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How does Shakespeare portray character and relationships in Act 1 Scene 3 of 'The Merchant of Venice'?

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Introduction

The Merchant of Venice First Draft How does Shakespeare portray character and relationships in Act Scene 3 of 'The Merchant of Venice'? 'The Merchant of Venice' is one of Shakespeare's most popular plays and Act 1 Scene 3 is a key scene. There are three characters involved in the scene and these are: Antonio, Bassanio and Shylock. Shakespeare portrays their characters effectively as well as the contrasting relationships between them. He uses various themes, his language and style and the plot of the bond to achieve this. Before I look at scene 3 it is important to look at the first scene of the play. At the beginning of Act 1 Scene 1 Antonio, the merchant of Venice, is portrayed as a troubled man, "In sooth, I know not why I am so sad," (line 1) and a character in low spirits as his friends Salerio and Solanio try to raise them. He seems to be in a state of sadness as he and his friends discuss possible reasons this. Looking for reasons for the sadness is also a convenient way for Shakespeare to tell us how highly Antonio is regarded by his friends, and to make sure we know all about his business interests. We learn that he is a businessman. Antonio is a character who has confidence in his decisions, because even though Salerio and Solanio discuss their nervous feelings about one of his merchant ventures, and we learn that there are many risks and worries facing a merchant who's assets are at sea, he assures them that he has no need to worry about it because he has reduced the risks by spreading his merchandise between different ships, "My ventures are not in one bottom trusted, / Nor to one place". This also shows his intelligent thinking. Antonio is a calculated risk taker and all the main developments in the play arise from this and the possibility of disaster. ...read more.

Middle

Antonio warns Bassanio "The devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose" (line 94). This warning about Shylock reciting the Bible for his own ends portrays Antonio as a preacher-like figure and suggests that he is older and wiser than Bassanio. It seems that Antonio is the leader in their relationship. Antonio is quickly reminded by Shylock that he requires a favour from the Jew which shows his self-control not to retaliate, and also his forward thinking because he knows that if he secures the deal that he could get his revenge. Shylock then exploits the situation and recounts at length the ill treatment that he has received at the hands of Antonio. This really shows how cunning Shylock can be. Antonio has: * Often insulted Shylock in public because of the Jew's occupation * Called him a "misbeliever" because of his Jewish faith * Spat on Shylock's coat * Spat in Shylock's face * Kicked him as though he were a dog * Reproved and scolded him," ... many a time and oft / In the Rialto you have rated me" All these things show that Antonio is an anti-Semitic bully. This animal imagery is often used in the play both by Shylock, and others to describe him. I think that when he is compared to the devil it reinforces his wickedness. Shylock justifies his business by telling a story from the Bible, which shows that is a character with a longing to be accepted rather than just tolerated. Shylock asks whether a dog would be able to lend Antonio the money that he needs, and whether Antonio now expects him to be humble like a slave and give him the money. By doing this Shakespeare really portrays Antonio as a bad person and makes us feel sorry for Shylock. Instead of remaining calm through this, Antonio looses his temper, which shows he is a character with a short fuse. ...read more.

Conclusion

Members of minority groups are sometimes prejudiced against the majority. Line 39 "I hate him for he is a Christian", is evidence which suggests that Shylock is prejudiced against all Christians. We are able to gather from the very beginning that Shylock is a highly intelligent man who is true to his faith. However, he is also bitter and driven by hatred. Bassanio, "a Venetian, a scholar and a soldier", is a lucky man. He is able to command great loyalty from his best friend, Antonio. His attitude to life is carefree, and this enabled him to live recklessly. Bassanio is a headstrong young man. In his conversation with Antonio (Act 1, scene 1, lines 122-34) he explains that he has lived extravagantly and has pretended that he is better off than he actually is, so that he now owes money, "How much I have disabled mine estate,/By something showing a more swelling port/Than my faint means would grant continuance". I think that through Shakespeare's use of the theme of money and wealth Bassanio is shown to be a flamboyant playboy character and possibly deceiving. He is also a little too ready to fall in love with Portia, and at one stage, seems more interested in her money than in her: "in Belmont is a lady richly left/And she is fair". I think it is significant that he mentions her money before her looks. He is quite a shrewd character as he sees the danger of Antonio singing the bond. He is still, however, still prepared to let his friend go ahead and make the promise to Shylock. Antonio obviously feels unconditional love for Bassanio, "That in your knowledge may by me be done,/And I am prest unto it." However I do not feel that Bassanio is fully deserving of it. Act 1 Scene 3 is a very important scene which firmly establishes three of the most important characters in the whole play. Shakespeare uses many writers techniques and ingenious plots to portray the characters and exciting dialogue to convey the relationships between the three. Frances Samuel 11L English Literature ...read more.

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