Themes: Prejudice and social injustice Revenge, justice and forgiveness Money and love Symbolic Motifs: Gold / ducats, jewels and caskets (representing avarice, the desire for power and control, self-interest, status, the mercantile world ) The law (representing justice, rationality over passion, rigidity, social order) Rings (symbols of love and loyalty) Music (as soothing, transformational, harmonising, reflective of mood)
Conflict between characters Conflict within characters Conflict between individuals and society
Consider the main characters (Shylock, Antonio, Bassanio & Portia). For each one think about: Their deeds and words Their reactions to others How others react to them What is your opinion of each character? How do you feel about each one and why do they arouse these feelings in you? You should also consider the roles that more minor characters play in the drama (e.g. Jessica, Gratiano, Lorenzo, Lancelot, Salerio & Salerino)
Which scenes are most crucial to your understanding of plot / characters / themes? Where are there contrasts between scenes & why were these used / how do they affect the audience? Which scenes are least relevant? What impact would there be on the drama if these were omitted? Act IV, Scene I
Identify key quotes from the play. These should be the ones which: Give you insight to the characters Highlight the play’s themes / central concerns Relate to significant plot developments
Prose and poetry The nobility tend to speak in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter*); the commoners in prose. Financial terms and gossip – low prose (NB – despite its elevated content in terms of theme, Shylock’s speech is in prose) The trial – verse Courtship – formal / ‘musical’ poetry final scene and exchange between Bassanio and Portia uses parallel structure and epistrophe Act V, Scene 1 – ‘musical’ poetry between Lorenzo & Jessica using internal rhyme “Poetic drama is like opera”
An "iamb" is an unaccented syllable followed by an accented one. da DUM "Penta" means "five," and "meter" refers to a regular rhythmic pattern. So "iambic pentameter" is a kind of rhythmic pattern that consist of five iambs per line. It's the most common rhythm in English poetry and sounds like five heartbeats: da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM, da DUM. Consider the play's opening lines: In SOOTH, I KNOW not WHY I AM so SAD And the courtroom scene: The QUALitY of MERcy IS not STRAINED
Act V, Scene 1 Bassanio: Sweet Portia If you did know to whom I gave the ring, If you did know for whom I gave the ring, And would conceive for what I gave the ring, And how unwillingly I left the ring, When naught would be accepted but the ring, You would abate the strength of your displeasure. Portia: If you had known the virtue of the ring, Or half her worthiness that gave the ring, Or your own honour to contain the ring, You would not then have parted with the ring.
Prose and verse used to emphasise contrasts (e.g. Shylock tells in verse how Jacob fooled his blind father 1.3.71/ Lancelot fools his blind father in prose; Bassanio asks Antonio for help in verse 1.1.140 / Shylock curses his prodigal daughter in prose 3.1.76)
Language / Imagery frequently used to emphasise themes: e.g. The quality of mercy is not strained: It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven…(4.1.182) An earthly power doth then show likest God’s, When mercy seasons justice. (4.1.194) Analogies / parallels with Classical and Christian stories: Bassanio as prodigal son Antonio willing to sacrifice his life as Jesus did Antonio successfully choosing the correct casket likened to Jason acquiring the Golden Fleece (the classic hero’s quest) Gratiano telling Shylock to go and hang himself, as Judas did after betraying Jesus.
Frequent use of puns: No, we shall ne’er win at that sport, and stake down (3.2.96) Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew, Thou makest thou knife keen…(4.1.124) Lancelot’s & Old Gobbo’s malapropisms: “He hath a great infection (intention / affection)… to serve.” 2.2.117 “That is the very defect (effect / fact) of the matter sir.” 2.2.133 “Adieu, tears exhibit (inhibit) my tongue.” (2.3.10) “…my young master doth expect your reproach (approach).” 2.5.20
The plot is quite complex – with sub-plots and twists. What is the main plot? What are the sub-plots?
Consider Shakespeare’s use of setting in this play. Why set the play in 16 th Century Venice, rather than 16 th Century London? What was life like for Jews living in 16 th Century Venice? What differences do you note between Venice and Belmont?
The use of ‘asides’: Note when this stage direction is used. Why is it used / what is its effect on the audience? The use of music / song: Act 3, Scene 2 Act 5, Scene 1
One of Shakespeare’s sixteen comedies. ‘Comic’ associated with laughter. ‘Comedic’ – obeying conventions of comedy as genre. Chief convention = happy resolution (however serious the confusion). Act I, Scene I, line 50 – “two-headed Janus” (merry and sad – emblem of drama masks). Clownish characters (Gratiano & Lancelot Gobbo). Plot confusions. Festive atmospheres.