The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scenes 1-3: Questions and Answers

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525

Study Questions
1. What causes do Salerio and Solanio suggest for Antonio’s melancholy?

2. What humorous advice does Gratiano offer Antonio?

3. Why does Bassanio want Antonio to loan him more money?

4. Why is Portia angry with her deceased father?

5. Why does Nerissa tell Portia she “need not fear” her unwelcome suitors?

6. What do Portia and Nerissa think of Bassanio?

7. According to Shylock, why does he hate Antonio?

8. Why is Shylock indignant over Antonio’s request?

9. What is Antonio’s response to Shylock’s accusation?

10. In exchange for what does Shylock agree to lend Antonio and Bassanio the money?

1. Salerio and Solanio think Antonio is distracted because his money is tied up in his ships, which are sailing on dangerous seas. When he denies this suggestion, Solanio guesses that he’s in love, an answer Antonio also rejects.

2. Gratiano tells Antonio not to be so grave about worldly affairs, but rather “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,/…Why should a man whose blood is warm within/ Sit like his grandsire…/…And creep into the jaundice/ By being peevish?” In other words, he suggests Antonio is acting old before his time.

3. Bassanio tells Antonio that “had [he] but the means” to compete with Portia’s suitors, he would “questionless be fortunate,” i.e., win the wealthy heiress’s hand, thus solving his financial difficulties.

4. Because of the provisions of her father’s will—the challenge of the three caskets—Portia cannot choose her own husband. As she says, “I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.”

5. Nerissa tells Portia she “need not fear” marrying any of the undesirable suitors because “[t]hey have acquainted [Nerissa] with their determinations; which is indeed to return to their home, and trouble [Portia] with no more suit…”

6. Nerissa claims that Bassanio, “of all the men that ever [her] foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady.” Portia agrees and “remember[s] him worthy of [Nerissa’s] praise.”

7. Shylock claims to hate Antonio because “he is a Christian;/ But more, for in that low simplicity/ He lends out money gratis, and brings down/ The rate of usance here with us in Venice.” He also remembers being personally insulted by Antonio.

8. Shylock suggests that Antonio is a hypocrite, having first spurned him for being a usurer and now asking him for a loan. As Shylock taunts him, “You come to me and you say,/ ‘Shylock, we would have moneys’—you say so,/ You that did void your rheum upon my beard…”

9. Antonio insists their mutual hatred is a proper business relationship, telling Shylock, “If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not/ As to thy friends…/ But lend it rather to thine enemy,/ Who if he break, thou mayst with better face/ Exact the penalty.”

10. Shylock asks Antonio to sign a bond stating that, if he doesn’t repay Shylock within the allotted time, he must sacrifice “an equal pound/ Of [his] fair flesh, to be cut off and taken/ In what part of [his] body pleaseth [Shylock].”

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Act II, Scenes 1-9: Questions and Answers