Study Guide

The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice Quotes

Important Quotations

I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
(I, iii)

In the first act, one aspect of Shylock's nature is clearly revealed. Here he complains that Antonio, by lending out money for free, brings down the interest rate at which he can lend money. Shylock's greed is apparent throughout the play, and statements like these help draw a caricature of what Shakspeare's audience would recognize as the stereotypical, selfish, medieval Jew.


Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances;
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For suff'rance is the badge of all our tribe;
(II, vii)

Here Shylock responds to Bassiano's request for money, pointing out that he is not deaf to all of the criticism he has endured; rather, that he turns a blind eye to it. Shylock makes a good point in this conversation with Bassiano: despite their obvious hatred for him, they come to him for help in the form of money.


'All that glisters is not gold,
Often have you heard that told;
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms infold
(II, vii)

The Price of Morocco finds this note written on a scroll when he opens the golden chest. He mistakenly equates Portia with material value, and thus the chest serves as another example of Christian values that run deeper than surface appearance. Indeed, the quote suggests that the pursuit of "gold" often leads men to their tombs.


Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee;
Nor none of thee, thou pale and...

(The entire section is 622 words.)

The Merchant of Venice Essential Quotes

Essential Passage by Character: Antonio

ANTONIO:
Give me your hand, Bassanio: fare you well!
Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you;
For herein Fortune shows herself more kind
Than is her custom: it is still her use,
To let the wretched man out-live his wealth,
To view with hollow eye, and wrinkled brow,
An age of poverty; from which lingering penance
Of such misery doth she cut me off.
Commend me to your honourable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio's end,
Say, how I lov'd you, speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love.
Repent not you that you shall lose your friend,
And he repents not that he pays your debt;
For, if the Jew do cut but deep enough,
I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.

Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 272-288

Summary
Shylock, upon learning that Antonio’s ships have been lost at sea and all his wealth with them, has brought Antonio to trial to force him to pay the forfeit on his loan. The forfeit is a pound of Antonio's flesh, taken from that nearest his heart. Although Bassanio, newly married and with access to his wife Portia’s wealth, has offered to pay double or triple the amount of the loan, Shylock refuses. At this point, Shylock is not out for money: he is out for revenge. In the past, Antonio has looked down upon Shylock as a Jew and condemned him for usury (lending money and profiting by charging interest). This humiliation, coupled with the humiliation he has suffered as a Jew at the hands of a Christian, makes Shylock want to see Antonio die.

On top of this hatred, Shylock is bitter because his only child and daughter, Jessica, has eloped with Lorenzo, a friend of Antonio and also a Christian. This desertion by his child to join the realm of the Christians has made him more than eager to inflict punishment on the first Christian he can legally get his hands on—in this case, Antonio.

At the trial, Portia arrives disguised as a male lawyer (doctor of the law), to speak on Antonio’s behalf. The trial is held in the court overseen by the Duke of Venice, who has no choice but to try Antonio for his breaking of the contracted agreement that he willingly made with Shylock. Yet Portia pleads for mercy. Agreeing that the Duke cannot intercede because of the implications such interference would have on the legal system of Venice, Portia appeals to Shylock’s better nature. Yet Shylock refuses and the court is forced to grant Shylock his request.

The time has come for Antonio to pay the forfeit. He bares his chest, since according to...

(The entire section is 1146 words.)

Essential Passage by Character: Shylock

SHYLOCK:
I am a Jew: hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew
hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?
fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as 
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you
tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not
die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are
like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew
wrong a Christian, what is his humility? revenge. If a 
Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? why, revenge. The villany you teach
me I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better
the instruction.

Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 51-63

Summary
Solanio and Salarino, two friends of Antonio, have received news that the ship Antonio owns has wrecked in the English Channel. It is a rumor that they hope will prove unfounded (which it will be eventually, but almost too late). As they are discussing the consequences of this loss for Antonio, Shylock approaches. The elopement of his daughter Jessica with Lorenzo, a Christian and a friend of Antonios, has upset him.

Solanio, always eager to provoke the Jew, brags that he knows the tailor who made the page boy disguise that Jessica used to escape from Shylock’s home and onto the boat bound for Belmont. He also taunts Shylock, claiming that he had to know that his daughter was bound to leave home eventually. In reply to Solanio’s jests, Shylock says that Jessica is damned for her desertion. Salarino’s reply is that she will be so only if it is the devil that condemns her. He notes the vast difference between Shylock and his daughter.

To change the subject, Salarino asks Shylock if he has heard of the loss of Antonio’s ship. Shylock’s response is a complaint that this is yet another bad deal he has thrust upon him, one for which he will hold Antonio accountable. As for Antonio’s financial setback, Shylock sees this as a type of divine justice on Antonio, who has lent money without interest, thus taking business away from the Jew.

Seeing that Shylock is chiefly concerned about money, Salarino protests that there is little value in a pound of flesh for Shylock. But Shylock states that he will have that pound of flesh, for Antonio has humiliated him repeatedly in the past. The cause of Antonio’s animosity...

(The entire section is 1096 words.)

Essential Passage by Theme: Racial Enmity

SHYLOCK:
How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian:
But more, for that, in low simplicity,
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice. 
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation; and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift, 
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him!

Act 1, Scene 3, Lines 36-47

...

(The entire section is 992 words.)

Essential Passage by Theme: Mercy

PORTIA:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes: 
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice....

(The entire section is 1184 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear, Michael Foster