Act IV - Scene I

[Venice]

Enter the Duke, the Magnificoes, Antonio, Bassanio, and Gratiano, [Salerio, and others]

DUKE:
What, is Antonio here?
ANTONIO:
Ready, so please your grace.
DUKE:
I am sorry for thee; thou art come to answer
A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
Uncapable of pity, void and empty(5)
From any dram of mercy.
ANTONIO:
I have heard
Your grace hath ta'en great pains to qualify
His rigorous course; but since he stands obdurate,
And that no lawful means can carry me(10)
Out of his envy's reach, I do oppose
My patience to his fury; and am arm'd
To suffer, with a quietness of spirit,
The very tyranny and rage of his.
DUKE:
Go one, and call the Jew into the court.(15)
SALERIO:
He is ready at the door: he comes, my lord.

Enter Shylock

DUKE:
Make room, and let him stand before our face.
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,
That thou but lead'st this fashion of thy malice
To the last hour of act; and then, 'tis thought(20)
Thou'lt show thy mercy and remorse, more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty:
And where thou now exact'st the penalty,
(Which is a pound of this poor merchant's flesh,)
Thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture,(25)
But, touch'd with human gentleness and love,
Forgive a moiety of the principal;
Glancing an eye of pity on his losses,
That have of late so huddled on his back,
Enough to press a royal merchant down,(30)
And pluck commiseration of his state
From brassy bosoms, and rough hearts of flint,
From stubborn Turks and Tartars, never train'd
To offices of tender courtesy.
We all expect a gentle answer, Jew.(35)
SHYLOCK:
I have possess'd your grace of what I purpose;
And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn,
To have the due and forfeit of my bond:
If you deny it, let the danger light
Upon your charter, and your city's freedom.(40)
You'll ask me, why I rather choose to have
A weight of carrion flesh, than to receive
Three thousand ducats: I'll not answer that:
But, say, it is my humour. is it answer'd?
What, if my house be troubled with a rat(45)
And I be pleas'd to give ten thousand ducats
To have it ban'd? What, are you answer'd yet?
Some men there are love not a gaping pig;
Some, that are mad if they behold a cat;
And others, when the bagpipe sings i' the nose,(50)
Cannot contain their urine: for affection,
Master of passion, sways it to the mood
Of what it likes, or loathes. Now, for your answer.
As there is no firm reason to be render'd,
Why he, cannot abide a gaping pig;(55)
Why he, a harmless necessary cat;
Why he, a woollen bagpipe,—but of force
Must yield to such inevitable shame,
As to offend himself, being offended;
So can I give no reason, nor I will not,(60)
More than a lodged hate, and a certain loathing,
I bear Antonio, that I follow thus
A losing suit against him. Are you answer'd?
BASSANIO:
This is no answer, thou unfeeling man,
To excuse the current of thy cruelty.(65)
SHYLOCK:
I am not bound to please thee with my answers.
BASSANIO:
Do all men kill the things they do not love?
SHYLOCK:
Hates any man the thing he would not kill?
BASSANIO:
Every offence is not a hate at first.
SHYLOCK:
What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?(70)
ANTONIO:
I pray you, think you question with the Jew,
You may as well go stand upon the beach,
And bid the main flood bate his usual height;
You may as well use question with the wolf,
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;(75)
You may as well forbid the mountain pines
To wag their high tops, and to make no noise
When they are fretten with the gusts of heaven;
You may as well do anything most hard,
As seek to soften that (than which what's harder?)(80)
His Jewish heart.—therefore, I do beseech you,
Make no more offers, use no farther means,
But, with all brief and plain conveniency,
Let me have judgment and the Jew his will.
BASSANIO:
For thy three thousand ducats here is six.(85)
SHYLOCK:
If every ducat in six thousand ducats
Were in six parts, and every part a ducat,
I would not draw them,—I would have my bond.
DUKE:
How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?
SHYLOCK:
What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?(90)
You have among you many a purchas'd slave,
Which, like your asses, and your dogs, and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them.—shall I say to you
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?(95)
Why sweat they under burthens? let their beds
Be made as soft as yours, and let their palates
Be season'd with such viands? You will answer,
The slaves are ours:—so do I answer you.
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,(100)
Is dearly bought; 'tis mine, and I will have it:
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice:
I stand for judgment: answer, shall I have it?
DUKE:
Upon my power, I may dismiss this court,(105)
Unless Bellario, a learned doctor,
Whom I have sent for to determine this,
Come here to-day.
SALERIO:
My lord, here stays without,
A messenger with letters from the doctor,(110)
New come from Padua.
DUKE:
Bring us the letters. Call the messenger.
BASSANIO:
Good cheer, Antonio! What, man! courage yet!
The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones, and all,
Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.(115)
ANTONIO:
I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Meetest for death; the weakest kind of fruit
Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me:
You cannot better be employ'd, Bassanio,
Than to live still, and write mine epitaph.(120)

