Act 2, Scene 2 Notes from Merchant of Venice

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Merchant of Venice Act 2, Scene 2

This scene opens in a Venice street. Launcelot Gobbo enters, on the horns of a dilemma. He is considering fleeing from his master, Shylock, but he can't make a decision. He considers the angel and devil on his shoulders. The devil tells him to run away from his duties, the angel, his conscience, demands that he stays and fulfill his obligations. Launcelot is confused, though, since he believes that his master is a kind of devil, so either way, he'll find himself doing the Devil's bidding. Finally he decides that because he prefers the advice the devil is giving him, he'll listen to it and run.

Old Gobbo enters, carrying a basket. He's gone blind, and can't find his way to Shylock's house. Launcelot gives him some bad directions. Gobbo asks about his son, Launcelot, who is in the employ of the Jew. Launcelot, who can't quite believe that his father doesn't recognize him, toys with his father, pretending that this 'Launcelot' is dead. Launcelot decides to stop pretending, but has trouble convincing his father that he's actually who he claims to be. Finally he accomplishes it by describing his mother. Gobbo announces that he's on his way to deliver a gift to Shylock, and asks if his son is well, working for him. Launcelot tells him that it's unbearable: "I am famished in his service; you may tell every finger I have with my ribs." Act 2, Scene 2, lines 112-4. He asks his father to, instead, give the gift to Bassanio, and ask that he be placed in Bassanio's service.

Bassanio, Leonardo, and Followers enter. Old Gobbo offers Bassanio the gift, and then begs him for a favor, that Launcelot might become his servant. Bassanio warns Launcelot that he isn't as wealthy as Shylock, Launcelot replies that money is less important to him than the grace of god. Bassanio agrees to take Launcelot on as a servant, then sends off another servant to prepare quarters for him. Launcelot thanks Bassanio profusely, then leaves with Old Gobbo.

Gratiano enters and Leonardo leaves. Gratiano asks if he can accompany Bassanio to Belmont. Bassanio isn't too sure if he should let Gratiano come. Bassanio explains to Gratiano that, while his friends appreciate him for the boisterous, loud-mouthed person that he is, he might offend someone in Belmont, ruining Bassanio's chances. Gratiano vehemently assures Bassanio that if need be, he can be the most polite, demure person in the world, starting tonight. Bassanio assures him that he doesn't have to start right away, after all, what would dinner with friends be without a boisterous Gratiano? They exit.

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