courage, submitting to a blow from the Englishman without having the spirit to return it.
The Frenchman became his surety : the Frenchman gave an assurance that the Scotsman would pay back the blow he had received, and sealed under for another : the language is such as would be used to describe the drawing up of an agreement between two countries. The actual document would contain the seal (in wax) of Scotland, while the French seal would also be placed under it. When he is best : he is at his best, on the worst fall that ever fell : even the worst stroke of fortune that may befall me, I hope, will not be so bad that I cannot manage to get rid of him. Rhenish wine : wine made from grapes grown in the Rhine valley, on the contrary casket : on the wrong casket: the one which is opposite to the right one.
if the devil be within and that temptation without, I know he will choose : for even if that casket contained the devil himself, he would risk opening it as long as there was such a strong temptation as a flask of wine outside, sponge : used to denote a drunkard, i.e., one who soaks up or absorbs liquor, some other sort : by some different method, your father’s imposition : the conditions imposed by your father. Sibylla : this refers to Deiphobe, the traditional old woman of the ancient Romans. Apollo promised her that she would live as many years as there were grains in a handful of sand which she carried, as chaste as Diana : the classical goddess Diana is always used as typical of chastity. She was the goddess of hunting, and also of the moon, parcel of wooers : crowd of suitors, dote on : long for.
marquis of Montferrat : this was the title of a high-born Italian nobleman, who would possibly be known by this name in England, yes, yes, it was Bassanio; as I think, so was he called : it will be observed that Portia’s interest is awakened at once by the mention of Bassanio. Her manner here should be compared with the attitude of satire and mockery with which she heard of the other suitors. Shakespeare shows her as already in love with Bassanio. the four strangers seek for you, madam, to take their leave : we have already been told of six suitors staying at Belmont, and it is strange that only four are mentioned here. The most probable explanation is that two of the six were added to the play at a later date, and this line was not altered to correspond with the change, forerunner : one who runs before to announce the coming of his master, the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devn : a saintly character combined with a black colour. The Elizabethans were accustomed rather to seeing negro people than Moors, and the black skin of the pure negro was by no means admired.
I had rather he should shrive me than wive me : I would rather have him as my priest, to administer spiritual comfort, than as a husband. Ducats : There were gold ducats and silver ducats at the time with which the play deals, bound : Antonio shall be legally responsible for the repayment. Antonio is a good man : “reliable in financial dealings.” Sufficient : satisfactory as security, his means are in supposition : his fortune may be supposed subject to the risks and failures of business, he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis : It matters little whether Shakespeare was thinking of Tripoli in North Africa, or Tripolis in Syria.
Indies : the West Indies near Central America. Rialto : this was the name of the business quarters of Venice, squandered : sent forth; scattered, the man is not with standing sufficient : nevertheless the man Antonio is satisfactory as security, yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which your prophet, theNazarite, conjured the devil into! I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you : there is a story in the Bible of Christ (the Nazarite) compelling certain evil spirits to come out of two men, whose bodies they had entered. Then the evil spirits asked Christ to allow them to enter into the bodies of a herd of swine, and He allowed them to do so. This is what Shylock refers to; by “habitation” he means the body of the swine. The Jews look upon pork as an unclean and prohibited food. We see in this speech the character of Shylock. He is proud of his race and his religion, and determined not to break any of his religious observances to please the hated Christian. Yet he has the shrewd commonsense of a businessman, and is willing to mix with Christians and do business with them, as long as there is profit to be made. He uses the title “prophet” for Christ, since the Jews do not recognise Him as the son of God.
Fawning publican : “fawning” usually means “servile” or “cringing” and there seems no reason why such a term should be applied to Antonio. It is Shylock’s bitter hatred which makes him look on Antonio’s mood of melancholy in this light. The term “publican” was used in the new Testament with very much the same significance as “a low caste man” or “an untouchable”, low simplicity : stupid ignorance, usance : profit derived from money lending. If I can catch him once upon the hip : To have a man “on the hip,” meant to have secured such a hold on him that he could easily be thrown to the ground. I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him : I will gratify fully the old grievance I have against him. He hates our sacred nation, and he rails, Even there where merchants most do congregate, On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,Which he calls interest : In the time of Shakespeare, the modem system of banks was far from appealing. The lending of money was in the hands of private individuals,and there was no restriction on the rate of interest which they could charge. The Jews were foremost in amassing wealth by this means, and they had the reputation of being grasping and merciless creditors, rails : give abuse. Well- won thrift : well-deserved profits. I am debating of : I am calculating, gross : the complete sum.
