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How does Shakespeare create tension in the trial scene of The Merchant of Venice?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare create tension in the trial scene of the Merchant of Venice? The Merchant of Venice is a play by Shakespeare set in Venice in 1592; at this time the English looked up to Venetian's and they were seen as very fashionable people. Venice was also the trading capital of the world as there was an increase in overseas trade and merchants became very well respected. At the time the attitude towards Jews was hostile and they were treated very badly, there was a lot of prejudice against Jews. They were seen as criminals as some Jews committed usury and they were looked down on by Christians. The play has been set in Venice as it is about a Jewish usurer called Shylock; he is seeking revenge on a wealthy Christian Merchant called Antonio and by setting it in Venice the audience are more likely to sympathise with Antonio and see Shylock as the evil one as he is a Jewish usurer. Within my essay I will be exploring and analysing the techniques Shakespeare uses in the trial scene of his play, The Merchant of Venice, to create and build up dramatic tension for the audience. The main plot of The Merchant of Venice is that Antonio agrees to an extreme bond; if the loan of 3000 ducats is not paid back to Shylock within the deadline Shylock can claim a pound of Antonio's flesh. Shylock describes the bond: '...an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me.' Antonio agrees to the bond: 'Content, in faith; I'll seal to such a bond...' Unfortunately, all of his ships are shipwrecked so he is unable to pay back the money to Shylock. Consequently, Shylock is seeking revenge on Antonio as he has been mistreated his whole life as he is a Jew and therefore he becomes inhumane with the power and control he seems to have when he becomes obsessed with taking revenge as he has this bond against Antonio. ...read more.

Middle

The tension is heightened with the arrival of Nerissa who is disguised as the clerk, the audience now understand what Portia and Nerissa's secret plan was as they were talking about it earlier; meanwhile Shylock whets his knife on his shoe. In the Elizabethan times a Christian audience would be worried for Antonio as they prepare for his death and would be angered to see the impatience of Shylock as he sharpens his knife which implies that he is becoming increasingly eager and inhumane with this revenge. The director of the film of The Merchant of Venice is Michael Radford. He controls the tension of the court scene to add to the enjoyment of the play. Shylock keeps sharpening the knife, this builds up the dramatic tension as you can hear the sound of the knife being sharpened in the background. This creates suspense for the viewer as it is building up to the moment when Shylock will claim his pound of flesh and this keeps the audience on edge, it also reminds them of Shylocks impatience as he cannot wait to get his revenge. This gives the audience the impression that Shylock is a cruel, remorseless man who is incapable of pity as he is now extremely eager to claim his revenge. The sharpening of his knife also conveys that Shylock is becoming quite excited about taking revenge, as well as being irritated by the waiting as he knows his rights: 'I stand here for law' this implies that he is confident and stubborn that he will gain his revenge in the end, claiming his pound of flesh. The film also demonstrates Shylock merciless character; Shylock watches the money drop, meanwhile the viewer questions if he will go for the money or not, but Shylock stays stubborn, he is set on claiming his revenge. More dramatic tension is built up when Portia also arrives, disguised as a lawyer, as she states that the only moral course is for Shylock to have mercy: 'Then must the Jew be merciful'. ...read more.

Conclusion

These miserable events will linger in the audience's mind after the play even though the final scene was a happy, romantic one. In conclusion, Shakespeare successfully creates tension in the trial scene by stalling and prolonging the build up of tension which effectively leaves the audience in suspense and keeps them on edge throughout the scene as they struggle decide who to sympathise with in the end. THE FILM The director of the film of The Merchant of Venice is Michal Radford. He controls the tension of the court scene to add to the enjoyment of the play. There are many long pauses and stalling in the speeches to prolong the time of this part of the court scene in order keep the viewer on edge. This adds to the suspense of whether Shylock will get his bond or not and build up the tension slowly. Shylock keeps sharpening the knife, this builds up the dramatic tension. As you can hear the sound of the knife being sharpened in the background it creates suspense for the viewer as it is building up to the moment when Shylock will claim his pound of flesh and this keeps the audience on edge, and reminds them of the impatience of Shylock as he cannot wait to get his revenge. The director uses background music and stage directions to make the viewer feel sympathy for Shylock. As Shylock is told that he must change his religion and give up all he owns the director uses sorrowful music in the background making the viewer empathetic towards Shylock. Shylock also collapses to the ground in complete shock and desperation as he hears his fate and makes a sound like a wounded animal. This presentation of Shylock makes the viewer show remorse as we observe his desperate frustration with the situation. ?? ?? ?? ?? Shakespeare- The Merchant of Venice ...read more.

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