In Act 1, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice, what is the importance of the ships and the setting of Venice?I want to know how these create impact and why Shakespeare used these techniques. Quote...

In Act 1, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice, what is the importance of the ships and the setting of Venice?

I want to know how these create impact and why Shakespeare used these techniques. Quote analysis would be helpful.

Asked on by wiseowl0

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What's important about the setting of Venice and ships in the opening scene of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is that they set up the characterization of the characters and the plot of the drama. 

Antonio's livelihood is trade.  This involves ships and the city of Venice, which is known for its trade and shipping.  His wealth is tied up in ships at sea.  His money is not liquid, as we would say today, he cannot get at it if he should need it.

This situation helps to characterize him when Bassanio needs financial help to pursue the women he longs for.  Antonio is in a position of risk, yet he does not hesitate to allow his friend to borrow money on his own credit.  This puts him at terrible risk, and the venture Bassanio wants to borrow money for is not even a money-making venture.  Antonio has nothing to gain.  Yet he immediately and willingly allows Bassanio to use his name to borrow. 

The situation fuels the plot of the play, then, when Antonio's ships don't arrive safely as anticipated.  It is Bassanio's need and Antonio's willingness to fulfill that need that create the situation and the conflict of the play. 

The quotes are easily found, and the scene is not particularly long.  Just look for quotes that indicate Antonio is at risk and waiting for his "ships to come in," so to speak, and look for the part of the scene during which Antonio agrees to help Bassanio. 

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