The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Act I Scene iii of The Merchant of Venice, explain the stanza, "When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban's sheep- This Jacob from our holy Abraham was, As his wise mother wrought in his behalf,...This was a way to thrive, and he was blest: And thrift is blessing , if men steal it not."

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Shylock and Antonio have been negotiating the terms of the loan that Shylock will grant on Bassanio's behalf. He is somewhat surprised  "Methoughts you said you neither lend nor borrow"(63) at Antonio's agreement to take the loan. He uses a biblical reference to make his point that "thrift is blessing" meaning that there is nothing wrong in being wise and making a profit as long as "men steal it not," in other words as long as it is honest business.

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