a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe : the Jews were divided into twelve tribes, descended from the twelve children of Israel, your worship : “Your honour.” Albeit : although, by taking, nor by giving of excess : by taking from my debtors anything in excess of the sum I have lent to them, nor by giving any such sum to my creditors, ripe : immediate, immediate attention, so Bassanio’s needs require an immediate loan. I’ll break a custom : I shall depart from my custom, and give you interest on this loan, is he yet possess’d, how much you would : Is he aware yet of the amount you want? upon advantage : with the usual interest, grazed : ‘Led out to pasture’, the third possessor : the third heir to the family estates. Were compromised : had agreed, eanlings : newly-born lambs.
Streak’d : striped, this was a venture, sir, that Jacob serv’d for : the Biblical story was that Jacob had entered Laban’s service first in order to gain a wife, and then in order to gain a flock. But Antonio retorts that Jacob earned this reward by service, and not by merely’ allowing his money to gain interest. In addition, Antonio casts doubt on the old Biblical story and says that Jacob could not possibly have influenced the birth of the lambs in this manner, was this inserted to make interest good : Was this ‘ episode introduced into the Bible in order to justify the taking of interest? Antonio asks this rather sharply, because he thinks that Shylock’s argument has nothing to do with the taking of interest at all, and resents that the Jew should try to justify his money-lending by Biblical quotations, the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose : this has become a well-known quotation in the English language. It arises, in the first place, from another incident described in the Bible, where the devil tempts Christ, and supports his temptations by craftily used quotations and allusions from the Divine law.
a goodly apple : an apple which has an outward appearance of goodness, goodly outside : a fair outward appearance.Beholding : obliged, indebted, rated : blamed, gaberdine : a peculiar type of robe worn by the Jews. For Antonio to spit upon it would be a direct insult to Jewish nationality, for use of that : for using my own money as I choose, void your rheum : spot, cast your saliva, moneys is your suit : now your request is for money! bondsman’s key : “a voice like a slave.”
key : tone, bated breath : quiet breath. I am as like to call thee so again : “It is quite likely that I shall do so again,” Antonio is quite frank about his treatment of Shylock; he admits it, and offers no regrets. His attitude seems to be that it is a natural thing, and just what a Jew might expect, for when did friendship take A breed for barren metal of his friend : the word “breed” is probably used because the illustration of Jacob and his lambs is still fresh in the mind of Antonio. He means “profit” i.e., interest produced by lent money, just as lambs are produced by sheep, but lend it rather to thine enemy : But rather consider me as an enemy when lending it. If he break : If he break the conditions agreed upon; if he fail to repay, with better face : with a better appearance of justice; with no shame in doing so.
would be : would like to be. and take no doit of usance : “and accept not one pie of interest.” this is kind I offer : “A man likes the company of his own kind” Shylock means, “This is your own system of loan which I offer, without any interest.” But there may be a double meaning intended, for “to pay a man in kind” means to return similar treatment to him. this were kindness : Antonio, of course, sees no double meaning in Shylock’s words, and replies, “That would indeed be kindness on your part.” Notary : a solicitor; a legal officer, single bond : a bond undertaken by one man, i.e., it was signed by Antonio alone, nominated : agreed upon, equal pound : exactly a pound. I’ll seal to such a bond : ‘I will place my name to this agreement.’
I’ll rather dwell in my necessity : “I would rather remain in my present state of need.” within these two months : in two months from this date, father Abraham : Shylock swears by his great Jewish ancestor, break his day : break his promise to pay on a certain day. muttons : beefs, these words, refer only to the flesh of animals, were originally French, and meant “sheep” and “oxen.” purse the ducats straight : at once make ready the ducats in a purse for you. the fearful guard : “left in the unsafe care.” Launcelot is such a careless fellow that it causes Shylock fear that he could not be the guardian of the house even for the time being.
Hie thee, gentle Jew : “Go, kind Jew.” It will be noticed that Antonio uses the word “gentle.” He has been completely deceived by the superior craft of Shylock, and thinks that all his professions of friendship are genuine. I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind : “I am suspicious when fair conditions are offered by a man whom I know to be a villain.” Bassanio is more quick-witted and alert than Antonio, and his suspicions of Shylock are not so easily lulled to sleep, dismay : “ground for fear.”
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