Year 11 question 2 – Merchant of Venice

SHYLOCK No, not take interest, not, as you would say,
Directly interest: mark what Jacob did.
When Laban and himself were compromised
That all the eanlings which were streak’d and pied
Should fall as Jacob’s hire, the ewes, being rank,
In the end of autumn turned to the rams,
And, when the work of generation was
Between these woolly breeders in the act,
The skilful shepherd peel’d me certain wands,
And, in the doing of the deed of kind,
He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes,
Who then conceiving did in eaning time
Fall parti-colour’d lambs, and those were Jacob’s.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest:
And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.
ANTONIO This was a venture, sir, that Jacob served for;
A thing not in his power to bring to pass,
But sway’d and fashion’d by the hand of heaven.
Was this inserted to make interest good?
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?
SHYLOCK I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast:
But note me, signior.
ANTONIO Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
SHYLOCK Three thousand ducats; ’tis a good round sum.
Three months from twelve; then, let me see; the rate–

(b) Using your understanding of the extract, explain how the following lines might be
performed. (in bold)

(c) In the extract, Antonio discusses religion.
Comment on the importance of religion in one other part of the play.


7 thoughts on “Year 11 question 2 – Merchant of Venice

  1. Tom Davies

    From this extract I’m going to show how they should be preformed. To begin with Antonio starts to talk about Shylock’s story. Because Christians had so much more power over Jews, Antonio is saying Shylock is wrong. “This was a venture, that Jacob served for.” Antonio would be walking around Shylock. While doing so he would be doing it a tone off voice that makes Shylock feel uncomfortable.

    Further on into the extract Antonio and Bassanio start to talk about Shylock and his religion. “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose.” Antonio and Bassanio would be standing close to each other. But they wouldn’t be talking loudly. They don’t want Shylock hearing them talk about Jews because they want the bond to go through.

    Finally, Shylock would be sat down at his desk looking through the rates. He has already told his story. He wouldn’t look at Antonio or Bassanio because of his hatred for Christians.

  2. jake R

    In this extract I want to show Antonio’s hatred for Shlock. Antonio is talking to Shylock about how a story in the Bible compares to Shylock’s ‘interest’ and half way through it he turns to Bassanio and starts insulting Shylock in front of his face. To show the point at the start, i would move Antonio and Bassanio slightly further upstage than Shylock. This will back up the fact that Shylock does have more power in this scene because he is the one being asked for money, but in this small part, Antonio is trying to belittle Shylock and show that he also still does have power.

    Antonio and Bassanio should be stood close to each when Antonio is saying his final lines because it will show to the audience what relationships the different characters have with each other. For example, Shylock and the other two absolutely hate each other, whereas Antonio and Bassanio are really close.

    When Antonio says his line “a goodly apple rotten at he heart” he should look over to Shylock because this will show to everyone hoe Antonio really does feel about him, even though he is still the one asking for the bond.

  3. Joel Atwell

    B) In this extract i would like to show that Antonio takes back power. To show he does this, in the line ‘mark you this, Bassanio’, Antonio should step forward quickly and interrupt Shylock whilst pulling Bassanio up stage. This shows the audience and Shylock that Antonio is gaining confidence and will finally stand up to the Jew just to get the money Bassanio needs.

    Also in the scene i want to show Shylock as being willing. When shylock says the line ‘I cannot tell, I make it breed as fast’, he should look at into Antonio’s eyes and take a step toward him with his hand out. This shows he’s agreeing to giving Antonio the money, also he’s pretending to be friendly with the Christian to try and fool him.

    Finally i want to show Antonio as being insulting to Shylock. When Antonio says to Bassanio ‘A goodly apple rotten at the heart: O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!’ This shows the two Christians mocking the Jew of Shylocks interests, but on the other hand, Antonio should be kind to Shylock as he still hasn’t got the money.

  4. Aimee Felton:)))

    The lines should be performed by showing the conflict between Christians and Jews, the line ‘this was a venture, that Jacob served for’ shows Antonio and Shylock talking about shy locks story: this should be performed by the proxemics being clearly separated to show Jews and Christians did not like each other in this period of time.

    Secondly I would also have Shylock trying the be on the Christians side by agreeing to give them the money; ‘I cannot tell, I make it breed fast’ to show that he is trying to be nice I would have him circling around his putting his hand on his shoulder to show he is try the be nice, furthermore I would have him look into his eyes to pretend ha the is seriously with what he’s saying.

    Finally I would like to show how Christians and Jews are sly to each other so I would have Antonio and Shylock looking at each other eyes quickly when they say each line, I would also have Shylock sound like he is debating on whether to give him the money so I would have him say his lines slowly.

  5. Rhiannon

    B) In this extract it is shown that the Christians and the Jew are playing off against each other, with the Christians having the upper hand. Here, Shylock is talking about them paying interest, and uses the anecdote of Jacob and what he did, so therefore he would be trying to express his point in a diplomatic manner to show that he is right, although the annoyance in his tone will seep through, as well as folding his arms indignantly to show his self righteousness.

    Antonio will be reflecting this mood as there is tension between them, except that instead of folding his arms, he will gesture in an over exaggerated manner as if to say that Shylock’s interpretation of the story and relating it to the current situation is wrong. When he says:
    ‘Was this inserted to make interest good?
    Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?’ He should say this in a tone of which shows that he is full of himself and that only his opinion is correct due to his religion. He would not be moving around as such, however he would stand still, in a rigid manner to show that he is trying to preserve his dignity and not lower himself as to argue with Shylock. When Shylock talks, or tries to argue his point across, Antonio should raise his eyebrow in question to Shylock’s speech.

