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MOV Plots and Themes

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A. teBokkel

on 14 June 2013

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Transcript of MOV Plots and Themes

Theme of Appearances Plots and Themes in Merchant of Venice This theme teaches us to look beyond the surface appearances of the things we encounter in life. Antonio and Bassanio Wisdom and Judgement Discrimination It goes both ways Mercy vs Justice? Or Mercy AND Justice? PREJUDICE Shakespeare shows us that Bassanio has not completely mastered the art of looking beyond appearances, when Portia and Nerissa dress up as men

Bassanio hasn't a clue that his wife is the judge

Portia tells him as she leaves the court “I pray you, know me when we meet again:” IV.i. 419, but Bassanio is oblivious

The ring plot revolves around appearances, and despite Bassanio and Gratiano's apparently faithful promises, they have not kept their word to keep the rings Appearance vs. the “inside” Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee;
Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge
'Tween man and man: but thou, thou meagre lead,
Which rather threatenest than dost promise aught,
Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence;
And here choose I; joy be the consequence! Look on beauty,
And you shall see 'tis purchased by the weight;
Which therein works a miracle in nature,
Making them lightest that wear most of it:
So are those crisped snaky golden locks
Which make such wanton gambols with the wind,
Upon supposed fairness, often known
To be the dowry of a second head,
The skull that bred them in the sepulchre.
Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,
The seeming truth which cunning times put on
To entrap the wisest. In your opinion is The Merchant of Venice a tragedy or a comedy or a mix of the two? Explain why you think this.
Why might The Merchant of Venice be an example of how NOT to deal with prejudice?
Is justice really done in the trial scene in Act IV of The Merchant of Venice? How might things have been resolved differently?
Which character in The Merchant of Venice do you feel the most pity at the beginning of the play? Which do you feel the most pity for at the end?
Does Antonio have a “happy ever after” in this play? Hate breeds hate
Prejudice breeds prejudice
“You don't like me, so I don't like you”
Shylock's speech III.i.43-61 Hatred as Cyclical Shylock is given many opportunities to have mercy in the play
The Duke specifically says that they expect he will be

The Duke says: "How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?" And Shylock replies, "What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?"

He is offered the money several times

Portia also asks him to be merciful before she drops the bombshell about "no drop of blood" Mercy & Love vs. Self-interest & Hatred Compare Shylock and Antonio using the themes above.
Who is merciful?
If we look on the outside?
If we look on the inside?

Has Antonio always had mercy for Shylock?
Does Antonio demonstrate true Christian love toward Shylock? Mercy & Love vs. Self-interest & Hatred Shylock’s hate for Christians and Antonio’s dislike for Jews. (I.iii)

Act 1 Scene 3 ‘I hate him for he is a Christian’ , ‘fawning publican’
and Antonio's outburst regarding the loan

Shylock’s speech “ I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.”

Shylock’s image of Christians and how he tries to ensure that Jessica does not come into contact with them. "Shallow foppery"

Act 4 Scene 1, Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity. First appeared in Act 1 scene 2 where Portia and Nerissa were discussing Portia’s suitors.

Portia makes fun of all her suitors, but when the fifth (Morocco) is announced, she says “if he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.” I.i.129-131

meaning that even he is a good person, if he has a dark skin, she would rather he hear her confession like a priest than marry her

This foreshadows Morocco's request that she “mislike me not for my complexion” II.i.1 Shylock
1)     Against Christians. Bitter: because of their treatment towards him. Evil: Gloats over Antonio’s misfortune, plotted revenge etc.

2)   The prejudice restricts his means of employment. Hence, he is forced to become a moneylender but this subjects him to even more discrimination by Christians against lending out money with interest (usance)--a vicious cycle that has made Shylock cold-hearted. Portia
Court case: seeks mercy for Antonio and yet does not show much mercy to Shylock, forced Shylock to become Christian; that is like destroying what the basis of what he is.

E.g. Shylock sees himself ultimately as a Jew.  However, due to the vicious nature of Shylock’s crime, it can be said that the verdict on him was quite merciful. Types of Prejudice found in MOV Bassanio has learned the error of his ways

Before this, he “disabled mine estate, / By something showing a more swelling port /Than my faint means would grant continuance:” I.i.122-125

(In other words, he was showing off. His outward spending did not reflect the true state of his wallet.)