Enter Nerissa [disguised].

DUKE:
Came you, from Padua, from Bellario?
NERISSA:
From both, my lord: Bellario greets your grace.
BASSANIO:
Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?
SHYLOCK:
To cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there.
GRATIANO:
Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew,(125)
Thou mak'st thy knife keen; but no metal can,
No, not the hangman's axe, bear half the keenness
Of thy sharp envy. Can no prayers pierce thee?
SHYLOCK:
No, none that thou hast wit enough to make.
GRATIANO:
O, be thou damn'd, inexecrable dog!(130)
And for thy life let justice be accus'd.
Thou almost mak'st me waver in my faith,
To hold opinion with Pythagoras,
That souls of animals infuse themselves
Into the trunks of men: thy currish spirit(135)
Govern'd a wolf, who, hang'd for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And, whilst thou lay'st in thy unhallow'd dam,
Infus'd itself in thee; for thy desires
Are wolvish, bloody, sterved, and ravenous.(140)
SHYLOCK:
Till thou canst rail the seal from off my bond,
Thou but offend'st thy lungs to speak so loud:
Repair thy wit, good youth; or it will fall
To cureless ruin.—I stand here for law.
DUKE:
This letter from Bellario doth commend(145)
A young and learned doctor to our court:—
Where is he?
NERISSA:
He attendeth here hard by,
To know your answer, whether you'll admit him.
DUKE:
With all my heart:—Some three or four of you(150)
Go give him courteous conduct to this place.—
Meantime, the court shall hear Bellario's letter.
CLERK:
Your grace shall understand, that at the receipt of your letter,
I am very sick: but in the instant that your messenger came, in
loving visitation was with me a young doctor of Rome; his name(155)
is Balthasar: I acquainted him with the cause in controversy
between the Jew and Antonio the merchant: we turned o'er many
books together: he is furnished with my opinion; which, bettered
with his own learning (the greatness whereof I cannot enough
commend), comes with him, at my importunity, to fill up your(160)
grace's request in my stead. I beseech you, let his lack of years
be no impediment to let him lack a reverend estimation; for I
never knew so young a body with so old a head. I leave him to
your gracious acceptance, whose trial shall better publish his
commendation.(165)

Enter Portia, [disguised] Balthasar.

