Shylock and Bassanio

                What stood out to me most in Act IV of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, other than all of the incredibly confusing discussion between the characters about the different deals being upheld and broken, was many of the passages in scene one, around lines sixty to seventy on page 1160. After Shylock’s long speech, we hear Bassanio determine that his response “is no answer” (4.1.62) to which Shylock replies “I am not bound to please thee with my answers” (4.1.64). This interchange to begin with was really interesting because despite how Shylock already seemed, he just keeps getting worse and worse as it goes on. His speech from lines thirty-four to sixty-one completely circles around how he simply refuses to give an answer, and it seems like he’s just trying to waste time and frustrate Bassanio enough so that he will just agree to anything as long as he can be away from Shylock.
                While all of this was intriguing, the quote that really caught my eye in this portion was what came next, when Bassanio asks “Do all men kill the things they do not love?” and Shylock responds, “Hates any man the thing he would not kill?” and then finally Bassanio says, “Every offense is not a hate at first” (4.1.65-67). It just seems so much like this interchange shows so vividly what types of people these two are. While I am not the biggest Bassanio fan either, it just shows how much more human he seems to be than Shylock. He is so incredulous that this man just wants to take the life out of anything and everything that ever could possibly irritate him, as most people probably would be, and Shylock feels like this is such normal behavior that it is chilling. Plus, to make it all even more of a moment, Bassanio is trying to make Shylock understand through simple terms what he is getting at and Shylock not only contradicts him but uses his own words to do so, which just really makes him seem awful. Finally, Bassanio’s final sentence almost seems like it could have been the end of the argument, with Shylock coming out on top, had it not been delivered powerfully, but the two do continue discussion in the story. Again, Bassanio just seems so overwhelmed by Shylock’s mere personality; it is as though just for a moment Bassanio and the reader have the same emotions.
                The rest of Act IV had many other good moments and plenty of sections which I simply could not wrap my head around, but this page in particular really stood out to me just because of that last interchange between the two men. I really loved the first line Bassanio said which I mentioned about all men killing the “things they do not love,” which was what made me stop and really analyze the passage, and I just felt like what I found offered such a glaring view of Shylock’s true character.  The fact that he does not immediately realize that not everything warrants death, that he needs to be told this is just so indicative of so many things about him.

One thought on “Shylock and Bassanio

  1. Cyrus Mulready

    You have lighted on an important moment here, Linda, and I agree it reveals something about the differences between these two characters. Shylock expresses a kind of "all or nothing" philosophy that challenges the more generous spirit of Bassanio. I'd be curious to know what you think about the end of the courtroom sceene, and whether Bassanio (or the other Venetians) hold onto this idea once they have "defeated" Shylock?


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