The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What does Launcelot reveal about himself after reading his own palm?

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Launcelot is employed as Shylock’s servant in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. He is contemplating leaving Shylock, as he is rather unhappy in his service. He wants to leave Shylock, because he feels that he has been treated unfairly: “the very truth is that the Jew [has] done me wrong."

Launcelot’s father, Gobbo, appears, and Launcelot tells him about how unhappy he is in his current position. Incidentally, Bassanio enters the scene at this point and eventually offers Launcelot the opportunity to work for him instead of Shylock. It is at this point that Launcelot reads his palm, a somewhat humorous attempt to find out what the future holds for him. Reading the lines on his palm, the audience finds out what Launcelot reveals about himself and his future life.

According to the lines on his palm, Launcelot will have a very bright future indeed. For example, he will have several wives: “Here’s a small trifle of wives. Alas, fifteen wives is nothing!” Furthermore, Launcelot reads in his palm that he will be able to escape any danger he encounters: “And then to ’scape drowning thrice.” This clearly shows how Launcelot is beginning to feel a lot more positive and confident about his future following Bassanio’s offer to let Launcelot work for him. Now he is not hesitant to leave Shylock any longer; he is confident that he should leave, without giving it second thought: “I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling.”

Interestingly, Launcelot does not offer any deeper or more meaningful revelations about his future when reading his palm. There is no mention of fundamental questions regarding health, family, morals, or virtues. To him, a happy life is only about enjoying himself, in terms of both love and adventure. This reveals Launcelot as a fairly basic and somewhat shallow character whose main purpose in the play is to provide light entertainment for the audience.

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