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In Act 2 Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, who is Launcelot Gobbo? What inner struggle...

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bobbyroychoud... | Salutatorian

Posted November 16, 2013 at 8:00 AM via web

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In Act 2 Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, who is Launcelot Gobbo? What inner struggle is going on in his conscience? What does his struggle show about the contemporary Christian practice?

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

Posted November 16, 2013 at 8:13 AM (Answer #1)

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Launcelot is a servant who works for Shylock. In this soliloquy in Act II scene 2 he is debating whether he should run away and leave his master's employment or stay and continue in his job. The conflict he faces stems from the fact that his conscience clearly tells him to stay, whereas his more selfish desires, characterised as a "fiend," tell hm to go. Note how he expresses this internal conflict:

...well, my conscience
says 'Launcelot, budge not.' 'Budge,' says the
fiend. 'Budge not,' says my conscience.

What complicates this internal conflict further is the fact that either decision involves close proximity with a devil of sorts. Shylock, Launcelot tells the audience, is "a kind of devil," but if he gives in to his own selfish desires to run away from Shylock, he shows himself to be "ruled by the fiend" who is "the devil himself." Therefore, as both decisions involve placing himself with a devil of one sort or another, Launcelot decides to select the option that "gives more friendly counsel" and to leave Shylock's employment. Launcelot's struggle illustrates the attitude of Christians to work and responsibility at the time. Clearly Launcelot feels that it would be wrong to leave his job because of his conscience which is based on his understanding of Christianity. He would have believed that it was not the role of a servant to leave their master, as they had been placed in their role by God, who controlled everything. This is why he describes the voice that tells him to leave his job as a "fiend" and likens it to the devil.

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