Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers Act 1 – Passages with Reference to the Context – ICSE Class 10 & 9 English
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Passage – 1
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 1-5)
Context : These are the opening lines of the play The Merchant Of Venice, Spoken by Antonio. The merchant speaks to his friends Salarino and Salanio. Antonio makes a confession of the mysterious melancholy which oppresses him. He is shown as a sad man at the beginning of the drama even before anything happens to him. His sadness strikes the key¬note of his character.
Explanation : Antonio says that he does not know why he is so sad. Frankly speaking, this sadness has taken hold of him. You complain that you find this sadness very depressing for you. He can assure you that it has a similar effect on his spirits. He is totally ignorant how and where he came to have this melancholy, what has given rise to it and what its nature is.
Passage – 2
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 8-14)
Context : These lines are spoken by Salarino in The Merchant of Venice when Antonio is seen in a melancholy mood in the opening scene.
Explanation : Salarino tries to suggest a possible reason for Antonio’s melancholy. He says that Antonio’s mind is worried by thoughts of his richly laden merchant ships which are voyaging on the ocean. These ships of Antonio rise above smaller vessels just as rich men rise above ordinary citizens. Smaller ships bow to and salute Antonio’s ships just as humble persons bend respectfully before rich men. Salarino here describes Antonio’s ships in highly, complimentary words.
Passage – 3
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 17-22)
Context : These lines are taken from Act I Scene I of The Merchant of Venice. Salanio, one of Antonio’s friends speaks to Antonio, when the latter complains of his mysterious and strange melancholy.
Explanation : Salarino assures Antonio that if he were busy in a business enterprise as Antonio is, all his thoughts would center round what danger would the ships face. He should be constantly holding up a blade of grass in the air to find out if the wind was blowing in a direction favourable to his ship’s course. He should be consulting maps to find out what harbours, ports and road steads could lend shelter to his ships in case of need and danger. And to find anything that was likely to endanger the safety of his shops should, beyond all doubt, make him unhappy.
Passage – 4
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 50-56)
Context : These lines are taken from The Merchant of Venice. Antonio’s friends offer several explanations of his melancholy but Antonio does not admit any of those explanations to be true. At this point Salarino makes the comment quoted in above lines.
Explanation : Salarino swears by Janus (two faced gods) the Roman god of gates and doors, who can see both ways, that Nature has created people of strange temperaments. There are some people who are so jovial and good humoured that they laugh at trifles even as parrots laugh to see a bagpiper-one who plays on a bagpipe. Others wear such a sad, gloomy expression that they will not laugh even at a joke that can amuse the most serious man in this world. Salarino swears by Janus, the two faced god, because he has to describe people of two opposite temperaments. A parrot laughing at a bagpipe implies people who will laugh without rhyme or reason. Nestor is a character in Greek mythology. He was known for his over-seriousness. These lines show Antonio as a man of naturally melancholy temperament.
Passage – 5
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 80-86)
Context : These lines are taken from The Merchant of Venice. Antonio’s friends have been trying to find reasons for his melancholy. Antonio says that he is by nature a serious and gloomy man. Gratiano in this passage comments upon Antonio’s statement.
Explanation : Gratiano says that he would rather be a jester than a kill-joy. He would like to remain happy and gay till his very old age. It is better to drink heavily, even if it is harmful to health, than to sink in despair and feel worried to death. He cannot understand why a man in the prime of his life should feel sad and keep quiet like the stone statue of his grandfather. Why should a man be lazy and inactive in spite of youthful energy? Why should he contract diseases like jaundice by remaining continuously ill-tempered? Antonio’s melancholy seems causeless to Gratiano. He, therefore, condemns it in a witty manner.
Passage – 6
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 88-94)
Context : These lines are taken from The Merchant of Venice. Antonio’s friends have been discussing his melancholy. Antonio has said that his melancholy is temperamental and not due to any particular cause. Gratiano makes the following comment upon it.
