Based on Act II scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice:
How has Launcelot shown that he could speak for himself to be employed by Bassanio?
What impact is the palm-reading by Launcelot likely to make on the audience?
What does Launcelot predict about his wives and his escape from dangers to his life?
What instructions did Bassanio give to the Gobbos and to his servants after employing Launcelot?
Before this extract, Launcelotreferred to a proverb which is applicable both to Shylock and to Bassanio. What was the proverb and how is it applicable to both of them?
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Launcelot, in spite of his father's constant interruptions and interference, has shown that he is more than able to speak for himself and to get a job, as his success in pleading his suit with Bassanio demonstrates. Not only is he able to gain employment with his new master, but he shows verbal cunning and wit that his master appreciates when he delivers the following line:
The old proverb is very well parted between my master Shylock and you, sir—you have “the grace of God,” sir, and he hath “enough.”
Launcelot shows his verbal skills through taking a well-known proverb and using it to flatter his new master whilst also indirectly insulting his old master. The proverb is "The grace of God is enough." Launcelot breaks this into two, stating that the "grace of God" is owned by Bassanio, as evidenced through his kindness to Launcelot and his father, and "enough" is the only provision of Shylock, indicating both Launcelot's feelings that Shylock does not have "the grace of God" as a Jew, but also making an ironic comment on Shylock's parsimony.
The incident when Launcelot reads his own palm is a moment of comedy in this play, as we see Launcelot, who has already shown himself to be something of a comic figure through the way he deceives his father, predicting himself a glorious future with many wives and a long life. He predicts a life with "eleven widows and nine maids" and a time of danger when he is caught in bed with another man's wife. Clearly Launcelot is feeling very confident now he has managed to obtain a new master and leave his old one. This is a time of brashful bragging that the audience would find amusing.
After hiring Launcelot, Bassanio commands him and his father to find their way to his house, and he also tells his servants to give Launcelot a uniform that is somewhat smarter than the other uniforms. Bassanio, far from showing himself to be a cash-strapped nobleman, demonstrates that he is a very generous man with money, which is entirely in fitting with his spendthrift character as demonstrated earlier on in the play.
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