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In Act I, Scene iii of The Merchant of Venice, explain the stanza, "This was a...

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bobbyroychoud... | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted September 6, 2013 at 8:03 AM via web

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In Act I, Scene iii of The Merchant of Venice, explain the stanza, "This was a venture,sir, that Jacob served for; A thing not in his power to bring to pass, But sway'd and fashion'd by the hand of heaven... silver ewes and rams?"

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 6, 2013 at 9:28 AM (Answer #1)

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In The Merchant of Venice, there is an animosity between Jew and Christian which is primarily revealed in the treatment and contempt of Antonio and Shylock. Whilst Antonio and Shylock are discussing the terms of the loan that Shylock will grant to Antonio, Shylock makes a biblical reference. This is significant as religion plays a major part in their lives but their interpretations are so different, as revealed in this act (I) and scene (iii).  

Antonio claims that Jacob's good fortune (when lambs are born that he can claim as his own) - "this venture" - is not of Jacob's own doing. Jacob is God's servant and the outcome is "not in his power to bring to pass;" he has nothing to do with it. It is "sway'd and fashion'd by the hand of heaven." Antonio means it is God's will and God's actions.

Antonio then goes on to enquire whether Shylock included this story in order to justify the charging of interest on loans when he says "was this inserted to make interest good?" "Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams" infers that the money Shylock makes is his riches, such as sheep would have been the riches of a shepherd in ancient times. Does Shylock think that wordly gold and silver are as precious as sheep? (which reflect practical wealth).

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