DUKE:
You hear the learn'd Bellario, what he writes:
And here, I take it, is the doctor come.—
Give me your hand. Come you from old Bellario?
PORTIA:
I did, my lord.
DUKE:
You are welcome: take your place.(170)
Are you acquainted with the difference
That holds this present question in the court?
PORTIA:
I am informed thoroughly of the cause.
Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?
DUKE:
Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth.(175)
PORTIA:
Is your name Shylock?
SHYLOCK:
Shylock is my name.
PORTIA:
Of a strange nature is the suit you follow;
Yet in such rule, that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you as you do proceed.—(180)
You stand within his danger, do you not?
ANTONIO:
Ay, so he says.
PORTIA:
Do you confess the bond?
ANTONIO:
I do.
PORTIA:
Then must the Jew be merciful.(185)
SHYLOCK:
On what compulsion must I? tell me that.
PORTIA:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes:(190)
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;(195)
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,(200)
Though justice be thy plea, consider this—
That in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer, doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much,(205)
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
SHYLOCK:
My deeds upon my head! I crave the law,
The penalty and forfeit of my bond.(210)
PORTIA:
Is he not able to discharge the money?
BASSANIO:
Yes, here I tender it for him in the court;
Yea, twice the sum: if that will not suffice,
I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er,
On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart:(215)
If this will not suffice, it must appear
That malice bears down truth. And I beseech you,
Wrest once the law to your authority:
To do a great right, do a little wrong;
And curb this cruel devil of his will.(220)
PORTIA:
It must not be; there is no power in Venice
Can alter a decree established:
'Twill be recorded for a precedent,
And many an error, by the same example
Will rush into the state: it cannot be.(225)
SHYLOCK:
A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!
O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!
PORTIA:
I pray you, let me look upon the bond.
SHYLOCK:
Here, 'tis, most reverend doctor, here it is.
PORTIA:
Shylock, there's thrice thy money offer'd thee.(230)
SHYLOCK:
An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven:
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?
No, not for Venice.
PORTIA:
Why, this bond is forfeit;
And lawfully by this the Jew may claim(235)
A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
Nearest the merchant's heart.—Be merciful;
Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond.
SHYLOCK:
When it is paid according to the tenor.
It doth appear you are a worthy judge;(240)
You know the law, your exposition
Hath been most sound; I charge you by the law,
Whereof you are a well-deserving pillar,
Proceed to judgment: by my soul I swear
There is no power in the tongue of man(245)
To alter me: I stay here on my bond.
ANTONIO:
Most heartily I do beseech the court
To give the judgment.
PORTIA:
Why then, thus it is:
You must prepare your bosom for his knife.(250)
SHYLOCK:
O noble judge! O excellent young man!
PORTIA:
For the intent and purpose of the law,
Hath full relation to the penalty,
Which here appeareth due upon the bond;—
SHYLOCK:
'Tis very true: O wise and upright judge!(255)
How much more elder art thou than thy looks!
PORTIA:
Therefore lay bare your bosom.
SHYLOCK:
Ay, his breast:
So says the bond;—doth it not, noble judge?
Nearest his heart, those are the very words.(260)
PORTIA:
It is so. Are there balance here to weigh
The flesh?
SHYLOCK:
I have them ready.
PORTIA:
Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,
To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.(265)
SHYLOCK:
Is it so nominated in the bond?
PORTIA:
It is not so express'd, but what of that?
'Twere good you do so much for charity.
SHYLOCK:
I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.
PORTIA:
Come, merchant, have you any thing to say?(270)
ANTONIO:
But little; I am arm'd, and well prepar'd.—
Give me your hand, Bassannio: fare you well!
Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you;
For herein Fortune shows herself more kind
Than is her custom: it is still her use,(275)
To let the wretched man out-live his wealth,
To view with hollow eye, and wrinkled brow,
An age of poverty; from which lingering penance
Of such misery doth she cut me off.
Commend me to your honourable wife:(280)
Tell her the process of Antonio's end,
Say, how I lov'd you, speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love.
Repent not you that you shall lose your friend,(285)
And he repents not that he pays your debt;
For, if the Jew do cut but deep enough,
I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.
BASSANIO:
Antonio, I am married to a wife,
Which is as dear to me as life itself;(290)
But life itself, my wife, and all the world
Are not with me esteem'd above thy life;
I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all
Here to this devil, to deliver you.
PORTIA:
Your wife would give you little thanks for that,(295)
