With Reference to the text, explain how Shakespeare develops the dramatic nature of Act 4 Scene 1, of ‘The Merchant of Venice?’

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‘With Reference to the text, explain how Shakespeare develops the dramatic nature

of Act 4 Scene 1, of ‘The Merchant of Venice?’

        The play is set in Venice. This city was also a trading centre of great importance, home to business men all over the world.

The play centres on two main characters, Antonio, an wealthy merchant and Shylock, a very wealthy Jew. In Venice, a promise made by word of mouth was the same as having an agreement in writing.

Shylock is a usurer, a person who lends sums of money to others, charging huge amounts of interest. However, Antonio also lends amounts of money, but minus the interest. This is one of the main reasons why Shylock hates Antonio with a vengeance as Antonio is supposedly causing Shylocks’s profits to drop. Shylock also hates Antonio for the differences in their religions “I hate him for he is a Christian”. Shylock as agreed to lend a sum of money to Antonio. As part of the agreement, Shylock states that if his money is not returned within a given period of time, with the added interest, he be entitled to cut exactly one pound of flesh from Antonio’s body.

In the Elizabethan times, racism of the Jewish religion was of course perfectly acceptable. Jews were often targeted for public humiliation- “Laughed at my losses…mocked at my gains”

To live a peaceful life, many Jews hid behind the pretend veil of Christianity, often practising this foreign religion in public to convince other people.

This bond between Shylock and Antonio that results in the court scene in Act 4 Scene 1, the dramatic climax of the play. Although it is not the final scene, it is the finale of the “The Merchant of Venice” where all the perplexing sub-plots and main storyline are pulled together to create a shocking ending.

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One of the reasons Act 4 Scene 1 is so dramatically effective is due to the tension created between Shylock and Antonio. At the very beginning of the scene, a slight sense of injustice is induced due to the fact that Antonio is seated and Shylock is standing before the Duke. In a Venetian court of justice, the accused is standing with the accuser seated, not the reverse. This gives the impression that Shylock is the one on trial when in fact it is Antonio, who is resigned to his seemingly inevitable fate “To suffer with a quietness of spirit”


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