    Finally, when Antonio talks to Bassanio with the lines:
    ‘Mark you this, Bassanio,
    The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.’ He should lower his tone and almost whisper it over his shoulder to Bassanio, so that Shylock would need exceptional hearing to hear what is being said. He would only be able to guess from Bassanio’s expression, which would be a mixture of contempt and surprise, with glances every now and again at Shylock to show his disbelief especially when Antonio continues his speech:
    ‘An evil soul producing holy witness
    Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
    A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
    O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!’ in a venomous manner.

    C) The importance of religion is shown in the court scene when Portia is cross examining Shylock. From this, we learn of the prejudice that Christians placed on Jews, and how Shylock was being persecuted in particular for the fact that he was standing up against Christians, using the law to bend things in his favour. It also shows how the Christians from a 21st Century perspective are seen to be the villains, however in Shakespearean times the roles were reversed, with Shylock for being the villain for his religion. Portia does not even refer to Shylock by his name, but ‘Jew’ as though she is using his religion to insult him and to make him feel ashamed and inferior. In this scene, Shylock is the victim because he is simply following the clauses that were agreed on in the contract, however he does not get the justice he deserves simply because of his religion.

    The ideas that are portrayed here are religious discrimination and justice (lack of.) From this scene it is evident that Shylock is simply hated for his religion, and therefore he is more susceptible to volatile behaviour and maltreatment by those that see themselves above Jews. The lack is justice is also tied into his religion because of the fact that he is seen as inferior, and therefore in the courts, the clauses in the contract are twisted into favour of the Christians, and shows that Shylock is not getting the justice that he intended to get, and is perceived as being excluded from an ‘exclusive’ group that receives justice in their favour, quite simply because they have the better religion at the time.

    In the end, no thanks to his religion, Shylock is stripped of his pride and almost all of his possessions, and ends up being the victim of his own actions. The court scene ends with Shylock being punished for the intentions to kill Antonio, and has his possessions seized and loses any kind of reputation that he spent his life building up in the ghetto. He is also the victim to Christianity itself because he ends up losing his daughter Jessica to Lorenzo, as well as being forced to convert himself against his will, and ends up losing his money as a result of her reactions. In the end, not only is Shylock a villain, he is also finally completely alone, so he will live the rest of his days absolutely miserable.

  6. Savannah

    B) In the extract, Antonio and Shylock have a heated debate about Jacob and his sheep, and how it links to interest rates, which symbolises the constant feud between Jews and Christians. Therefore, when Antonio says, “This was a venture, sir, that Jacob served for; a thing not in his power to bring to pass, but sway’d and fashion’d by the hand of heaven”, he should stand closer towards Shylock in an intimidating manner, and his tone should be as though he feels he is superior; he feels that he has the correct view. In addition, Bassanio should stand next to him, arms crossed and perhaps smirking at Shylock, on the Christian side so automatically against him, a Jew.

    When Shylock says “I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast: but note me, signior”, he should shrug to convey he cannot be bothered with them for “I cannot tell” and jangle his pockets to show ” I make it breed as fast”, where he is saying that he makes money like Jacob bred sheep in the story they were arguing over. His tone should stop being argumentative, and return to business-like when he says “but note me”, as he has given up on the argument as he is outnumbered and wants to get back to business and for them to listen to him.

    In addition, when Antonio says, ” Mark you this, Bassanio, the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose” he might turn away from Shylock and say it very quietly to Bassanio, in his ear, as Shylock would be angry if he were to hear. He is comparing Shylock to the devil, and so Bassanio may react shocked at this revelation, and perhaps shoot glares at Shylock, or look at him in disbelief. Shylock should react confused, and perhaps stroke his chin to convey this, with squinted eyes and a frown, as he can tell by Bassanio looking at him that they are talking about him, right in front of him, and is wondering what is being said.

    C) Religion is explored in the court scene. In this scene, Shylock is shown clearly as a victim, as he, while still following his contract, suffered from getting the rules bent in favour of Christians over Jews. Shylock is justified in his lust for revenge, and really, considering his poor treatment from our so-called “protagonists” who hate him for being a Jew, he is seeking more justice for his people than revenge. However, this is what leads to his downfall. He is standing up for his people in a way, and nearly beats the Christians, challenging the views of Jews at the time it was written.

    Right from the start of this scene Shylock is discriminated due to his religion. Portia doesn’t even call him by his name or honorific; she seems to initially dislike him and refers to him as “The Jew”. This clearly shows how much people at the time were defined by their religion, and how his religion is viewed as an insult; like he is inferior to others.

    I feel Shakespeare is trying to state it is wrong that the religious divide at the time affects an issue, such as something as serious as the law, in such an unfair way, and perhaps make the likely anti-semetic audience at Shakespeare’s time consider their ways and consider the unfair treatment of Jews.

  7. Joy

    B)In this scene I would like to convey the raising anger Antonio is feeling towards Shylock because of using the bible to get his point across, I would show this by getting Antonio to clench his fist as he says the lines ‘Was this inserted to make interest good?’, in addition I would get Shylock to smirk back at him after the lines are finished to show that he is mocking Antonio which would only anger Antonio further.

    In this scene I would also like to show Shylock enjoying having power over Antonio, I would do this by getting him to smirk and get him to speak the lines ‘I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast’ in a sarcastic tone to show him mocking Antonio, I would then get Antonio to glare at him before quickly turning towards Bassanio, this demonstrates that Shylock has managed to completely piss him off.

    C) – I am not sure how to answer this question


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