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In Act One, scene three, of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what is ironic about...

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marianac | eNoter

Posted January 4, 2011 at 8:46 AM via web

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In Act One, scene three, of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what is ironic about Shylock's idea of feeding his grudge toward Antonio...

and then greeting Antonio by saying that he was the last man in their mouths?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 4, 2011 at 3:28 PM (Answer #1)

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In Act One, scene three, of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, anger runs deep in Shylock's heart as he plots his revenge against Antonio.

Earlier on in the scene, Shylock airs his disgust with Christians. He insists:

“I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.”

Then Shylock says that if he can just get the best of Antonio once, he:

...will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.

When Shylock finally deigns to notice Antonio, pretending not to have previously seen him as the money lender speaks to Bassiano, he says:

Your worship was the last man in our mouths.

There seems to be a play on words here, between "feed" and "mouths," but what I see as ironic is that while Shylock refuses to eat or drink with Antonio, a Christian, he refers to his revenge in terms of "feeding fat," and then speaks to this Christian as being worshipped (complimented) "in his mouth." Even as a figure of speech, this comment completely contradicts Shylock's feelings towards Antonio, the Christian.

It is also ironic (or hypocritical?) that Shylock has just been thinking about how to avenge himself for Antonio's past insults, and then turns around speaking to Antonio of how he was just praising him.

 

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