If she were by, to hear you make the offer.
GRATIANO:
I have a wife, whom I protest I love;
I would she were in heaven, so she could
Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.
NERISSA:
'Tis well you offer it behind her back;(300)
The wish would make else an unquiet house.
SHYLOCK:
These be the Christian husbands: I have a
daughter;
Would any of the stock of Barrabas
Had been her husband rather, than a Christian!(305)
We trifle time; I pray thee pursue sentence.
PORTIA:
A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine;
The court awards it, and the law doth give it.
SHYLOCK:
Most rightful judge!
PORTIA:
And you must cut this flesh from off his breast;(310)
The law allows it, and the court awards it.
SHYLOCK:
Most learned judge!—A sentence! come, prepare!
PORTIA:
Tarry a little;—there is something else.—
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are, a pound of flesh:(315)
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.(320)
GRATIANO:
O upright judge!—Mark, Jew;—O
learned judge!
SHYLOCK:
Is that the law?
PORTIA:
Thyself shalt see the act:
For, as thou urgest justice, be assur'd(325)
Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.
GRATIANO:
O learned judge!—Mark, Jew;—a learned judge!
SHYLOCK:
I take this offer then,—pay the bond thrice
And let the Christian go.
BASSANIO:
Here is the money.(330)
PORTIA:
Soft;—
The Jew shall have all justice;—soft;—no haste;—
He shall have nothing but the penalty.
GRATIANO:
O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!
PORTIA:
Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh.(335)
Shed thou no blood; nor cut thou less, nor more,
But just a pound of flesh: if thou tak'st more,
Or less, than a just pound,—be it but so much
As makes it light, or heavy, in the substance,
Or the division of the twentieth part(340)
Of one poor scruple,—nay, if the scale do turn
But in the estimation of a hair,—
Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate.
GRATIANO:
A second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew!
Now, infidel, I have thee on the hip.(345)
PORTIA:
Why doth the Jew pause? take thy forfeiture.
SHYLOCK:
Give me my principal, and let me go.
BASSANIO:
I have it ready for thee; here it is.
PORTIA:
He hath refus'd it in the open court;
He shall have merely justice and his bond.(350)
GRATIANO:
A Daniel, still say I; a second Daniel!—
I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.
SHYLOCK:
Shall I not have barely my principal?
PORTIA:
Thou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture,
To be so taken at thy peril, Jew.(355)
SHYLOCK:
Why, then the devil give him good of it!
I'll stay no longer question.
PORTIA:
Tarry, Jew;
The law hath yet another hold on you.
It is enacted in the laws of Venice,—(360)
If it be proved against an alien
That by direct or indirect attempts
He seek the life of any citizen,
The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive,
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half(365)
Comes to the privy coffer of the state;
And the offender's life lies in the mercy
Of the duke only, 'gainst all other voice.
In which predicament, I say, thou stand'st:
For it appears by manifest proceeding,(370)
That, indirectly, and directly too,
Thou hast contriv'd against the very life
Of the defendant; and thou hast incurr'd
The danger formerly by me rehears'd.
Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the duke.(375)
GRATIANO:
Beg that thou mayst have leave to hang thyself:
And yet, thy wealth being forfeit to the state,
Thou hast not left the value of a cord;
Therefore thou must be hang'd at the state's charge.
DUKE:
That thou shalt see the difference of our spirits,(380)
I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it:
For half thy wealth, it is Antonio's;
The other half comes to the general state,
Which humbleness may drive unto a fine.
PORTIA:
Ay, for the state; not for Antonio.(385)
SHYLOCK:
Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that:
You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life,
When you do take the means whereby I live.
PORTIA:
What mercy can you render him, Antonio?(390)
GRATIANO:
A halter gratis; nothing else, for God's sake!
ANTONIO:
So please my lord the duke, and all the court
To quit the fine for one half of his goods;
I am content, so he will let me have
The other half in use, to render it,(395)
Upon his death, unto the gentleman
That lately stole his daughter;
Two things provided more,—that for this favour,
He presently become a Christian;
The other, that he do record a gift,(400)
Here in the court, of all he dies possess'd,
Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter.
DUKE:
He shall do this; or else I do recant
The pardon that I late pronounced here.
PORTIA:
Art thou contented, Jew? what dost thou say?(405)
SHYLOCK:
I am content.
PORTIA:
Clerk, draw a deed of gift.
SHYLOCK:
I pray you give me leave to go from hence:
I am not well; send the deed after me,
And I will sign it.(410)
DUKE:
Get thee gone, but do it.
GRATIANO:
In christening, shalt thou have two god-fathers;
Had I been judge, thou shouldst have had ten more,
To bring thee to the gallows, not the font.