When Shylock offers the bond of a pound of flesh, Bassanio says “I like not fair terms and a villain's mind.” He is learning to look beyond the outside appearance. Appearance vs. the “inside” Bassanio from the beginning of the play values Portia for her virtues, not merely her wealth or beauty

He is able to win her not only because he chooses the lead casket over the gold and silver, but also because of how he chooses.

He makes a choice not based on the outside or the inscription or because of what he thinks is desirable (like Morocco) or what he deserves (like Arragon), but based on wisdom.

Bassanio has learned to value inner beauty, virtue, over outer Appearance vs. the “inside” Shylock shows an appearance of friendship to Antonio, but in reality he hopes to be able to kill him

Both Morocco and Arragon make choices based on outward appearances and false pride (Arragon makes a long speech about wishing that honours were won by merit not birth, and says “I will assume desert” --pridefully assuming that he is worthy to win Portia)

Even Launcelot plays with appearance when he tricks his father (Old Gobbo)
“it is a wise father that knows his own child” II.ii. 74-75
“truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son may, but, in the end, truth will out.” II.ii.76-78 Appearance vs. the “inside” In all the previous examples, the mention of the outside appearance of a person or thing is paired with a description of the inside
Portia's wealth and beauty is paired with her fair virtues

The “goodly outside” of Shylock's seeming truths, conceals the “falsehood” beneath (and as we discover his ulterior motive for offering this “merry bond”)

The outward beauty of the golden casket conceals the inward ugliness of death Appearances vs. the “inside” Again appearances come into the equation:
Portia and Nerissa dress up as something they are not—men--and, under these false pretences, get their husbands' rings

When they show the rings to their husbands, to the men it appears as though their wives have been unfaithful Ring Plot Jessica disguises herself as something she is not
She takes on the appearance of a page by dressing as one
She fears “holding a candle to [her] shame” because anyone looking closely (farther than appearances) will see that she is not what she seems to be.
Takes place during a masque—masquerade--all about disguises Elopement Plot Casket plot is all about not judging by appearances
Morocco asks Portia not to “Mislike me not for my complexion” (II.i.1) Portia responds (II.i.13-14)

Bassanio describes Portia: How? What does he value most? (I.i.161-170)

Bassanio chooses the casket: How? (III.ii.73-107) Casket Plot Bond Plot
Shylock's offer seems good, but he has hidden an evil desire for Antonio's ruin and death behind a show (appearance) of friendship
(White washed sepulchures--Pharisees) Bond Plot Intentions: bad disguised as good; good disguised as bad

Physical appearance: skin colour, clothing, gender

Religion: heart or head Judging farther than appearances One of the primary messages of MOV is that we should not judge by how something or someone appears on the outside, by the mask that they wear, but should look farther than what we see with our eyes and search for the true, inner value of the person or thing.

In MOV, this search for truth is shown to be rewarded. MOV as a Giant Masque Appearances
Love vs. Self-interest
The Law
Hatred as Cyclical Themes Bond Plot
Casket Plot
Elopement Plot
Ring Plot
These plots are interwoven throughout the play. Subplots How do we see the use of the “Letter” of the law vs. the spirit of the law in MOV?

Sixth Commandment
1 John 3:15 “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” The Law There are many different kinds of bonds in MOV
Bonds of

Sometimes these bonds are symbolized by an object: contract, ring, gifts, etc.
A concrete reminder of a bond Bonds Unreasonable or unfair feelings, opinions, or attitudes
a certain impression or opinion in the mind that results in treating a person differently.
can be between sexes, races, religions etc.
prejudice is a form of discrimination too Definition Minor Participants
The duke Major Participants
Gratiano Ring Plot Minor Participants
Shylock Major Participants
Jessica Elopement Plot Minor Participants
singers Casket Minor Participants
Dr. Bellario Major Participants
Portia Bond Plot So may the outward shows be least themselves:
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts:
How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false
As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars;
Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk;
And these assume but valour's excrement
To render them redoubted! Bassanio's Speech III.ii.73-107 “In Belmont is a lady richly left; / And she is fair, and, fairer than that word, / Of wondrous virtues:” I.i.161-165

“Mark you this, Bassanio, / The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. / An evil soul producing holy witness / Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, / A goodly apple rotten at the heart: / O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!” I.iii.93-98