Explanation : There are some people in this world who wear upon their faces a serious expression. Such people are like a pool of standing and stagnant water. They put on such serious airs deliberately and intentionally. Their object is to earn a reputation for wisdom, seriousness and deep thoughtfulness. They wish to appear to be prophets who must not be interrupted while they are uttering words of wisdom. Gratiano is here making fun of Antonio’s melancholy.
Passage – 7
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 115-118)
Context : These words are spoken by Bassanio to Antonio in The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio describes Gratiano’s habit of talking too much with very little meaning.
Explanation : Bassanio says that Gratiano’s talk contains very little sense. To find sense in Gratiano’s talks is like searching for two grains of wheat buried in two large heaps of chaff. It demands much time and much effort to discover the sense in Gratiano’s words and, when that sense has been discovered, the discoverer feels that it is not worth the pains that he has spent.
Passage – 8
(Act I, Sc.I, Lines 167-172)
Context : These lines are taken from The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio wants a loan of- money from his friend Antonio in order to try his luck at winning Portia. He praises highly the lady whom he wishes to marry for her wealth as well as beauty.
Explanation : Portia’s beauty and accomplishments, says Bassanio, are not a secret from anyone. She is so widely known that men of high rank and position go to Belmont, where she live, from all countries and lands. Her like Colchos. Just as Jason went to Colchos in order to win the golden fleece, similarly suitors from far near go to Belmont in order to win fair Portia.
Passage – 9
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 5-8)
Context : These words are spoken by Nerissa to Portia in The Merchant of Venice. Portia has said that she is feeling sick of the world. Nerissa replies that happiness lies in having neither too much wealth nor too little.
Explanation : Nerissa says that people who have too much of wealth are as sick of life as people who are penniless. A person who has neither too much, nor too little is, therefore, lucky. A man who possesses too much wealth grows old to early; while he who has neither too much nor too little lives very long.
Passage – 10
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 11-20)
Context : These lines are taken from The Merchant of Venice. Nerissa has said that those who, like Portia, own too much wealth are as unhappy as those who have little. It is better, therefore, to be neither very rich nor very poor. Portia praises the wisdom of Nerissa’s remark.
Explanation : It is much easier to say wise things than to do them. If doing them were as easy as saying or knowing them, there would have been much greater happiness in the world than there is now. In the case small places of worship like chapels would have become churches; that is, they would have attracted more people and that would have led to a greater piety, and more kindness would have been shown to the poor. Thus, the happiness of the poor would have transformed their cottages into palaces. A really good priest is one who himself practices what he preaches. It is much easier to teach others to follow the right path than to follow it oneself. Reasons may dictate certain wise courses of action but one’s impulses usually ignore such dictates. Youth is generally nor rash and unthinking; so it never follows the rules of good conduct or good advice. Youth is swift like a hare and the advice of experienced people is a cripple. Youth cannot be caught in the net of good counsel. A young man never stops to consider the advice given to him. Portia ends her speech by saying that this way of talking and reasoning will not help her in getting husband. It is useless to analyses human nature, she says.
Passage – 11
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 37-39)
Context : These words, spoken by Portia to Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice express Portia’s opinion about the Neapolitan Prince who is a candidate for Portia’s hand.
Explanation : Portia humorously calls the Neapolitan Prince a colt (the young one of a horse), because he constantly talks about the horse. In calling him a colt, she also means that he is a wild fellow. The Prince, says Portia, takes great pride in the fact that can himself shoe his horse. He thinks it a great qualification. Portia is making fun of the Neapolitan Prince’s exaggerated interest in his horse.
Passage – 12
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 41-45)
Context : These words, taken from the Merchant of Venice, express Portia’s opinion about the Count Palatine, one of the suitor of Portia. Portia is talking to her maid, Nerissa.