Exit [Shylock]

DUKE:
Sir, I entreat you home with me to dinner.(415)
PORTIA:
I humbly do desire your grace of pardon.
I must away this night toward Padua,
And it is meet I presently set forth.
DUKE:
I am sorry that your leisure serves you not.
Antonio, gratify this gentleman,(420)
For, in my mind, you are much bound to him.

Exit Duke and his train.

BASSANIO:
Most worthy gentleman, I, and my friend,
Have by your wisdom been this day acquitted
Of grievous penalties; in lieu whereof,
Three thousand ducats, due unto the Jew,(425)
We freely cope your courteous pains withal.
ANTONIO:
And stand indebted, over and above,
In love and service to you evermore.
PORTIA:
He is well paid that is well satisfied:
And I, delivering you, am satisfied,(430)
And therein do account myself well paid;
My mind was never yet more mercenary.
I pray you, know me, when we meet again;
I wish you well, and so I take my leave.
BASSANIO:
Dear sir, of force I must attempt you further;(435)
Take some remembrance of us, as a tribute,
Not as fee: grant me two things, I pray you,
Not to deny me, and to pardon me.
PORTIA:
You press me far, and therefore I will yield.
[To Antonio] Give me your gloves, I'll wear them for(440)
your sake;
[To Bassanio] And, for your love, I'll take this ring from
you:—
Do not draw back your hand; I'll take no more;
And you in love shall not deny me this.(445)
BASSANIO:
This ring, good sir?—alas, it is a trifle:
I will not shame myself to give you this.
PORTIA:
I will have nothing else but only this;
And now, methinks, I have a mind to it.
BASSANIO:
There's more depends on this than on the value.(450)
The dearest ring in Venice will I give you,
And find it out by proclamation;
Only for this I pray you pardon me.
PORTIA:
I see, sir, you are liberal in offers:
You taught me first to beg; and now, methinks,(455)
You teach me how a beggar should be answer'd.
BASSANIO:
Good sir, this ring was given me by my wife;
And, when she put it on, she made me vow
That I should neither sell, nor give, nor lose it.
PORTIA:
That 'scuse serves many men to save their gifts.(460)
An if your wife be not a mad woman,
And know how well I have deserv'd the ring,
She would not hold out enemy for ever,
For giving it to me. Well, peace be with you!

Exeunt [Portia and Nerissa]

ANTONIO:
My Lord Bassanio, let him have the ring,(465)
Let his deservings, and my love withal,
Be valued 'gainst your wife's commandment.
BASSANIO:
Go, Gratiano, run and overtake him;
Give him the ring; and bring him, if thou canst,
Unto Antonio's house:—away! make haste.(470)

Exit Gratiano.

