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In Act II Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot's speech provides some comic...

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bobbyroychoud... | Salutatorian

Posted November 17, 2013 at 12:50 PM via web

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In Act II Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot's speech provides some comic relief in the play. Why was such a relief needed in the context of the play? Was something happening in the previous scene that a comic relief was required?

Enumerate the reasons given by Launcelot's conscience to stay on with the master.

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

Posted November 18, 2013 at 6:56 AM (Answer #1)

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It is often the case in Shakespeare's plays that more serious scenes are interspersed with lighter, more comic scenes as a way of offering the audience some light relief. Although Act II scene 1 features the rejection of the Prince of Morocco, the scene where Launcelot argues with his conscience in Act II scene 2 can be shown to offer some light relief compared to the rather serious and grave agreement that Antonio and Shylock strike in Act I. Seeing Shylock's servant talk about Shylock at this point in the play serves two functions: it helps add a note of levity to this play, and it also sides the audience against Shylock by hearing about what a terrible master he is.

The reason Launcelot's conscience gives him for staying in his present employment and serving Shylock is his honesty and that he is a man of his word. Note how this quote introduces this idea:

Well, my conscience, hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me, 'My honest friend Launcelot, being an honest man's son...'

As Launcelot is the son of an "honest man," he should be honest himself, and therefore stick with the job that he has rather than show disloyalty by leaving Shylock. However, this is not enough to make Launcelot stay in his present job, as he chooses to opt for the lesser of two evils, and seeks employment with Bassanio.


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