Synopsis of Act 1 Scene 2 of The Merchant Of Venice by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice Act 1 (Scene 2) Plot Summary with Word meanings

The location of the scene is now at Belmont. From the masculine commercial world of Venice we are taken to a romantic, feminine world of Belmont. The plot unfolds through the conversation of Portia and Nerissa. Like Antonio, Portia is also sad; but there is a reason for her sadness. At the time of death, her father had willed that Portia's husband should be chosen by a lottery. The suitor has to choose one of the three caskets displayed. They are made of gold, silver and lead with cryptic inscriptions on each. The one who chooses the right casket with the portrait of Portia will win her hand. The person who chooses the wrong casket should take an oath never to marry or reveal what is written on the casket.

There is an interesting conversation between the two ladies regarding the suitors. Portia wittily find out faults within each suitor who has come to try their luck. There is a Neopolitan prince who only talks about horses, a Palatine who does nothing but frown, Monsieur Le Bon has no character of his own, someone is a drunkard, the other one is strangely dressed and so on. Fortunately, for Portia all of them decide to leave without taking any risk. The lady is highly relieved. The real reason is that she is attracted to Bassanio whom she had met earlier on some occasion.

Nerissa informs Portia that 'a Venetian, scholar and soldier' has arrived. Portia remembers the man as 'the best deserving of a fair lady'. This kindles the curiosity of the audience to meet the young man who has captured the fair lady's imagination.

troth – faith,
aweary - tired,
aught - anything,
surfeit - having too much,
superfluity - state of having too much,
divine - preacher,
madness (the youth) - high spirits of the youth,
skip o'er - jump over,
meshes - nets,
cripple - hurt,
reasoning - wise talk,
curbed - restrained,
virtuous - having good qualities like wisdom,
inspirations - divine guidance,
over-name - call out their names,
Neapolitan - from Naples,
colt - an inexperienced young man,
appropriation - qualification,
county palatine - count of palatinate,
frown - have an angry or disgusted expression,
the weeping philosopher - Heraclitus of Ephesus who went to the mountains as he was disgusted by human stupidity,
death's -head- skull,
throstle - thrush, song bird,
capering - jumping or leaping,
suited - dressed,
doublet - jacket,
round hose - breeches,
a box of the ear - a blow on the ear,
vilely - badly,
fell – happen,
make shift - manage,
Rhenish wine - white wine made in Rhine valley,
contrary - wrong,
imposition - will,
Sibylla – an old woman,
wooers - suitors,
fore-runner - messenger,
shrive - hear my sins and grant forgiveness.

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