Come, you and I will thither presently;
And in the morning early will we both
Fly toward Belmont: come, Antonio.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. In sacrificing himself for Bassanio's bond, Antonio metaphorically carves himself into Antonio's heart forever. Antonio sets himself up to be a martyr: someone who dies for a cause of their beliefs. Antonio becomes a Christ-like figure. However, unlike Christ who died in order to redeem man-kind, Antonio will die because he and Bassanio recklessly gambled away their money and took a dangerous bond. Antonio's rhetoric attempts to recast the reality of the situation so that he appears to be an innocent victim of an evil man.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Even though Portia has redirected Bassanio's bond to Antonio onto herself, Antonio is still able to assert his "love" against Bassanio's wife. Bassanio still follows Antonio's instructions more than he follows Portia's instructions.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony here for comedic effect. The audience knows that this doctor is actually the person as this "mad wife." While the doctor claims that only a mad woman would be upset about giving a ring to the man who saved Bassanio's best friend, Portia is actually testing Bassanio's fidelity. She will be angry if he gives away the ring.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. By dearest, Bassanio means the most expensive ring in Venice. Notice that Bassanio continues to assess value through money while Portia is trying to get him to state the ring's emotional importance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Remember that this is the ring that Portia gave Bassanio as a symbol of her love and herself. She told him to never part with it as long as he still loved her. However, rather than telling the doctor that this is his wedding ring and that he cannot part with it, Bassanio attempts to devalue the ring. He tells the doctor that it is an unimportant piece of jewelry that the man cannot want.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Now that Portia has saved Antonio, both Antonio and Bassanio are bound to her rather than bound to each other. Portia has successfully inserted herself into their bond.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. By this Gratiano means that had he been in charge, Shylock would have faced a jury of twelve men and been sentenced to hang. Notice that even though Shylock has been defeated and forced to convert to Christianity, the Christians still see him as a hated other.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Antonio's condition gets at a major theme of the play: appearances versus reality. On the surface, this might seem like a positive request from a Christian perspective; in forcing him to convert, Antonio "saves" Shylock's soul. However, a conversion without conviction means nothing, a fact that would not go unnoticed by a Shakespearian audience that was alive during England's break with the Catholic Church. Antonio's requirement thus undermines not only the sanctity of his religion but the religious values he professes to have. Therefore, while this appears to be a form of "Christian mercy," it actually reveals how vacuous the Christian's faith is.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Antonio offers Shylock a semblance of mercy by allowing him to keep half his fortune and admitting in open court that a Christian stole Jessica. However, his condition is forcing Shylock to recognize Lorenzo as his proper heir, undermining the idea that Jessica was wrongfully taken and essentially condoning the marriage.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. A "halter gratis" means a free noose. This shout from Gratiano is particularly grotesque as Shylock has just stated that he cannot survive in Venice.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. While an unsympathetic audience may hear Shylock's words as a reflection of an obsession with money, Shylock highlights the lack of mercy within this sentence. As a man hated for his religion and denied all other avenues of work, he cannot survive in Venice without his money and his trade.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. The Duke offers Shylock to reduce the amount of money he owes the state to a fine by acting "humble." In other words, the Duke asks Shylock to beg for his money. This is neither humility nor mercy on the part of the Christians. The Christians seek to take Shylock's money, the only thing that gave him any power within Venetian society, and force him to grovel to the privileged class. This is a form of humiliation meant to put Shylock back in his place. In pardoning Shylock, the Duke does not offer him mercy but rather makes him an example to all other marginalized peoples that attempt to upset the status quo.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Gratiano's overly exuberant and insulting statements make him, and the Christian opinion that he represents, petty. It is unclear whether or not Shakespeare's audience would have jeered with Gratiano, but modern audiences lose sympathy for these characters who need to degrade and punish Shylock on top of defeating him. The Christian characters lose their credibility in this moment because this invocation of mob justice completely contradicts the idea of "mercy" that they claimed to value at the beginning of this scene.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Notice how the concept of "mercy" has changed here. While at the beginning, Portia triumphed the concept of mercy for mercy's sake, assuming Shylock would simply grant it to Antonio, she expects Shylock to "beg," meaning that he must prove he is worthy of mercy in a way that Antonio did not have to.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Under Venetian law, any foreigner who conspires against the life of a Venetian must give half their assets to their victim and the other half to the state. The fate of their life is then left up to the Duke to decide. Notice that Portia, who earlier triumphed mercy, demonstrates extreme prejudice here. She uses Shylock as an example to all other 'aliens' that try to use Venetian laws for their own benefit. She proves that the law is for rich merchants, not marginalized peoples.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Portia converts Shylock, a Venetian citizen, into an alien, or foreigner, in order to enact this bit of the law. Portia stretches the law in order to save Antonio and punish Shylock, proving that the law protects Venice's privileged citizens and neglects its marginalized citizens.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. By principal, Shylock means his original bond of three thousand ducats. Defeated, Shylock simply asks for what he originally loaned and abandons his revenge or profit.