The Merchant of Venice Character and Theme Quotes

William Shakespeare

Essential Passage by Character: Antonio

Give me your hand, Bassanio: fare you well!
Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you;
For herein Fortune shows herself more kind
Than is her custom: it is still her use,
To let the wretched man out-live his wealth,
To view with hollow eye, and wrinkled brow,
An age of poverty; from which lingering penance
Of such misery doth she cut me off.
Commend me to your honourable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio's end,
Say, how I lov'd you, speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love.
Repent not you that you shall lose your friend,
And he repents not that he pays your debt;
For, if the Jew do cut but deep enough,
I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.
Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 272-288


Shylock, upon learning that Antonio’s ships have been lost at sea and all his wealth with them, has brought Antonio to trial to force him to pay the forfeit on his loan. The forfeit is a pound of Antonio's flesh, taken from that nearest his heart. Although Bassanio, newly married and with access to his wife Portia’s wealth, has offered to pay double or triple the amount of the loan, Shylock refuses. At this point, Shylock is not out for money: he is out for revenge. In the past, Antonio has looked down upon Shylock as a Jew and condemned him for usury (lending money...

(The entire section is 1146 words.)

Essential Passage by Character: Shylock

I am a Jew: hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew
hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?
fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you
tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not
die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are
like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew
wrong a Christian, what is his humility? revenge. If a
Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? why, revenge. The villany you teach
me I will execute; and it shall go hard but I will better
the instruction.
Act 3, Scene 1, Lines 51-63


Solanio and Salarino, two friends of Antonio, have received news that the ship Antonio owns has wrecked in the English Channel. It is a rumor that they hope will prove unfounded (which it will be eventually, but almost too late). As they are discussing the consequences of this loss for Antonio, Shylock approaches. The elopement of his daughter Jessica with Lorenzo, a Christian and a friend of Antonios, has upset him.

Solanio, always eager to provoke the Jew, brags that he knows the tailor who made the page boy disguise that Jessica used to escape from Shylock’s home and onto the boat bound for Belmont. He also taunts...

(The entire section is 1096 words.)

Essential Passage by Theme: Racial Enmity

How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian:
But more, for that, in low simplicity,
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation; and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him!
Act 1, Scene 3, Lines 36-47


Bassanio is in need of 3,000 ducats in order to court the rich heiress Portia. Having lived beyond his means, he turns to his friend Antonio for a loan. Antonio, a rich merchant, is more than happy to help his friend, but Antonio does not have that much money available in cash at the moment. He does, however, have three ships returning to Venice with goods that should more than cover that amount. Though he does not regularly borrow or lend money at interest, he will do so out of his friendship for Bassanio.

Bassanio, with an attempt at good will, acts friendly to Shylock. However, Shylock resists his advances. Shylock has a built-up resentment against Antonio, both for business and personal reasons.

As Antonio approaches the two, Shylock lets his feelings be known in an aside. Addressing the invisible audience, he tells how he hates Antonio first and foremost because he is a Christian. He also hates him as a competitor in a...

(The entire section is 928 words.)

Essential Passage by Theme: Mercy

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this—
That in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer, doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much,
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 187-208


Antonio appears in court before the Duke of Venice, brought there by Shylock in his attempt to extract the forfeit that Antonio owes for defaulting on his debt. Though Bassanio has three times the amount of the...

(The entire section is 1184 words.)