The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Briefly describe the significance of the trial scene.  

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The trial scene takes place in Act four, Scene one, and is significant because it marks the resolution of the second major plot complication of the play. The play's climax also takes place during the trial scene and is the moment when Portia saves Antonio's life. The remaining scenes of the play following the trial scene in Act four, Scene one, constitute the dénouement. During the trial scene, the Duke of Venice initially attempts to prevent Shylock from retrieving a pound of Antonio's flesh and refuses to continue with the proceedings without consulting Bellario of Padua. Both Nerissa and Portia arrive at the court disguised as men and Portia pretends to be a lawyer named Balthasar acting on Bellario's behalf. Portia then attempts to persuade Shylock to act mercifully by sparing Antonio's life but he remains obstinate and determined to kill him. Shylock even refuses to accept three times the original bond and Portia initially seems to be in his favor. However, Portia offers a strict interpretation of the law that prevents Shylock from extracting a drop of Antonio's blood and anything other than the exact amount of flesh. Portia then mentions that Shylock is guilty of threatening the life of a Venetian citizen and says that the court will confiscate his wealth. Overall, Portia successfully saves Antonio's life and Shylock ends up leaving the court a broke, embittered man at the end of the trial scene in Act four, Scene one.

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