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. This is a colloquial term taken from wrestling that means to have the upper hand or the advantage. Notice that Gratiano uses Shylock's exact words against him to show that Shylock has lost; he robs Shylock's words of their intended meaning in order to use them against him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. Notice that now that she has the upper hand, Portia abandons all notions of mercy. She asked Shylock to show Antonio mercy, and when time comes for her to offer Shylock mercy, she instead decides to punish him. This action demonstrates the double standard under which Shylock lives: he is expected to be better than the Christians, to turn his cheek even though they do not show him the same kindness.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. Gratiano's repetition of this line becomes a mocking victory cry over Shylock; the Christians have won and Shylock has been defeated.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. Gratiano uses Shylock's words against him in order to mock him now that the tables have turned. Shylock has repeatedly said that this judge is right and honorable, and now that the judge has used his logic against Shylock, Gratiano wants to remind the court that the judge is right and honorable.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. Shylock says this incredulously: much like Nerissa and Portia, he cannot believe that these husbands would so flippantly offer their wives's lives for this man. Even while Shylock is insistent on the fulfillment of a gruesome bond, this reaction shows him to be principled, and suggests that his marriage was honorable and loving.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. Barabbas and Jesus were imprisoned and sentenced to death at the same time. Barabbas was released when a crowd demanded his salvation over Jesus. Historically, Barabbas and the Jews who protested for his release instead of Jesus's have been blamed for the crucifixion. With this reference Shylock declares that he would rather have his daughter married to a descendant of the man responsible for anti-Semitic hatred than one of these Christian husbands who do not value their wives.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. Again, Gratiano offers his wife's life for Antonio's thinking that Nerissa cannot hear him. Ironically, he does not say this behind her back but to her face.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. Portia invokes dramatic irony with this statement, because Bassanio's wife is in fact "by to hear him make the offer." Bassanio's confession of love makes it all the more urgent that Portia save Antonio and rid Bassanio of his bond to his friend. She must redirect this love towards herself.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. Bassanio prizes Antonio's life above his wife, the world, and his own life. This declaration suggests that Bassanio loves Antonio in much the same way that Antonio loves him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. This is a rather blatant confession of romantic love for Bassanio. Antonio asks Bassanio to let his wife judge whether or not he had ever been loved, which is a type of claim on Bassanio's heart. This would be problematic for Portia as Antonio is essentially using his death and martyrdom to claim Bassanio's heart for his own.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. In his dying speech, Antonio uses language that parallels the marriage ceremony. In dying for Bassanio's bond, Antonio marries Bassanio to his debt forever.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. Shylock focuses on the literal language of the bond. This will be his undoing as Portia uses this very literal approach to the law against him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. In the Book of Daniel from the Old Testament, Daniel rescues virtuous Susanna from slander and execution. In the story, two lecherous voyagers threaten to accuse Susanna of promiscuity unless she sleeps with both of them. Because she refuses, she is accused, arrested, and sentenced to death for lechery. Daniel asks the elders to independently question the voyagers about the events they claim to have witnessed, and when their testimonies are vastly inconsistent, Susanna is released. Virtue triumphs over falsehood, and the two men are put to death.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. Portia defies Bassanio's request to simply subvert the law on Antonio's behalf. She rightly asserts that relieving Antonio of his bond will pave the way for other spend thrifts to get out of their bonds and undermine Venice's entire economic system.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. Bassanio asks this doctor of the law to do a great right, save Antonio's life, while doing a little wrong, defying the law. Bassanio asks for special treatment that will allow his friend out of the constraints of the law. Notice that Bassanio imports religious language, such as devil, in order to subvert the law. Since Bassanio and Antonio are members of the privileged class they see any law that works against them as unfair and therefore inapplicable or mutable.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. Bassanio pledges his whole self to Antonio before the court. This ironically occurs in front of his wife, to whom he should have already pledged his soul and body. Portia must relieve Antonio of his bond so that her husband is not indebted and bound to his friend but rather indebted and bound to her.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  34. Notice how many times Portia repeats the word "justice" at the end of her speech. The repetition of this word is intended to make the audience question Portia's sincerity.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  35. Notice that within her speech about divine mercy and forgiveness, Portia still refers to Shylock as "Jew" rather than by name. This is a sign of disrespect. Portia sees Shylock as a label rather than as a person. There is no understanding, forgiveness, or mercy towards Shylock within this speech; ironically, it is a speech about empathy that is devoid of actual empathy.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  36. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  37. Portia's argument here is that "mercy" better demonstrates a monarch's right to rule than symbols of wealth and power, such as a crown, throne, or sceptre. Portia essentially states that power comes from mercy rather than privilege. However, her privileged position as a Christian heiress makes this statement both condescending and ignorant to the plight of marginalized, and systemically powerless, people such as Shylock.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  38. Notice the religious underpinnings of this speech. Portia makes an argument about mercy that is set within a Christian context; she argues that Shylock should be merciful because it will bring him closer to God. However, in holding Shylock to a Christian standard of mercy, Portia disregards both the law and Shylock's Judaism.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  39. The clerk reads the following letter to establish legitimacy for "Balthasar" before he has entered the court. It is unclear whether or not Portia wrote this letter herself or got her cousin Bellario to write it for her. What is interesting is that Portia seems to actually know something about the law. Her knowledge transcends her disguise, which suggests either that Bellario has taught her something about the law or she has privately studied it.