Explore the ways in which Shakespeare makes Act 1.1 of Merchant of Venice such a dramatic and interesting start to the play?

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Explore the ways in which Shakespeare makes Act 1.1 such a dramatic and interesting start to the play?

The Merchant of Venice is a play written by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between the years 1596-1598. It is classified as one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies.

Shakespeare both begins and makes the play both dramatic and somewhat surprising, In Antonio (the Merchant of Venice) first few lines, with Antonio confessing to his friends that lately he has been feeling unaccountably sad. Shakespeare opens with, “In sooth I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, / you say it wearies you.”  Antonio later goes onto say, “I am to learn, / And such a want-wit sadness makes of me.” One would think that a Merchant of Venice would be power hungry and energetic man however on the contrary Shakespeare presents Antonio in a completely different way; as to being sad and depressed. Furthermore, Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter to emphasise certain words in Antonio’s opening speech. Words like, “sad”, “wearies” and “want” jump out to the audience and suggests that all is not well with Antonio. By emphasizing that he doesn’t know the cause of his own sadness, Shakespeare creates a mystery around his own character. It is a mystery that somewhat demands Antonio’s friends to interpret what’s wrong with him and therefore creates a more interesting and dramatic start to the play.

After Antonio lament, his two friends Solanio and Salarino try to suggest the causes of his sadness. One striking feature of their speeches is the use of imagery and metaphors by Shakespeare to dramatise their conversation with Antonio. Shakespeare writes, “ /There, where your argosies with portly sail, /Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood.” Shakespeare uses the metaphor and image of a mind tossing on the ocean, to emphasise the fact that Antonio is worrying about his ships out at sea, the use of mind and tossing almost refers to the merchant’s mental state. Moreover, Shakespeare uses the world mind in the place of ship which also suggests that man and ship are somewhat similar to each other. The simile that Shakespeare uses emphasises the scale of the undertaking and once again here, Shakespeare compares people to ships, in “like signiors and burghers”.                                                                                                                                              Solanio builds upon Salarino point, on how Antonio is worrying about his merchant ships out at sea. Solanio says, “Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind.” Shakespeare uses the word “plucking” connotes as a sought of nervous action; the line mainly refers to Antonio’s mental and even perhaps to his physical state. He also goes onto say, “And not to bethink me straight of dangerous rocks, / which touching but my gentle vessels side.” Shakespeare’s contrast between the sharp, hard rocks and gentle bottom of the ship, emphasise how vulnerable the ships are and also may give the audience an insight into why maybe Antonio is worrying about his ships. By using different techniques, such as contrast, metaphors, imagery and personification Shakespeare is able to create a dramatic and more importantly an interesting conversation. This engagement of the audience is however increased when Antonio denies that he is sad because of his ships. When asked if it is love that is causing is depression, Antonio, quickly denies it and says “Fie, fie!” This however may suggest that Antonio’s forceful denial that his sadness has anything to do with love and attitude to the question asked, may actually hint that it might actually have something to do with love.

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As Salarino and Solanio exit, another man enters, his name his Gratiano who comments on how careworn Antonio has become. Shakespeare, again here employs the subtle use of imagery and metaphors in this section of the play.  Shakespeare writes,” Let me play the fool, / And let my liver rather heat with wine,/ than my heart cool with mortifying groans.” Shakespeare begins the speech with a command word, which somewhat lightens the mood and injects some more energy into the scene, building up upon the power and emotion of the play through excitement. Shakespeare poses are rather grotesque image, by ...

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