The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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The setting of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare


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The setting of The Merchant of Venice primarily takes place in Venice and Belmont during the late 16th century. Venice, a bustling commercial hub, represents law, trade, and the harsh realities of business, while Belmont, the home of Portia, symbolizes a place of romance, music, and more relaxed social norms.

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What is the setting of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare?

Setting refers to the time, place, and circumstances in which the action of a literary work occurs. This obviously also affects the writing's atmosphere and tone.

As far as place is concerned in The Merchant Of Venice, the setting shifts from one location to another. The action at the beginning unfold in the streets of Venice, where Antonio and his friends converse and where we are also introduced to the Jewish moneylender, Shylock. The scene then moves to Belmont, the home of the beautiful and wealthy heiress, Portia, a much-desired woman with whom Bassanio, Antonio's best friend, has fallen in love. 

The mood in the two scenes are in direct contrast. Venice is a bustling hive of activity since it is a merchant city, whilst Belmont exudes an aura of peace, romanticism and general conviviality. Venice is all about business, while Belmont, it seems, is about love.

Since these two settings form the major backdrop of the play, it is obvious that the scenes will flit from one area to another in each place. In Venice, for example, the scenes alternate from the streets of Venice to Shylock's house and then to the court in which Shylock's appeal for restitution is heard.

In Belmont, the scenes alternate from one room to another, to a garden, and then back to Venice and the Court of Justice where Portia, disguised as a lawyer, defends Antonio against Shylock's vengeful claim. After the dramatic scenes in court where a resolution is reached, the action moves back to an avenue that leads to Portia's house in Belmont, where peace prevails and everything ends well—a fitting finish to a rather dramatic tale.

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What is one important setting in The Merchant of Venice?

The Merchant of Venice has several important settings offering many different ways to understand the action taking place in the play. Shakespeare's descriptions of both Venice and Belmont provide numerous opportunities to compare and contrast the lives of the characters in both settings.

Also important is the setting of the court where Antonio and Shylock square off. The rather racuous atmosphere of the attending gallery is quite different to our modern conceptions of what a courtroom is like. The fact that Portia must disguise herself as a man in order to be heard, as an equal and deliver her interpretation of the law, magnifies the importance of this setting.

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What is one important setting in The Merchant of Venice?

Aside from, of course, Venice, the other major setting is Belmont, a city for the very elite where everyone is wealthy and ostensibly happy (as opposed to the working class/business world of Venice.)  The people seem to be beautiful and carefree.  Their world is not beset by ugliness or strife and stands in stark contrast to Venice. 

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In The Merchant of Venice, what quotes highlight the setting?

I think Act I scene i is key in establishing both the setting but also many key themes that dominate the play and are used by Shakespeare as major plot devices. Of course, the very title, The Merchant of Venice, reveals the setting to us. Venice at the time the play was set was an incredibly important port, where ships belonging to merchants would sail off to gain luxuries from the New World and return, making perilous journeys, bringing wealth or ruin to their owners. This is established in this very first scene of the play, when Antonio describes himself as being in a very melancholic mood. His two friends, Salerio and Solanio suggest that his mind is perhaps focussed on his ships that have just left Venice:

Your mind is tossing on the ocean,

There where your argosies with portly sail,

Like signors and rich burghers on teh flood,

Or as it were the pageants of the sea,

Do overpeer the petty traffickers

That curtsy to them, do them reverence

As they fly by them with their woven wings.

We are thus introduced to a make or break world, with incredible risks but also incredible opportunities. It is important to note how Shakespeare weaves the setting into the plot - it is the report that Antonio's ships have been destroyed that puts him in such a perilous position with his pledge to Shylock, but also the news of the safe return of one of his ships resurrects him and gives him back his wealth and standing.

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What is the setting of Act 1, Scene 2 in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice?

Act I, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Portia and her lady-in-waiting, Nerissa, discuss six suitors who have come to try their hand at winning Portia's hand in marriage. The backdrop, or background information, for this scene is about Portia's father. Before he died, he created a game of chance for his daughter's future suitors. There are three caskets, or boxes, which have a riddle associated with them. There is a gold one, a silver one, and a lead one. A suitor will win Portia's hand in marriage if he finds her picture in the box he chooses. There are conditions, though. Before the suitor takes his chance with the caskets, he must vow never to divulge which casket he chose, and he must vow never to ask another maiden's hand in marriage for the rest of his life.

In this scene, though, Portia and Nerissa discuss those who are awaiting their chance to play her father's game. There is a Neapolitan prince, a Palatine count, a French lord, an English baron, a Scottish lord, and a German who is the nephew of the Duke of Saxony. Portia does not fancy any of these men. She is worried that one of them might choose the correct casket and she will be doomed to live with someone she hates. Portia bemoans her plight to Nerissa as follows:

"Therefore, for fear the worst, I pray thee set a deep glass of Rhenish wine on the contrary casket; for if the devil be within and that temptation without, I know he will choose it. I will do anything, Nerissa, ere I will be married to a sponge" (I.ii.80-83).

The above passage proves Portia's fears about who she must eventually marry. It's as if she is planning to drink her woes away if "a sponge" actually chooses the correct casket. If Portia's father had not created such a game, then Portia would be able to choose her own husband. As it is, she is bound by her duty to her father to obey his wishes even after his death.

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