Explanation : Portia says that the Count Palatine is all time frowning and that he seems to think that he will not bother very much if he is rejected by Portia. He is so serious-minded that he does not smile even at funny stories. If he is so foolishly serious-minded in youth, he will surely become a hardened pessimist in his old age.
Passage – 13
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 50-58)
Context : These words, taken from The Merchant of Venice, and contain Portia’s comment on one of her suitors, namely, Monsieur Le Bon, the French Lord.
Explanation : Portia says that she is willing to consider Monsieur Le Bon a human being only on the -ground that the God made him. She means that he is not fit to be regarded as a human being. She further says that making fun of people is a sin but that she cannot help making fun of this man. This fellow talks of his horse even more proudly than the Neapolitan prince. He has a worse habit of frowning ever, than the Count Palatine. He pretends to possess all sorts of accomplishments but actually he possesses none. He will start dancing when he hears a bird like the throstle singing. He will fight a duel even with his own shadow. He has no character ‘or personality of his own as he combines in himself the various qualities of at least twenty different persons. Marrying him would mean marrying twenty husbands. Portia says that if this fellow were to hate her she would not mind. If he were to love her, no matter how desperately, she would never be able to respond to his love.
Passage – 14
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 65-69)
Context : This is Portia’s comment on one of her suitors in The Merchant of Venice. Portia is talking to Nerissa and the target of satire if Falconbridge, the young baron of England.
Explanation : Portia says that the young baron of England is certainly as beautiful as a picture, but no one can talk with a picture, because a picture is dumb and cannot talk. She will not be able to talk to him because she does not know English and he does not know Italian or French. She then describes his strange was of dressing because he wears clothes of mixed fashions. He wears a jacket of an Italian design, breeches of a French cut, a hat of a German style, while his manners are a mixture of the manners of all countries.
Passage – 15
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 71-75)
Context : These words are spoken by Portia to Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice. Portia here gives an amusing description of the Scottish lord, one of her suitors.
Explanation : Portia says that the Scottish lord possesses a very sympathetic heart and charitable feelings. When the Englishman gave the Scottish lord a box on his ears, the Scottish lord promised to return it as soon as he would be in a position to do so. The Frenchman stood the Scottish lord’s surety in this transaction, and gave an assurance that the Scottish lord would certainly fulfill his promise to return the box. This assurance made the Englishman give another box to the Scottish lord.
Passage – 16
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 77-79)
Context : These words are from The Merchant of Venice spoken by Antonio in reply to Gratiano’s remark that Antonio looked sad because he had too much regard for the world and its good opinion of him. Antonio is in the company of Bassanio, Lorenzo and Gratiano. A short time before, when the play opens, Antonio says to Salarino and Salanio that he is sad but he does not know the cause of his sadness. Salarino and Salanio had tried in their own way to account for the sadness of Antonio. According to them he was sad either because he was thinking about his ships or because he was in love. But Antonio had rejected both these explanations. Now when the new group of friends arrives, they also note that Antonio is looking rather sad and careworn. Gratiano is the first to express this feeling.
Explanation : Antonio, not knowing the cause of his sadness, tells Gratiano that he regards this world as nothing more than a stage, upon which everybody has to play his part. He feels that his part in the drama of life set on the world’s stage is a serious one.
Passage – 17
(Act I. Sc.II, Lines 3-8)
Context : These lines are from Act I, Scene II of The Merchant of Venice and are spoken by Nerissa, Portia’s waiting maid. Portia has just remarked that she has become ‘aweary’ of the world.
Explanation : Nerissa somewhat philosophically says that Portia’s sadness proceeds from superfluity of wealth, for true happiness lies in the golden mean. Her opinion is that persons who have too much of anything are in as bad a condition as those who have too little of it. Therefore, the best condition is to be neither too wealthy nor too poor, because those who have too much money indulge themselves in excess and grow old very soon while those who have just sufficient to keep themselves healthy live longer.