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  40. Shylock has complete confidence that in standing by the law his means will be protected. Ironically this confidence will be his downfall. He ignores the spirit of the law and instead relies on a literal interpretation of the words, which foreshadows how the court will subvert the fulfillment of his bond.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  41. Here, Gratiano claims that Shylock's soul came from a murderous wolf that transferred itself to Shylock while he was still in his mother's womb. Notice that while Shylock uses animal comparisons to explain his rage, Gratiano metaphorically fuses Shylock with an animal in order to dehumanize him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  42. Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher and mathematician who believed in the transmigration of souls. This belief held that the soul was immortal and would transfer itself from one vessel to another when the physical matter, the body, died. This theory contradicts Christian philosophy, which believes that soul transcends the earth to enter the afterlife.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  43. Shoe soles used to be made of leather, wood, and sometimes iron braces. Shylock could use the sole of his shoe to sharpen the knife he would use to cut Antonio's pound of flesh.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  44. A "wether" is a castrated sheep or a lamb. In calling himself a "wether" Antonio references the image of the Christian sacrificial lamb. In his metaphor, Antonio is dying for Bassanio's sins in much the same way that Jesus died for man's sins.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  45. An epitaph is a phrase or statement used to remember someone that has passed. In this line, Antonio offers his life up for Bassanio's happiness and asks him to "write mine epitaph," essentially asking him to carry his memory forever. If Antonio suffers this price, then Bassanio will never be able to repay him for the bond; Bassanio will forever be metaphorically bonded to, married to, Antonio.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  46. "Dearly bought" can either mean expensively, or paid for in grave personal loss. This line can be performed and heard in two ways. It is either a sign of the money-hungry Shylock claiming that his loss of money means he deserves his pound of flesh, or it is a sign of his humanity. Shylock has lost everything, including his daughter, and now all that is left is his "dearly bought" revenge.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  47. Shylock claims that he has a right to do what he likes with Antonio's flesh because he bought it, just as the merchants can do what they like with slaves because they bought them. With this metaphor, Shylock points out the Christian's hypocrisy: they support their cruel laws and customs until they are subjected to them.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  48. England and Venice both heavily profited from the 16th century slave trade. Since Antonio and his friends are rich merchants, it is likely that they either owned slaves or transported slaves along the triangle trade.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  49. Again the Duke asks Shylock to be better than the Christians in the play. In this question, the Duke inadvertently claims that Shylock must first show mercy before he can be shown mercy. This is ironic because mercy is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, yet none of the Christians showed Shylock mercy earlier in the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  50. Antonio uses the word "judgement" to invoke a religious imagery in this action. Antonio's language positions him as a martyr and elevates the payment of his debt to something sacred.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  51. Here Antonio compares the "hard Jewish heart" with forces of nature which cannot be changed: the size of the ocean, the wolf that eats the lamb, the pines that sway in the wind. This is another instance of anti-semitism. Antonio assumes Shylock's reasons are just the result of his " evil Jewish nature" rather than grounded in anything real.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  52. This is an example of stichomythia, a dramatic technique in which characters rapidly exchange dialogue to build tension and emphasize anger or hatred.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  53. Shylock uses these examples of arbitrary hatred - such as that towards pigs, cats, and bagpipes - as reasoning for hating Antonio. His logic is that if no one is asked to give a firm reason why they hate a rat, then he does not have to give a firm reason why he hates Antonio. While this seems unfeeling, it is also the logic that underpins racism and anti-semitism: Shylock describes hatred that has no basis except belief in the hatred itself.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  54. By this Shylock means that the instinctive reaction one has often reveals how much they value it. Notice that Shylock speaks in language that sounds proverbial; however, he does not draw his lessons from scripture as he did in the beginning of the play but from revenge.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  55. Notice that Shylock uses animal imagery within this scene to explain his reasoning. This could be a linguistic reversal of insults Antonio and the Christians used against Jews earlier in the play. Shylock characterizes Antonio as the vermin rat, unclean pig, and shifty cat just as Antonio did to him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  56. Gentle puns on the word "gentile," another word for Christians. The Duke narrates what Shylock should do, then ends the speech essentially asking Shylock to imitate the Christians. However, remember that earlier in the play Shylock declared that his adamant desire for revenge was taken from Christian example. Ironically, in attempting to exact revenge, Shylock is imitating the Christians.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  57. The Duke does not only ask Shylock to forgive Antonio the extreme measures of the bond, but also the repayment of the sum in whole. The Duke asks Shylock to show Antonio the mercy that Antonio never showed him; he expects this marginalized character to be magnanimous while the Christians are allowed to not be.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  58. Again, Antonio invokes the language of martyrdom. If Antonio positions himself as a martyr who will save Bassanio and the law and order of Venice, then Shylock implicitly becomes the devil who seeks to destroy.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  59. Notice that the Duke, a supposedly impartial judge, has a clear bias towards Antonio in this case.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff