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In Act 1, Scene 1, of The Merchant of Venice, explain the following quote: Not in love...

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bobbyroychoud... | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted July 20, 2013 at 4:57 AM via web

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In Act 1, Scene 1, of The Merchant of Venice, explain the following quote:

Not in love neither? Then let us say you are sad, 

Because you are not merry: and 'twere as easy

For you to laugh and leap and say you are merry,

Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Janus,

Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time:

Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,

And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper;

And other of such vinegar aspect,

That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,

Through Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

 

 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 20, 2013 at 6:47 AM (Answer #1)

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This quote is said by Solanio to Antonio in Act I scene 1, and is part of the conversation that they have with Salerio where these two friends of Antonio try to ascertain what is wrong with their friend and why he appears to be so gloomy. Solanio has just asked Antonio if he is out of sorts because he is in love, and Antonio has just denied this, and so Solania says these lines as a playful way of trying to poke gentle fun at Antonio whilst also giving him a chance to open up if he wants to take that opportunity. Solanio thus refers to various different ways of expressing emotion, and the reference to the Roman god Janus is a particularly apt one given that he had two heads, with one bearing a smile and the other a frown. Solanio reflects that there are so many people in the world and they all express emotion differently. Some will laugh out loud at the slightest provocation, and others will hardly smile at something that everybody else would find hilarious:

And other of such vinegar aspect,

That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,

Through Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

Nestor here, a figure from Greek myth and legend, is used to personify gravity and seriousness. Solanio is saying that some people, even though the most serious individual finds a joke funny, will not laught at it because they are of "such vinegar aspect." These lines therefore represent Solanio's reflection on Antonio's moodiness and his attempt to explain it when there is no apparent reason for his unhappiness.

 

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