Passage – 18
(Act. I, Sc.II, Lines 16-19)
Context : These lines occurs in Shakespeare’s famous play lines The Merchant of Venice. When Portia resents the manners of her marriage and complains of sadness. Nerissa like a philosopher says that (his sense of weariness is the malady of the idle rich who live a pampered life of enjoyment and superfluity. She adds that competency and not superfluity will ensure happiness. Portia admits it but says that the problem is that it is very difficult to put a maximum into actual practice.
Explanation : Portia says that the rational nature of man may frame rules for controlling the passion, but human beings both men and women especially in youth, are apt to be governed by passions which are deaf to the appeal of reason. The laws of reason are easily overthrown by youthful impulse, just as ordinary nets meant for catching hare are skipt over by him. The wild impulse of youth is like a hare and moral, laws are like a cripple that pursues a hare to catch him but fails to do so. Similarly, moral law falls to keep under control wild passions of youth.
Passage – 19
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 31-35)
Context : These words are spoken by Shylock in Scene III of Act I of The Merchant of Venice. Shylock and Bassanio have been talking about the loan of three thousand ducats for a period of three months for which Antonio is to stand as a surety. Shylock tells Bassanio that he could stand surety for him. Although all Antonio’s fortunes ‘are at sea’ yet Shylock considers him sufficient. But before giving that loan Shylock must see Antonio and speak to him.
Explanation : When Bassanio invites Shylock to dinner, where he could talk to Antonio, Shylock says that he would have commercial dealing with the Christians but would not mix with them socially. He would not dine with a Christian because they eat pork which is a prohibited food for the Jews. Shylock contemptuously refers to swine as the dwelling place of the devil; he is alluding to the miracle of Jesus Christ who compelled certain evil spirits to come out of two men, and allowed them to enter the bodies of a herd of swine.
Passage – 20
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 33-42)
Context : These lines are spoken by Shylock in Act I Scene III of The Merchant of Venice. While Shylock is discussing with Bassanio the loan of three thousand ducats on Antonio’s security, the merchant himself makes his appearance. On seeing him, Shylock at once bridles up within himself. He mutters, “How like a fawning publican he looks” thereby giving vent to all the pent up rage and venom of his heart.
Explanation : Antonio is a Christian and he hates the Jew. The Jew is a money-lender by profession: and Antonio brings down the rate of interest in the market by lending money without any interest, which is a loss to the business of Shylock, Shylock hates Antonio because he is a Christian and lends money free of interest and moreover for his (Antonio’s) hatred of the sacred Jewish nation. Naturally he talks in terms of having a revenge upon Antonio.
Passage – 21
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 98-99)
Context : These lines occur in Act I Scene III of The Merchant of Venice. When Antonio approaches Shylock for a loan, Shylock alludes to the insulting treatment which he has met with at the hands of Antonio. Shylock has endured patiently all the insults hurled at him by Antonio because he and the other members of his race are noted for their power of tolerance. Shylock here refers to the age long suffering and grievances of the Jews of Europe.
Passage – 22
(Act I, Sc.II, Lines 119-123)
Context : These lines are spoken by Portia in The Merchant of Venice when a servant brings the information that the four suitors who had previously arrived are about to depart while a fifth The Prince of Morocco is about to arrive.
Explanation : Portia says that she is very happy to learn that the four suitors are departing. She wishes she could be as happy at the arrival of the fifth suitor. The Prince of Morocco, she says, might be as holy as a saint but his black complexion would make him look like a devil. She can agree to regard this man as a priest before whom she has to confess her sins, but she would certainly not like to become the wife of such a man.
Passage – 23
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 21-25)
Context : These words are spoken by Shylock to Bassanio in reply to Bassanio’s request for a loan. Shylock’ clever and cunning as he is exaggerates the dangers to which the ships of Antonio are exposed.
