Year 11 question 3 – Merchant of Venice

PORTIA By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world.
NERISSA You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are: and yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing. It is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.
PORTIA Good sentences and well pronounced.
NERISSA They would be better, if well followed.

PORTIA If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that
follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may
devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree: such a hare is madness the youth, to skip o’er the meshes of good counsel the
cripple. But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband. O me, the word ‘choose!’ I may neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?
NERISSA Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men at their death have good inspirations: therefore the lottery, that he hath devised in these three chests of gold, silver and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you, will, no doubt, never be chosen by any rightly but one who shall rightly love. But what warmth is there in your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come?
PORTIA I pray thee, over-name them; and as thou namest them, I will describe them; and, according to my description, level at my affection.

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

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

7 thoughts on “Year 11 question 3 – Merchant of Venice

  1. Tom Davies

    From this extract im going to tell you how they should be preformed. Portia and Nerissa are close friends. When Portia says the line “By my troth, Nerissa, my little body body is aweary of this great world.” The word “aweary” means tired. Portia is looking for a husband to share her wealth with and is tired of it being the same for so long. When walking into the room the two characters would be linked arms with each other. To show their closeness and friendship.

    When Nerissa starts her short speech she starts by saying “you would be, my sweet madam, if your miseries were in the say abundance as your good fortunes.” Nerissa believes that Portia will find a man but probably not a good one like her fortunes. All her money. At this point Nerissa would have stopped and taken Portias’ hands and looked in to her eyes. This shows that there is strong friendship between the two characters.

    Finally Nerissa would begin to move portias’ hands towards her Heart. “It is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.” Superfluity means in excess or over-abundance. Nerissa is trying to say Portias’ wealth comes a lot sooner then white hair.

  2. Joel Atwell

    B) In this extract i want to show that Portia is frustrated. When Portia says this line through her gritted teeth ‘my little body is weary of this great world’, she should look up into the sky to show her annoyance. This is due to the fact that she hasn’t found a man in her life that she can settle down with yet.

    Also in the extract I want to show that Nerissa is comforting. When Nerissa softly says the line ‘ you would be, sweet madam’, she should hold Portia’s hands to show her caring side, and also to show Portia that she’s there for her because Portia is stressing about finding a man.

    Finally I would like Portia as being sarcastic. when Portia says the line ‘ good sentences and well pronounced’, she should role her eyes and walk away away from Nerissa to show that she is still depressed that a man like Bassanio hasnt expressed himself to her.

  3. Jake R

    This is the first part in the play where we see the characters Portia and Nerissa so I want to show the status of the two characters. I will put Portia further upstage because she is the more powerful one of the two, Nerissa being her maid. This will obviously show the audience what kind of people the two characters are.

    After Portia’s first line, Nerissa should do something affectionate like put her hand on Portia’s shoulder. This will show the relationship that the two women have and that Nerissa is sympathetic and cares for Portia.

    Nerissa’s line “you would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes” should be said with a fake and sarcastic tone of voice because it will show that she is almost annoyed at Portia for complaining about the world when she has everything that she wants other than a husband whereas Nerissa doesn’t.

  4. Rhiannon

    B) Here, Portia is seen to be complaining about the burdens of her life, and how she has to obey her father’s wishes. When she delivers the line:
    ‘ By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world.’ She should be lounging on a sofa with her arm sprawled across her forehead in a flustered manner. Her expression should be in such a manner that suggests she is either frowning or wincing at the thought of her father’s plan for her future, and her tone should be almost whining as if to show her perspective of her despair.

    Nerissa’s reply to Portia’s line would be one of annoyance, although she is trying not to show it. She would be walking past Portia and try to busy herself to avoid snapping at her. When she says the line:
    ‘You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are: and yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.’ through gritted teeth in a manner that shows her opinions of Portia’s complaints.

    Nerissa knows that Portia has many things her way, especially since her father died. Therefore, when Nerissa continues her speech she should sit down on a couch opposite Portia and when she says:
    ‘They would be better, if well followed.’ In a manner of self righteousness to say to Portia that her advice that she gives, would be useful if it was actually put into play.

    C) Wealth is shown in the casket scene when the Prince of Morocco is choosing the casket to try and win Portia for marriage. It also shows the idea of gambling being put into play when he recklessly chooses the gold casket because of his arrogant personality. Here, the importance of wealth is shown by the personality of the character, for example, the Prince of Aragon is also being completely vain and selfish, which is reflected when he chooses the silver casket.

    Portia has no control over who chooses the caskets, and does not particularly want to help them in any way to choose the correct casket, all until Bassanio comes along. Having met briefly before, Portia takes a liking to Bassanio and gets to know him before choosing the casket, throwing in some subtle hints to help him.

    After they get to know each other, Bassanio then chooses the lead casket, which contains the picture of Portia, which then leads to them getting married, only for a short while they are married before Bassanio receives the letter from Antonio about the troubles he has run into and goes off to help immediately.

  5. Joy

    In this extract I would like to show the growing frustration Portia would be feeling because she has to follow her fathers last wishes, I would convey this through Portia speaking the words ‘ By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world’ while clenching her fist and speaking with a raised voice.

    In this extract I would also like to convey the close friendship Portia and Nerissa have, I would demonstrate this by getting Nerissa to walk over to Portia and put a comforting hand on her shoulder as the lines ‘You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are’ are spoken.

    The last thing i would like to demonstrate in this extract is Portia’s status; Portia has a high status and has a lot of power, I would show this by getting Portia to be upstage though the whole extract showing her importance, whereas I would get Nerissa to be down stage which shows that although they are got friends,Nerissa is still just a maid.

  6. Savannah

    B) When Portia says “By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world” she should have a tired voice, with a slightly whiny tone as she is complaining, and at the end of her line she could yawn, or put her hand to her head like she’s feeling fed up. She may even slump down onto her chair, or any props nearby that she could sit on, like she’s too weary to stand any longer, to further illustrate her point.

    When Nerissa says, “You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are” she should sound like she’s trying to resist making a snarky remark, as she, while being Portia’s friend, she is also lower than her and serves her, so can’t relate to her problem much. She may cross her arms, and stand above the sat-down Portia as she’s lecturing her advice to Portia, and wants her to listen.

    In addition, when Portia says “Good sentences and well pronounced”, she should look up a Nerissa, like she’s pondering the advice she’s been given. She could also stroke her chin, as if thinking it through,but remain fairly neutral, thus triggering Nerissa’s slightly judgemental comment, “They would be better, if well followed.”As she is saying that Portia should follow her advice, she should put her hands on her hips, for a second out of servant-mode, but Portia could shoot her a warning glance, so that she quickly returns to formal, therefore showing who is in charge in their friendship.

    C) Wealth is explored in the court scene, as Shylock is offered three times the amount of money owed, if he is merciful, but refuses it. Shylock appears to value money very highly, and as a Jew is is allowed to be a money lender. However in this scene, it appears that what he values the most is revenge for his poor treatment from his enemies, Antonio and Bassanio.

    I think what Shakespeare is trying to do is question what the value of money is. Despite being offered “thrice thy thy money offer’d thee”, which is nine thousand ducats, she instead chooses revenge, as he is choosing what he desires the most. Therefore we the audience are forced to question how high we regard money over other things. Are we seeking what we really want in life? For Shylock, he wanted a chance to finally prove that a Jew can beat a Christian,and he wanted this more than wealth.

  7. Joy

    C) Wealth has a key part to play in the scene where Bassanio asks for money from Antonio. Wealth is shown to be very important to Bassanio, as he tells Antonio that he needs money so he can marry Portia, which means he will be very rich and means his problems will be solved.


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