Book Notes Act 1, Scene 3 Notes from Merchant of Venice

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Merchant of Venice Act 1, Scene 3

The scene opens in a public space in Venice. Bassanio and Shylock. They are making a deal - Bassanio wants to borrow three thousand Ducats for three months. Shylock considers the request carefully, repeating every term of the deal. Bassanio offers Antonio's guarantee for the money. Shylock agrees that Antonio is a good man, but points out that all of his money is tied up in shipping ventures, by their nature, are very unpredictable: "ships are but boards, sailors but men; there be land-rats and water-rats, land-thieves and water-thieves,--I mean pirates,--and then there is the peril of waters, winds, and rocks." Act 1, Scene 3, lines 22-5. Despite his misgivings, Shylock agrees that Antonio's bond is good enough to guarantee the debt, but wants to speak with Antonio. Bassanio agrees and invites Shylock to dinner. Shylock is deeply offended, he feels that his religious beliefs have been slighted by the offer of a meal which would include pork.

Topic Tracking: Persecution 1
Topic Tracking: Fortune 2

Just then Antonio enters. Shylock turns to the audience and speaks to them directly, revealing his motive for hating Antonio. Not only does he hate him for being a Christian, but Antonio makes it a practice of lending out money without charging interest, as well as speaking out against those that do charge interest. Shylock intends to use this opportunity to ruin Antonio. Antonio states that he is normally opposed to lending or borrowing money at usance, but he's willing to make an exception to help Bassanio in his time of need. Shylock questions the supposed immorality of charging interest. He suggests that it's no different than a farmer who owns sheep, and by their breeding, increases his stock of sheep, as happened to Jacob in the Old Testament. Antonio counters, saying that the birth of sheep comes from god's will, and can't be compared with charging interest. He says to Bassanio, "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek, a goodly apple rotten at the heart." Act 1, Scene 3, lines 99-102

Topic Tracking: Persecution 2

Shylock agrees to the terms of the loan, then goes on to remind Antonio of all the insults that have been made against him. Antonio has insulted his religion, called him a cut-throat and a dog, and spit on him. He wonders aloud, why should he lend money to someone who hates him so? Antonio replies that it should be easier to lend to someone he hates - that way, Shylock won't mind exacting a punishment for a defaulted loan. Shylock exclaims that he doesn't want to be Antonio's enemy, and offers to forget about all the insults and charge no interest on the loan. All he asks is that they go to a notary and sign the deal, with the condition that if Antonio defaults on the loan, he won't have to pay any monetary penalty, instead, Shylock will be given "an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me." Act 1, Scene 3, lines 150-3 Antonio doesn't take this seriously, and considers the offer an act of friendship. Bassanio warns Antonio not to make the deal, but Antonio assures him that he will have nine thousand ducats a month before the term of the loan runs out. After agreeing to meet at the notary later, Shylock leaves. The scene ends with Antonio pleased to see the change in Shylock's behavior, while Bassanio remains skeptical about Shylock's motives.

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