Explanation : Shylock asks Bassanio how he can be certain that, if he gives a loan to Antonio, his money will be safe. True that Antonio is a wealthy merchant but all his money is invested in ships and merchandise. There can be no certainty that Antonio’s ships will return safely to harbour. What are ships? They are just made of wooden boards. What are sailors? They are just human beings. There are not only thieves on land like land-rates; but there are also but there are also thieves on water like water rats— that is, there are pirates (sea-robbers). Antonio’s ships may be seized by sea-robbers. What then is the surety that Shylock’s money will be safe? Besides the danger from sea-robbers, there is also the danger from storms and rocks.’ Antonio’s ships may get wrecked. Under these circumstances, if Shylock lends money to Antonio, he will be taking a great risk. And yet, he says, nobody can doubt that Antonio’ is a man of wealth.
Passage – 24
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 75-79)
Context : These lines are taken from The Merchant of Venice. Shylock defends his practice of charging interest by citing the old testament in the following manner.
Explanation : When Jacob, who was the third in succession from Abraham, decided to quit his uncle Laban’s place, they came to an understanding. The agreement was that Jacob should have for his wages, as many of his uncle’s lambs as were born streaked and pied. This was a method to gain and Jacob was blessed by God. It is advisable to make profits and enrich oneself as long as one does not steal other people’s money.
Passage – 25
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 87-91)
Context : These words are spoken by Antonio to Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock has defended his practice of charging interest on loans by citing an example from the Bible. Here is Antonio’s comment.
Explanation : Antonio says that even the devil will sometimes quote cases from the Bible to justify his devilish conduct. A wicked person, quoting the authority of the Bible in support of his actions, is like a villain who wears a smile in order to pretend friendship. Such a man is like a nice-looking apple which is rotten inside. How strange that all false things have an attractive appearance!
Passage – 26
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 108-118)
Context : These lines are taken from The Merchant of Venice. The speaker is Shylock who is addressing Antonio when the latter has requested a loan of three thousand ducats from the Jew.
Explanation : Shylock reminds Antonio of the insults and indignities that the latter has been heaping upon the Jew. Antonio has often called the Jew a dog and has often spat on his clothes. Now Antonio wants a loan from the same Jew. How should the Jew behave now? asks Shylock. How can a dog or cur lend money? Why should Antonio now expect money from Shylock whom he holds in contempt? Should Shylock bend low to Antonio and offer him the loan respectfully? Should he give him three thousand ducats for having been called a misbeliever, a cut-throat dog, etc.? Should he give him the money for having been insulted, degraded, and spat upon?
Passage – 27
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 5-7)
Context : These lines occur in Act II, Scene VI of The Merchant of Venice. Gratiano and Salarino, masqued, are waiting and waiting for Lorenzo at a pent house projecting from Shylock’s place of residence.
Explanation : These lines contain Salarino’s reply to the remark of Gratiano who is surprised that Lorenzo, a lover, is not meeting them at the appointed time. According to him, lovers during their courtship and the period prior to their marriage are over-punctual in keeping their engagements relating to the love-affair: Salarino takes the cue from Gratiano and insinuates that Lorenzo is not so faithful to Jessica now as Jessica is his. Lovers are ten times more ready to plight truth in the case of new love than they are to keep old love inviolate. They are quick in making new love but slow when love has been made. Venus, “Love-drawn”, the unscrupulous goddess of love, is more ready to be present at an engagement than at a marriage.
Passage – 28
(Act I, Sc.III, Lines 149-156)
Context : These lines, taken from The Merchant of Venice, are spoken by Shylock when Bassanio tries to prevent Antonio from signing the bond.
Explanation : Shylock appeals to Abraham and expresses his surprise at the suspicious nature of Christians. He says that because Christians are merciless in their own dealings with others, they regard others also as equally merciless. He asks Bassanio what he can gain by cutting a pound of Antonio’s flesh in case Antonio fails to repay the loan before the fixed date. He adds that a pound of a goat’s flesh or a cow’s flesh is more valuable than a pound of human flesh.
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