The Merchant of Venice

“You say it wearies you, but how I came by it, whereof it is born, I am to learn. What sadness makes of me I indeed know myself.””My purse, I open it all to you.” o Antonio’s friends then try to get him out of the dumps! o Willing to give up everything that he has for him, Bassanio in a way lets him do this!o Cannot determine the nature of his affection for Bassanio – erotic attraction? Possibleo “my purse, my person, I give it all to you” His purse, and purson (person), show the connection between who we are the kinds of money / capital / capabilities we have.Bassanio is the least deserving, but is the only character that really gets what he wants
BASSANIOIn my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,I shot his fellow of the self-same flightThe self-same way with more advised watch,To find the other forth, and by adventuring bothI oft found both: I urge this childhood proof,Because what follows is pure innocence.I owe you much, and, like a wilful youth,That which I owe is lost; but if you pleaseTo shoot another arrow that self wayWhich you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,As I will watch the aim, or to find bothOr bring your latter hazard back againAnd thankfully rest debtor for the first. o Arrow metaphoro Asking Antonio to throw good money after bad “You know me well…out of doubt you do me now more wrong…made waste of all I am”o This devotion goes almost to a suicidal extent later in the play. Willing to sacrifice all to prove his love for his friend. Love triangle between Bassanio, Antonio and Portiao Bassanio is unwilling to confess the importance of his relationship with Antonio to Portiao Needs to work on having that important a relationship with Portia, his wife
Bassanio: “Tis not unknown to you how I have disabled my estate. Nor do I make moan, but my cheer care is to come off my great debts whereof something in my time have left my engaged. To you Antonio I owe the most in money and in love. How to get clear of all the debts I owe.””I pray you good Bassanio, if it stands in honour, my purse, my person, my extremist means lie all unlocked to your occasion.” – Gift economy, gift exchangeo Social structure that is arranged around the idea of the importance of circulation of value, of goodso Reciprocity, cementing social relationshipso Extreme version = potlatch, two clans give gifts to each other, amplifies to an absurd extent o Christ gives himself, gift of his life becomes a way of atoning for everyone’s sins• Confers on all believers the obligation to believe in the value of that gift o “wrack my credit” Antonio is torturing himself into getting the money for Bassanioo Shylock also doesn’t have the ready money, has to borrow it from his friendo Gift economy cementing personal relationshipso Gifts can be negative in character – Antonio spits on Shylock’s beard in publico Savage insistence on receiving, going to cut out Antonio’s heart- What is the nature of the gift, our nature to reciprocate on that gift, what is our obligation if the gift is a negative one?- How Christian are the Christians behaving? o Mercy that Portia is showing Shylock?o Critical of the Christians >> Shylock in this playo Doesn’t celebrate our common humanity – Mercifixion: may be more humane than crucifixion. You mercify rather than punish. Nevertheless, it inflicts its own kind of pain: you punish by mercifying. Mercy “presents a problem,” Lisa Freinkel writes, because it is the grace “that imputes righteousness where none has been deserved.”1 The pain mercifixion inflicts is the pain of embarrassment.- Difficulties that exist when you feel the imperative to recognize the other, but that figure wants to remain opaque?o How to you fulfill the desire of the other not to be recognizedo Jacob and the sheepo Shylock somewhat rejects the validity of the story, stays true to his own cultural identity (separates himself from the Christians) o ‘His nation’ is stronger than his desire to be connected with the Christian community
“You know me well to whine about thy love. Make waste of all I have. In your knowledge may be done. Therefore speak.” • He wants to be tortured to prove his love to his friend. The way he relates to Bassanio, he seems intent on proving his love by putting him safety at risk. This goes to a suicidal extent later in the play. There is an interesting love triangle between Bassanio, Antonio, and Portia. • Bassanio appears after his friends try to cheer Antonio up. He is one of the most fascinating characters in Shakespeare. Nobody seems to get what they want in this play… except Bassanio.
“In Belmont is a lady richly left. Sometimes from her eyes I did receive messages. Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth, renowned suitors hang on her temples like the golden fleece.” o Bassanio aware that Antonio loves him, but what he needs to do to replay Antonio is to get Portia to marry him. He also seems to have very real romantic feelings for her. o Speaks of BOTH her wealth and her beauty/virtuousnesso Withholds information about the lottery (second arrow). Needs to pick the right casket.
NERISSAWhat say you then to Falconbridge, the young baron of England? PORTIA You know I say nothing to him, for he understands not me, nor I him. He hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian, and you will come into the court and swear that I have a poor pennyworth in the English. He is a proper man’s picture, but alas, who can converse with a dumb show? • You realize that you’re watching a conversation between Nerissa and Portia, but also understand that in the content of the fictional world they are in, they are speaking Italian. Why would she talk about not understanding Falconbridge, when she is speaking English?• They finally get to the description of Morocco, the North African guy.o “What say you..” “You know I say nothing to him, for he understands me nor I not him…who can converse with a dumb show”o Should really be speaking Italian to each other, disbelief of the theatre!o “if he had the conviction of a saint but the ___ of a devil…”o Morocco “mislike me not…burnished sun…” Portia tells him, how you look does not matter to me!
