• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Merchant of Venice- Act IV Scene I - Summary

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The Merchant of Venice- Act IV Scene I Summary The trial of Antonio in a Venetian court of justice begins. The Duke of Venice attempts to convince Shylock to let Antonio pay back Bassanio's debt but realises that this is useless as Shylock is 'A stony adversary... incapable of pity'. Shylock insists that the bond is legally binding and therefore it is his right to take what was promised him. He continually refuses to give a reason as to why he wants Antonio's flesh, saying 'I am not bound to please thee with my answers.' The Duke declares that he is wanting for a 'learned doctor' to arrive from Padua before he makes the final decision concerning this case. By the time Portia enters the courtroom, disguised as the young Lawyer, Balthasar, Antonio's situation seems desperate. When she appeals to his mercy, Shylock brushes it aside by demanding justice and revenge. He believes that the law should be followed to the exact letter. Portia uses this argument to turn the case around, pointing out that although the bond stipulates that a pound of flesh may be removed from Antonio, it bears no mention of the loss of blood. ...read more.

Middle

This therefore seems unfair on Shylock who hasn't got one impartial person at the hearing and is therefore doomed to fail. But if the courtroom is not just then the play is not just and so ceases to be a comedy. However, despite bending the rules of the court, Portia's decision is legally accurate. Shylock also made the bond under false pretences - making it easier for the audience to see him as a villain. Therefore Portia's actions can be seen to restore justice rather than pervert it. Throughout this scene, Portia demonstrates her cunning and intelligence. She first appeals to Shylock's mercy. This is a key speech in the scene, 'The quantity of mercy is not strain'd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant There' (Lines 180-202) In this speech, Portia presents the Christian perspective that mercy is not only a part of justice, but it is it's main aspect because God shows mercy in his justice. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this scene, Portia not only releases Antonio from the bond but effectively strips Shylock of both his religion and his livelihood, leaving him unable to inflict or even threaten further damage. This fulfils Shakespeare's criteria of a comedy in that the villain must be defeated. This would not have been difficult to accept by a Shakespearean audience who would have most likely met Shylock's demise with a similar reaction to Graziano's cruel, ecstatic glee. They would not have been troubled by Shylock's forced conversion to Christianity. However, it is more difficult for a modern day audience to rejoice in Portia's success. Ultimately, Shylock's pursuit for the exact letter of the law regardless of mercy or compassion, ultimately undoes him. Yet although the court's verdict is consistent with Shylock's crimes, it follows the same rigid and severe reading of the law as Shylock. Before giving Shylock his punishment the Duke says to him that he hoped that Shylock would, 'see the difference of our spirit.' But the spirit of the Venetian proves as vindictive as the Jews. Shylock looses everything in the course of the play except for his life and a modern audience cannot help but feel sorry for him. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. Although the Merchant of Venice is a "comedy" there

    Even though Shylock hates Antonio because Antonio is very anti-Semitic he agrees to give Bassanio the loan of 3000 Ducats, however the bond that Shylock says to Antonio: "If you repay me not on such a day, In such a place, such sum or sums as are Express'd in the

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

    In general, a modern audience would be more shocked by the punishment than an Elizabethan one. Shakespeare cleverly builds up the tension in the trial scene and then he moves straight onto the final scene which is very romantic and humorous, Jessica says: 'In such a night did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well...'

  1. Merchant of Venice- Scene by Scene summary & analysis

    He states, "Was this inserted to make interest good, / Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?" (1.3.90-91). Shylock replies that, "I cannot tell. I make it breed as fast" (1.3.92). Antonio is upset that Shylock is considering charging him interest on the loan, and asks Shylock to loan the money without any interest.

  2. How just is the outcome of the trial scene for Shylock in the Merchant ...

    Bassanio does beg for mercy from Shylock and asks Portia to 'curb this cruel devil of his will' (line 213), again showing little aggression in Shylock's actions and more pleading for forgiveness. However, Antonio shows very little mercy because as lines 70 to 83 show, he knows that Shylock will

  1. Antonio is the merchant of Venice, he’s waiting for his boats to arrive home, ...

    Shylock was a greedy man; he charged a lot of interest on top of what people had borrowed off him, "Shylock: ... Methought you said, you neither lend nor borrow upon advantage. Antonio: I do never use it. ... Antonio: And what of him?

  2. Why is Act IV scene 1 of "The Merchant of Venice"so powerful? Examine how ...

    Then a while after this, a rumour was started that all of Antonio's ship with all his my in investment had sunk. Antonio then realised that he could not pay the bond by the date. This is when Antonio get arrested and Antonio realises that Shylock was not joking about

  1. "The Merchant of Venice" was offered to Shakespeare's audience as a comedy. What problems ...

    The law of Venice itself prohibited Jews from retaliating. Shylock used the law to reciprocate against Antonio. He used the Christian law against a Christian. This would have made him an even more hated figure by the audience. The Elizabethan just like the rest of the white Christian population thought themselves as being superior to other races, like Jews.

  2. to what extent can the Merchant of Venice be seen as a fairytale

    why Shylock is continuously referred to as 'the devil' in the play. Throughout history Jews have been persecuted and as an audience today, we would feel great sorrow and sympathy for Shylock as we have lived after the Holocaust, but in the Elizabethan times many would have empathized with his

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work