The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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Act III, Scenes 1-5: Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. Why, since it won’t result in any financial gain, does Shylock insist on the terms of his bond with Antonio?

2. What news does Tubal bring Shylock?

3. Why does Portia want Bassanio to wait before facing the challenge of the three caskets?

4. Why does Bassanio select the lead casket?

5. What does the lead casket contain?

6. What does Portia claim will occur if Bassanio gives up the ring she gives him?

7. What does Gratiano reveal after Bassanio solves the riddle of the three caskets?

8. Why does Portia allow Bassanio to leave before they get married?

9. According to Antonio, why won’t the Duke be able to intercede on his behalf?

10. What does Portia decide to do at the end of Act III?

1. Shylock wishes to cut off Antonio’s flesh in order to “feed [his] revenge. [Antonio] hath disgraced [him]…laughed at [his] losses…scorned [his] nation, [and] thwarted [his] bargains” out of (so Shylock claims) pure racial hostility.

2. Tubal tells Shylock that one of Antonio’s ships has been wrecked “coming from Tripolis” and that Jessica has spent a great deal of his money.

3. Afraid that Bassanio will fail, but desirous of his company, Portia wishes to spend as much time with him as possible.

4. Bassanio distrusts attractive surfaces, for fear they contain corrupt things. As he addresses his choice, “But thou, thou meager lead/ Which rather threaten’st than dost promise ought,/ Thy paleness moves me more to eloquence;/ And here choose I.”

5. Inside the lead casket, Bassanio finds a picture of Portia—signifying his success—and a scroll instructing him to kiss her.

6. If Bassanio does “part from, lose, or give away [Portia’s ring],/ …it [will] presage the ruins of [his] love.”

7. Gratiano announces that he and Nerissa intend to marry.

8. Portia discovers, while reading Antonio’s letter, that he fears “it is impossible [he] should live” and wishes to see Bassanio before he is killed.

9. “The Duke cannot deny the course of the law;/ For the commodity that strangers have/ …in Venice, if it be denied,/ Will much impede the justice of the state.” In other words, the Duke must uphold the law for non-citizens, so that Venice may maintain its good standing in international business affairs.

10. Portia decides that she and Nerissa must go to Venice disguised as men, to help resolve the situation there.

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