“All that glitters is not gold; / Often have you heard that told: / Many a man his life hath sold / But my outside to behold: / Gilded tombs do worms enfold.” II.vii.65-69 Appearances vs. the “inside” Assumption vs Reality
Jew against Christian
Love against hate
Usury against venture trading
Mercy against justice Contrasts Presented in the Play Partner Time: With your chosen partner, write a list of characters associated with each plot. Remember some characters are involved only slightly, but are still involved. Which main characters are part of each plot? "How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver." Prov. 16:16 "Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." Prov 17:28 "As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man." Prov. 27:19 MOV I.i.79-105
Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Sleep when he wakes and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio--
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks--
There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
As who should say 'I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!'
O my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing; when, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.
I'll tell thee more of this another time:
But fish not, with this melancholy bait,
For this fool gudgeon, this opinion.
Come, good Lorenzo. Fare ye well awhile:
I'll end my exhortation after dinner. Appearances Outside vs Inside “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness." Matt 23:27 Friendship self-sacrificing Loyalty Bassanio and Gratiano

keeping promises Bond plot the ring plot test. . . keep the ring, keep marriage vows The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'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;
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,
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
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there. MOV I.iii.102-125
Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help:
Go to, then; you come to me, and you say
'Shylock, we would have moneys:' you say so;
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold: moneys is your suit
What should I say to you? Should I not say
'Hath a dog money? is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys'? MOV III.i.43-60
To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction. We are to use our reason as human beings made in the image of God to discover wisdom. Appearance vs the "Inside" We learn to go beyond our preconceived ideas to discover the truth. Plots Masques and Appearances
innocent loans become deathly
gold and silver prove worthless
identities are mistaken, women disguised as men trick their husbands The Truth beyond the Masque In The Merchant of Venice, appearances are rarely what they seem: Masks and Hypocrites Fun Fact: In Ancient Greek theatre, the actors were called hypocrites. They literally wore masks when pretending to be someone (or something) they were not. Bond
Ring Major Participants
Portia's father
The suitors, including
Bassanio We are taught by Gratiano that pretending to be wise is not enough: once such a person opens their mouth the truth of their foolishness comes out. Good judgement or reasoning is an essential quality of wisdom:

Bassanio's reasoning when choosing the casket demonstrates this truth

The warnings of the scrolls inside each casket re-enforce this as well. Religious Racial Final Theme Shylock's POV Two basic types of prejudice are found in MOV Religious
Racial Antonio's Perspective Antonio:
Let him alone:
I'll follow him no more with bootless prayers. He seeks my life; his reason well I know:
I oft deliver'd from his forfeitures
Many that have at times made moan to me;
Therefore he hates me. (MOV III.iii.19-24) Maybe Jessica does not become like that because she is supported by her father and therefore does not need to face the difficulties yet.

Also, by being protected in such a way she can remain as a “good” character and is able to say that although she is a Jew she does not follow after her father. Why is Jessica not bitter? "But though I am a daughter to his blood,/ I am not to his manners" MOV II.iii.18-19 Shylock actually gives this away himself: How like a fawning publican 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.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe,
If I forgive him! (I.iii.42-52) More on Racial Prejudice Although it seems as though Portia is a clean-cut racist, there are some points that can somewhat soften this rather hard picture of her 1) Portia makes fun of ALL her suitors, not just Morocco

2) She has met Bassanio before the play begins--AND she remembers him specifically, calling him by name when Nerissa hints to her about him
She is CLEARLY prejudiced in his favour (this is very clear in the casket scene in Act III--where she wishes she could tell him which casket to choose), and therefore is prejudiced against all other suitors for her hand 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
Thou'lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty; (IV.i.17-21) So can I give no reason, nor I will not,
More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing
I bear Antonio, that I follow thus
A losing suit against him. (IV.i.59-62) Why, this bond is forfeit;
And lawfully by this the Jew may claim
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.
IV.i.230-234 Shylock is insistent about The Law:
The law (the bond) means that Antonio owes him a pound of flesh
He threatens that if the Duke breaks the bond, that the laws of Venice will become a joke (it will set a precedent)
When Portia asks if he has a doctor ready for Antonio, he says that if it is not in the bond, he doesn't have to do it
He praises Portia for keeping the law Eventually, however, his insistence on the letter of the Law comes back to haunt him, and because he will not be merciful, he loses everything: his money (which likely hurts the worst) and his religion MOV II.vii.4-9
The first, of gold, who this inscription bears,
'Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire;
'The second, silver, which this promise carries,
'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;'
This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt,
'Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.' 'Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire;" 'Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;' 'Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.'
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