PORTIA In terms of choice I am not solely led By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes. Besides, the lott’ry of my destiny 15 Bars me the right of voluntary choosing. But if my father had not scanted me, And hedged me by his wit to yield myself His wife who wins me by that means I told you, Yourself, renownèd Prince, then stood as fair 20 As any comer I have looked on yet For my affection.PORTIA A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains, go. Let all of his complexion choose me so. The curtains are drawn. Exeunt – “A gentle riddance let the curtains go, let all of his complexion choose me so” she speaks differently about him when he is not present – same thing happens with Shylocko Not until the conviction scene does the social veneer of politeness towards Shylock wear awayo Less respectful of differences in the person’s absence- Her capacity as a woman limits her chance for self-determinationo Lottery to figure out who she marrieso Mockery of self-determinationo We’re more sympathetic towards her in light of this
– In spite of this casual racism, her own awareness and sense of her position in this society, how does this inhibit her capacity of individual self-determination? Her father leaves her marriage in the hands of a lottery. If you read the play from a feminist interest, Portia starts to be a little more sympathetic than just a rich girl. For instance, when she is on her way back to Belmont, and they can just see her house, she stops for a moment because once she goes back to Belmont she’s married to Bassanio and no longer master of that household. She wants to just enjoy that moment of self-determination. • She married a complete spendthrift, who has an important relationship with a man he never told her about, but the kind of relationship where they loan money and his LIFE to spare him. Portia is aware of the kind of competition that Antonio presents here.
PORTIA (to Bassanio) I pray you tarry. Pause a day or two Before you hazard, for in choosing wrong I lose your company. Therefore forbear a while. There’s something tells me—but it is not love— I would not lose you; and you know yourself 5 Hate counsels not in such a quality. But lest you should not understand me well— And yet a maiden hath no tongue but thought— I would detain you here some month or two Before you venture for me. I could teach you 10 How to choose right, but then I am forsworn. So will I never be; so may you miss me. But if you do, you’ll make me wish a sin, That I had been forsworn. Beshrew your eyes, They have o’erlooked me and divided me. 15 One half of me is yours, the other half yours— Mine own, I would say, but if mine, then yours, And so all yours. O, these naughty times Puts bars between the owners and their rights; And so, though yours, not yours. Prove it so, 20 Let fortune go to hell for it, not I. I speak too long, but ’tis to piece the time, To eke it, and to draw it out in length To stay you from election.PORTIA You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand, Such as I am. Though for myself alone 150 I would not be ambitious in my wish To wish myself much better, yet for you I would be trebled twenty times myself, A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich, That only to stand high in your account 155 I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends, Exceed account. But the full sum of me Is sum of something which, to term in gross, Is an unlessoned girl, unschooled, unpractisèd, Happy in this, she is not yet so old 160 But she may learn; happier than this, She is not bred so dull but she can learn; Happiest of all is that her gentle spirit Commits itself to yours to be directed As from her lord, her governor, her king. 165 Myself and what is mine to you and yours Is now converted. But now I was the lord Of this fair mansion, master of my servants, Queen o’er myself; and even now, but now, This house, these servants, and this same myself 170 Are yours, my lord’s. I give them with this ring, Which when you part from, lose, or give away, Let it presage the ruin of your love, And be my vantage to exclaim on you. Portia talking to Bassanio: • If he does choose the right casket, she is no longer in the same situation of self-possession. She loves him, she wants him to choose her, more than anybody else, but she will lose someone when this happens.• Portia narrates his choice: “Now he goes, with no less presence but love. I stand for sacrifice.”• She wants him to succeed even though in her desire she objectifies herself. “I stand for sacrifice” a hint to Bassanio – my presence here requires sacrifice. Don’t choose the gold or silver, choose the one that requires sacrifice.He has now chosen the right casket. This is the genius of Portia. Everything there is Bassanio’s, and the ring is the symbol of all that. And if he loses it, it’s her ability to exclaim upon him. Confer the reciprocal obligation. Hold on to a modicum of self-possession. She would use that later on to have some sort of control over her presence in the relationship.
