How does Act 1 of Merchant serve as an effective opening to the play in regards to characters, relationships, and plot?I have to write an introduction inclusive with hook line and a thesis...

How does Act 1 of Merchant serve as an effective opening to the play in regards to characters, relationships, and plot?

I have to write an introduction inclusive with hook line and a thesis statement. Topic sentences are required for each of the paragraphs: main characters, important relationships and key plot elements.

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the first act of all Shakespearean plays sets up the elements which you mention in your question, Merchant's first act is especially significant because it establishes two of the play's three sub plots and Shakespeare's pattern for alternating between the two settings.

In regards to plot elements, the entire play contains three subplots--the bond plot, the casket plot, and the ring plot.  These plots are intertwined just like the two settings of Venice and Belmont. In Act 1, Shakespeare introduces the bond plot between Shylock, Antonio and Bassanio.  In connection to this subplot, Shakespeare introduces Antonio's melancholy mood which remains with him throughout the play. He also introduces Portia and her "suitor dilemma" by supplying the background on what her father wants her to do and her conflict between honoring her father's wishes and remaining independent in spirit.

For the characters, the first act allows the audience to initially see which setting each major character is comfortable in and what the conflicts of the four major characters (Antonio, Bassanio, Shylock, and Portia) are.  Shakespeare uses Bassanio as a link between all of the subplots and gives not only his main personality traits (loyal friend, spendthrift, genuinely interested in Portia) but also those of the other main characters.

Finally, in regards to relationships, Shakespeare uses his subplots in Act 1 to show that many of the characters, despite their being from Venice or Belmont, are connected (Antonio/Bassanio enter the contract plot with Shylock; Bassanio wants to "win" the casket plot to marry Portia but must borrow money through Shylock to have her).

Read the study guide:
The Merchant of Venice

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