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Launcelot opens Act II, scene ii in an internal argument between his conscience and "the fiend at [his] elbow." One, the fiend, is tempting him to run away, and one, his conscience, is cautioning him to remain "honest" and "scorn running with [his] heels." He concludes with the decision to go with the fiend. He says:
The fiend gives the more friendly counsel. I will run, fiend! My heels are at your command. I will run.
But at this moment, he meets up with his father whom he recognizes, but does not recognize him. After much convincing of Old Gobbo that he, Launcelot, is indeed his son, Launcelot reveals his plan to run away and serve Bassanio.
Bassanio enters and agrees to have Launcelot serve him, but instructs him to return to his former master and leave his service in an honest way. And so, Launcelot does not run away, but returns to take his leave of Shylock and change a Jewish master for a Christian one.
Given the fairy story element, one might infer that the Clown thinks that Shylock is an OK boss as "conscience" tells him "budge not." One might then review the character Nick Bottom, the weaver in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM as the Clown's lines are woven, as it were, into the fabric of the play. The two imagined characters, conscience and fiend, both "counsel well," that is neither is altogether bad or good. One might then argue that Shylock and Antonio both correspond to conscience and fiend. Editors tell us that one source for the imagined conversation is a medieval mystery play called EVERYMAN. One might also compare conscience and fiend with virtue, vice, grace and rude will from the Friars introductory speech in ROMEO AND JULIET. Sometimes one might find oneself, regarding the Clown, quoting another line from ROM: "What a pestilent knave is this same!"(ROM4.5.143).
Who is the fiend? Act 2 scene 2 Merchant of Venice
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