The Merchant of Venice | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Merchant of Venice | Quotes

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1.

And if it stand, as you yourself still do,/Within the eye of honor, be assured/My purse, my person, my extremest means/Lie all unlocked to your occasions.


Antonio, Act 1, Scene 1

Antonio declares himself and all his property at Bassanio's disposal when Bassanio describes his state of debt. These lines reflect Antonio's deep devotion to Bassanio, indicating the possibility that he loves Antonio at a level beyond friendship because these lines mirror the content of traditional wedding vows.

2.

You would be [weary], sweet madam if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are. And yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.


Nerissa, Act 1, Scene 2

When Portia claims she is weary with the world, Nerissa reminds her how many good fortunes she has in her life—not the least of which is her wealth. Nerissa does not scold Portia for being ungrateful, but she observes that those who have too much are often as unhappy as those who have too little. This introduction to these two women illustrates how Nerissa, with her common sense and good cheer, is a grounding force for Portia.

3.

If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die as chaste as Diana unless I be obtained by the manner of my father's will.


Portia, Act 1, Scene 2

Portia does not like the riddle her dead father has left to choose her husband because she feels it leaves open the chance she may have to marry one of the horrible men who are pursuing her. Still she vows to honor her father's wishes even if it means she must live a long life with no physical contact. She compares herself with the mythological Sibyl of Cumae, a prophet granted exceptionally long life, and the Roman goddess Diana, the patron of virginity.

4.

If I can catch him once upon the hip,/I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.


Shylock, Act 1, Scene 3

In an aside during the negotiation for the loan to Antonio and Bassanio, Shylock reveals his intention to avenge himself on Antonio if he can get an opportunity. Later, he confronts Antonio about his many wrongs to Shylock—the insults, the spitting, and the damage to his business. This line reveals why Shylock agrees to the loan despite those wrongs: he hopes to gain an advantage over Antonio and exploit it.

5.

I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.


Shylock, Act 1, Scene 3

Shylock rejects an invitation to dine with Antonio during the negotiation for the loan, which reveals the depth of his devotion to the laws of his own faith. His religion binds him to different dietary requirements and prayer customs. He reminds Antonio of these differences and explains they can do business but never be friends.

6.

I am sorry thou wilt leave my father so./Our house is hell and thou, a merry devil,/Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness.


Jessica, Act 2, Scene 3

Jessica bids farewell to Launcelot Gobbo when he tells her he is leaving to work for Bassanio. Her words indicate the loneliness of her life under her father's strict rules. Launcelot has been her constant friend and a bright source of amusement in an otherwise bleak home.

7.

All that glisters is not gold—/Often have you heard that told./Many a man his life hath sold/But my outside to behold./Gilded tombs do worms infold.


Prince of Morocco, Act 2, Scene 7

The Prince of Morocco chooses the golden casket when he takes part in the challenge left by Portia's father. He is taken in by the richness of the gold and overly confident of his own worthiness to have such riches. He reads this line in the letter he finds inside the casket, which cautions him that gold is not the most precious thing in life and can often be used to conceal death and decay.

8.

As the dog Jew did utter in the streets./'My daughter, O my ducats, O my daughter!/Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats!/Justice, the law, my ducats, and my daughter,/... Find the girl!/She hath the stones upon her; and the ducats.'


Solanio, Act 2, Scene 8

Solanio mocks Shylock's public reaction to finding Jessica has left him, quoting Shylock's cries in the public square lamenting the loss of his daughter and the money she took with her. Solanio's version of events emphasizes Shylock's concern about the money, but Solanio is a known gossip and the Christians' prejudice against Shylock is well established. Solanio's presentation emphasizes stereotypical greed, implying Shylock is more concerned about the ducats than his daughter.

9.

To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what's his reason? I am a Jew.


Shylock, Act 3, Scene 1

When Solanio and Salarino ask Shylock why he even wants a pound of Antonio's flesh, Shylock outlines the reasons he wants revenge on Antonio. In listing his grievances, Shylock demonstrates he is motivated not by blind prejudice but by the specific abuses he has suffered at the hands of another man, a man whose scorn for Shylock's nation reveals he is motivated by prejudice.

10.

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? ... 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?


Shylock, Act 3, Scene 1

As Shylock defends his desire for revenge on Antonio, he emphasizes his own humanity. The speech is an appeal to the commonalities of all human beings, highlighting the basic truth that we all eat, feel pain, feel joy, get sick, recover, and bleed the same blood. Revenge also is part of basic human nature, and Shylock recognizes that if the situation were reversed, a Christian would not hesitate to seek revenge against him. In this respect his words are prophetic since he is vulnerable to extreme revenge in Act 4 when his claim against Antonio is defeated in court. For now, however, Shylock stands by the assertion that he is no worse than his Christian counterparts, that all men are equal in their capacity and desire for villainy.

11.

This house, these servants, and this same myself/Are yours, my lord's. I give them with this ring,/Which, when you part from, lose, or give away,/Let it presage the ruin of your love,/And be my vantage to exclaim on you.


Portia, Act 3, Scene 2

Portia's description of her life after her father's death but before Bassanio's arrival and their betrothal is one of independence and power. She even describes herself in masculine terms, as lord and master of her estate. She only reasserts her femininity in reference to her dominion over her own body. She willingly parts with this control and cedes it to Bassanio, but she emphasizes the importance of their bond through the symbol of the ring, which gives her power over him as well.

12.

Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,/That thou but lead'st this fashion of thy malice/To the last hour of act, and then, 'tis thought,/Thou 'lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange/Than is thy strange apparent cruelty.


Duke of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1

The Duke of Venice opens the trial between Shylock and Antonio by declaring his belief that Shylock's thirst for revenge is only for show, that Shylock will relent and show mercy at the last minute. His word choices scold Shylock's "malice" and "cruelty" but make no allowance for the malice and cruelty Antonio has shown Shylock over the years.

13.

What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?/You have among you many a purchased slave,/Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,/You use in abject and in slavish parts/Because you bought them.


Shylock, Act 4, Scene 1

Shylock stands firm in his belief that he is entitled to a pound of Antonio's flesh because he has loaned Antonio money and Antonio agreed to the terms of the loan. He compares his ownership to the slaves many Venetian citizens own and use as they wish. It's an imperfect comparison because Shylock intends to kill Antonio, but it reveals hypocrisy on the part of the Venetians, who have no problem owning other humans for unpaid labor or other purposes and who may mistreat those slaves with impunity.

14.

The quality of mercy is not strained./It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:/It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.


Portia, Act 4, Scene 1

Portia begs Shylock to show Antonio mercy in the court, saying mercy is its own reward and has inherent value to both the man who shows mercy and the one who receives it. Even though Antonio may deserve Shylock's wrath and resentment, the point of mercy is that it is given freely by one who has been wronged and is received by the undeserving.

15.

I once did lend my body for his wealth,/Which but for him that had your husband's ring/Had quite miscarried. I dare be bound again,/My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord/Will never more break faith advisedly.


Antonio, Act 5, Scene 1

Antonio acknowledges his role in convincing Bassanio to give up his wedding ring to the legal scholar who was Portia in disguise. He also stakes his soul on the successful union of Portia and Bassanio, just as he staked his body to obtain the money that facilitated their courtship. Again, Antonio reveals a deep and selfless love for Bassanio and a willingness to sacrifice greatly to ensure Bassanio's happiness.

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