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Facts in The Merchant of Venice

Facts Examples in The Merchant of Venice:

Act I - Scene III

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"third possessor..."   (Act I - Scene III)

Jacob was Isaac's son. With the help of his mother Rebecca, he was abel to trick his father into giving him his brother's inheritance and becoming Isaac's third heir.

"Jacob..."   (Act I - Scene III)

In Genesis 30 of the Old Testament, Jacob makes a deal with Laban, the father of Rachel, the woman he wants to marry. Laban tells him that he can keep any of the multicolored sheep in the herd, so Jacob places a spotted plant in front of the breeding sheep. This causes many of the sheep to become spotted like the plant and increases Jacob's wealth. Jacob essentially rigs the deal so that he gains more than Laban.

"Rialto..."   (Act I - Scene III)

Rialto is a Venetian island that served as the mercantile quarter in medieval Venice. In 1591, the Rialto Bridge was completed and connected Rialto to the San Marco Islands.

"Nazarite..."   (Act I - Scene III)

The "Nazarite" is a reference to Jesus Christ. Christians at this time speculated that Jews did not eat pork because they believed Jesus had banished a demon into a herd of swine, tainting the meat. However, Jews do not eat pork because it is not kosher. That Shylock makes this claim, reminds us that he is a Jewish character written by a Christian author who does not understand Jewish customs.

"will to bed..."   (Act II - Scene IX)

This suggestion contradicts the oath Arragon and all of the other suitors had to take in order to take the casket challenge. Remember, that each suitor must promise to never pursue a woman for marriage if they choose Portia's casket wrong.

"Arragon..."   (Act II - Scene IX)

Arragon is a region in northwestern Spain. It is known for its elaborate architecture influenced by Moorish designs and it's wide boulevards. Arragon was a major commercial center at this time.

"fourscore..."   (Act III - Scene I)

Fourscore ducats is 80 ducats. Remember that the original bond in this play is only 3,000 ducats. This number demonstrates that Jessica is extravagantly spending Shylock's money.

"What, no more?..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Portia's surprise at the "low cost" of the bond reveals how vast her estate is. Remember that 3,000 ducats was a lot of money in this time. It is roughly what Michelangelo was paid to paint the Sistine Chapel.

"Mars..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Mars was the Roman god of war. His symbol was used as a sign of strength, power, and masculinity.

"When mercy seasons justice...."   (Act IV - Scene I)

Portia's understanding of mercy comes from a Christian context in which mercy takes the form of forgiveness from the divine. In Judaism, mercy comes from personal atonement rather than divine mercy. On Yom Kuppur, one fasts, prays, and undertakes apology and restitution for their sins in order to seek atonement, rather than forgiveness, from God. Portia's speech about mercy demonstrates that she does not understand her audience or his faith. She preaches Christian forgiveness to a man who's faith values atonement, restitution, and payment of debt.

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