Act 1

     The Merchant of Venice is a play that I have previously read in High School, but feel like I never thoroughly understood everything. Still, I do not completely understand all of the language that Shakespeare uses. I feel like I understand all the “pokes” at religion more than I did in the past. In just one act, Shakespeare works to show the reader that there is a huge conflict between Antonio and his friends and Shylock. As previously stated by Aimee, I found myself feeling bad for Shylock, even though he is the said “antagonist” of the play. 
“…You call me misbeliever, cut-throat, dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gabardine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it appears you need my help.” (Lines 107-109)
 In this passage Shylock appears to be showing control over the situation. He now has the power to say “no” to an enemy in need of help. Like Antonio says, “But rather lend it to thine enemy…” (130) so that if the money is not repaid in full Shylock can pose consequences on Antonio. Had it been a friend, it would have been harder to threaten them with negative consequences.
      As far as Portia is concerned, I feel that because she finds flaws in all the suitors that are in the “running” to become her husband, she should choose the person that she wants. Yes, she feels it is her duty to do as her father “willed.” I don’t understand the relevance of picking the right casket in this segment either. What is the meaning behind the caskets? What does it mean if one chooses one and not the other? I guess I really do not understand what them picking these certain caskets means for Portia. Is it what is more important to them? But still how does she rate them? So many questions that I guess will be answered later in the play. I do feel that Bassanio has a shot with her when she says, “I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of thy praise.” (100)
         Another subject that interested me was the friendship that Antonio and Bassanio share. Obviously Bassanio takes many loans from Antonio and fails to pay him back and still Antonio is willing to take a loan and risk losing “a pound of flesh” for him. I’m assuming that Bassanio does not take the loan out himself because he knows it will take longer for him to repay than Antonio, considering Antonio has many “commodities” on ships. I find it funny though that Shylock loans him the money even though he does not agree with the way Antonio lends his money. 
“How like a fawning publician he looks.
I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more, for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.” (Lines 36-40). 
It’s almost as if he is betting on the fact that he will gain this “pound of flesh” if the debt is not paid. Almost hoping that he cannot pay his debt. Previously stated in the blog, I also feel that Shylock’s current greedy behavior is a result of the negative treatment that he has been dealt. Therefore, there is a bigger hatred between the two religions and classes.   

2 thoughts on “Act 1

  1. Jessica

    I have read further on and have found the meaning of the caskets. Each casket has an inscription inside. The gold one symbolizes the desires of men and if they desire only Portia, then they will not choose this one. I'm still a little confused to what the silver casket respresents, but the inscription in the lead casket reads: "who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." I think this means that if he chooses this casket, he will have to commit to Portia and give her everything he can. This makes the lead casket sound rewarding even if it's not as pretty as the gold or silver casket. I hope to find out more as I read on.

  2. AlissaKraft

    Like you I have read The Merchant of Venice before, I believe it was in high school. I vaguely remember the story however, so I'm assuming that I either didn't find it interesting enough or like you I didn't understand a lot of it. Even now I'm trying to figure out why Portia's father has devised such a ridiculous plan for his daughter's hand in marriage. It seems kind of childish, a game to win the heart of his only daughter but I'm assuming that the boxes symbolize something important and we will soon find out what.


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