The Merchant of Venice Act IV, Scenes 1-2: Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scenes 1-2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What does the Duke request of Shylock?

2. What reason does Shylock give for his wanting the pound of Antonio’s flesh?

3. Why does Antonio advise his friends to give up attempting to dissuade Shylock?

4. Why does Shylock believe the Duke must enforce the terms of the bond?

5. Why does Portia, disguised as the lawyer, initially conclude that Shylock’s bond must be adhered to?

6. Although she acknowledges Shylock’s right to a pound of Antonio’s flesh, how does Portia prevent the usurer from acting on it?

7. Why is Shylock stripped of his possessions?

8. Apart from the financial conditions, what does Antonio’s new arrangement demand of Shylock?

9. What does the disguised Portia demand from Bassanio for her services?

10. Why is Bassanio reluctant to give up the ring?

Answers
1. The Duke asks Shylock if he will “not only loose the forfeiture,/ But touched with human gentleness and love,/ Forgive a moiety of the principle,/ Glancing an eye of pity on [Antonio’s] losses.” In other words, he asks Shylock to consider Antonio’s financial predicament and not only accept money in place of the pound of flesh, but also reduce the amount of the debt.

2. Shylock claims he can “give no reason, nor will [he] not,/ More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing/ [He] bear[s] Antonio…”

3. Antonio believes that Shylock cannot be reasoned with, due to a racially-determined stubbornness within him. He claims, “You may as well do any thing most hard/ As seek to soften that—than which what’s harder?—/ His Jewish heart.”

4. Shylock thinks that the Duke must uphold the terms of the bond, otherwise all Venetian law will be held up to scorn and ridicule.

5. Portia insists that there is “no power in Venice/ Can alter a device established,” i.e., Shylock’s bond can’t be changed after its terms have already been violated.

6. Portia points out that, although it allows Shylock to cut away a pound of Antonio’s flesh, “This bond doth give [Shylock] here no jot of blood…”

7. Shylock’s goods are confiscated because Venetian law ¬decrees such a penalty to a foreigner who “by direct or indirect attempts…seek[s] the life of any citizen…”

8. Shylock must convert from Judaism to Christianity.

9. Portia asks for Bassanio’s gloves and his ring.

10. Bassanio promised Portia that he’d take it off only when he’d stopped loving her.