1.3 “Three thousand ducats….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. “ o Careful with measuring wordso Repeating, cycling, thrifty with language – calculation o Well ending each sentenceo Enjoying his position of power over Bassanio and Antonioo There is a bit of lapse in judgment, he later does go to dinner with them ☹ this is when Jessica fleeso Nature of his revenge stems from cultural antagonism but is also very personal (Jessica)o Jessica is probably the ‘final straw’ o The aside (below) makes it more difficult to weigh Shylock positively
SHYLOCK (aside) How like a fawning publican he looks. I hate him for he is a Christian; 40 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. 45 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. Cursèd be my tribe If I forgive him. – Elopement seems very casual and ill-plannedo Lack of seriousness on Lorenzo’s part, see this in Bassanio tooo Contrasts Jessica who is leaving everything for him (protection, family, community)o Lorenzo doesn’t understand this sacrificeo “what, must I hold a candle to my shames” when Lorenzo asks her to be his male torchbearer• “I’ll guild myself with some more ducats” – feels as though she isn’t valuable enough• Connection between personal value/dignity with financial capacityo “by my hood” ew foreskin, Gratiano
JESSICA Here, catch this casket. It is worth the pains. I am glad ’tis night, you do not look on me, For I am much ashamed of my exchange; 35 But love is blind, and lovers cannot see The pretty follies that themselves commit;For if they could, Cupid himself would blush To see me thus transformed to a boy. LORENZO Descend, for you must be my torchbearer. 40 JESSICA What, must I hold a candle to my shames?They in themselves, good sooth, are too too light. Why, ’tis an office of discovery, love, And I should be obscured. LORENZO So are you, sweet, Even in the lovely garnish of a boy. 45 But come at once, For the close night doth play the runaway, And we are stayed for at Bassanio’s feast. JESSICA I will make fast the doors, and gild myself With some more ducats, and be with you straight. 50 Exit above GRAZIANO Now, by my hood, a gentile, and no Jew. – Portia’s casket sceneo Lots of language about sheepo Usury – ewe-sury – you-sury o “Alcides..Hercules” song about bread and nourishment – song that she has sung has end rhymes that end with the word lead (covert message to Bassanio)o They really want to be together, but she has to get around the rules to hint at which casket he should chooseo “I stand for sacrifice” • To be sacrificed• To be destroyed for her father’s estate• To represent the idea of sacrifice• Giving Bassanio a cue? Demand sacrifice (give and hazard, written on the lead casket)• Weakness → agency• Shylock says “I stand for justice” connects the two characters• Portia stands for a Christian ideal, Shylock stands for reciprocal fairness and justice• Shylock ends up being the person who gets sacrificedo Multivalent possibilities of phrases- Portia refers to him as “venturing” for hero She is put in the position of the golden fleeceo Prized sheep that is going to be obtainedo Uses a phrase that puts bars between their owners and their rights, complains that her father’s will has made it impossible for her to choose for herself what the outcome will be o Marriage, control of het estate transfers over to new husband
PortiaNow he goes, With no less presence but with much more love Than young Alcides when he did redeem 55 The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy To the sea-monster. I stand for sacrifice. The rest aloof are the Dardanian wives, With bleared visages come forth to view The issue of th’exploit. Go, Hercules. 60 Live thou, I live. With much much more dismay I view the fight than thou that mak’st the fray. [Here music.] A song the whilst Bassanio comments on the caskets to himself [ONE FROM PORTIA’S TRAIN] Tell me where is fancy bred, Or in the heart, or in the head?How begot, how nourishèd? 65 [ALL] Reply, reply. – Confers obligation on her husband to be true to her with the ringo Retains some sense of agency by adding this gesture- Shylock “You knew, none so well, none so well as you, of my daughter’s flight” -→ “if you prick us, do we not bleed, and if you wrong us shall we not revenge”o If you’re going to be inhumane, I can be inhumane tooo Logic is a bit tricky to followo If you’ve been wronged, the physiological reaction is to get revengeo If you’re pricked, you bleed – no choiceo Radical otherness – heightened representation of the real life Protestant vs. Catholic feuds • He’s claiming that you have no choice, then says NO you have a choice• MERCY• Christians think that Jesus sacrificed, he did that for you, show mercy• Mercy, offering of a gift that is unbearable to receive (Christian salvation for Shylock)- What happens to our souls after we die? Christian faitho Shakespeare presents more extreme version, clarifies issues of salvation for the audienceo Figure of radical otherness also exists within ‘the Christian family’• Differences of opinion, belief, practice exist within a faith as well as in between faiths
SHYLOCK 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 villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. – Act 4.1 trial sceneo Antonio doesn’t want to live in a world where Bassanio is not his → gives a gift that is impossible for the recipient to repay (like Christ, him and Antonio offer their lives)o Feelings start to come out in languageo Gratiano grinds on Shylocko Shylock ~ 88 “What judgment shall I dread doing no wrong…slave…you use..because you bought themo Slavery is not part of the Jewish tradition, if a debtor cannot repay debts then the person who is owed can have the other person as a slave in Christian tradition
SHYLOCK What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong? You have among you many a purchased slave Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules, 90 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. Why sweat they under burdens? Let their beds Be made as soft as yours, and let their palates 95 Be seasoned with such viands.’ You will answer ‘The slaves are ours.’ So do I answer you. The pound of flesh which I demand of him Is dearly bought. ‘Tis mine, and I will have it. If you deny me, fie upon your law: 100 There is no force in the decrees of Venice. I stand for judgement. Answer: shall I have it? – Blind justice- Antonio wants the moment to be about his love for Bassanio, Portia competing for Bassanio’s love – Why does Portia let it go on for so long knowing the law she ends up using?o Wants to put them through thiso She makes up the stuff with the blood and only one poundo Then she pulls out the law about threatening a native of Veniceo Takes everything away from Shylock, and the mercy he receives is religious salvation• Mercificxion – Shylock is crucified in order to meet the demands of Christian mercy