Synopsis of Act 3 Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice Act 3 (Scene 2) Plot Summary with Word Meanings

The casket story comes to its climax in this long scene. Bassanio makes his choice. The scene begins with Portia begging Bassanio to delay in making the choice. She feels if he chooses wrongly, she'll miss his company. There's something that tells her that she won't like to lose him. So, she wants him to stay in Belmont at least for a month before making the choice. She wishes she could tell him about the right casket. As Bassanio is eager to make the choice, she allows him to do so. In order to make the atmosphere less tense, she asks for some music. She sings praises of Bassanio, comparing him to Hercules who rescued a maiden from the clutches of a sea monster.

Bassanio surveys the caskets and reads the inscriptions. The words of the song make him feel fancy which sometimes bred in the heart and sometimes in the head. He is warned, not to judge by outward appearance. Beauty, at times, deceives. So he rejects the gaudy gold and silver which is a pale common drudge. He chooses the humble lead. When he opens it, he finds the magnificent portrait of Portia. He also reads the scroll, which tells him to claim the lady with a loving kiss.

Portia in turn commits herself and whatever she has to her lord. She wishes she had more to offer. She gifts him a ring saying that he should not part with it on any account. He is supposed to wear it as long as he lives.

Nerissa surprises her mistress with her wish to marry Gratiano at the same wedding ceremony. Portia agrees and Nerissa gives a ring to Gratiano, making him vow not to part with it in his lifetime.

At this happy time, news comes about the bad fortune falling upon Antonio. Reading the message, Bassanio grows pale. Portia wants to share his problem. Bassanio informs her about the events that lead to the borrowing of money from Shylock and the conditions governing the bond. Jessica confirms her father's Shylock and the conditions governing the bond. Jessica confirms her father's intention to take a pound of flesh from Antonio. Portia urges Bassanio to marry her and leave for Venice with Gratiano.

Bassanio reads Antonio's letter to Portia in which he has expressed his wish to see Bassanio before his death. This will clear all debts Bassanio owes to his friend. Bassanio decides to leave for Venice.

Word - Meanings

tarry - wait,
hazard - take this risk,
venture for me - try to win me,
beshrew - shame on,
o'erlook'd - bewitched,
peise - measure out,
rack - an instrument of torture,
amity - friendship,
deliverance - release,
swan like end - it was believed that swan sings only once just before it dies,
flourish - ceremonial fanfare on trumpets,
dulcet - sweet,
Alcides - Hercules, the Greek hero,
bleared visages - tear-stained faces,
issue - outcome,
exploit - rescue operation,
fray - fight,
fancy - passing affection,
begot - created,
engendered - born,
gazing - loving glances,
knell - funeral bell,
least themselves - illusory,
tainted and corrupt - bad and dishonest,
seasoned - covered up,
gracious - eloquent,
damned error - a great sin,
grossness – base qualities,
ornament - outward show,
livers white as milk - cowardice,
crisp'd - curly,
gambols - games,
excrement - outgrowth,
sepulcher - tomb,
veiling – covering,
Indian - dark skinned,
Midas - the king who got the boon to turn whatever he touched into gold,
hard food - food that turned to gold and thereby inedible,
drudge - save,
meager - humble,
fleet - vanish,
allay - diminish,
measure - moderation,
scant - restrain,
counterfeit - image,
sunder - separate,
gnats - insects,
it should have power to steal both his – the painter was blinded after making one lustrous eye,
giddy - dazed with excitement,
people's eyes - estimation,
ratified - fully confirmed,
livings - possessions,
presage - sign,
vantage - opportunity,
bereft - deprived,
buzzing - murmuring with appreciation,
prosper - be fulfilled,
solemnize - celebrate,
bargain of your faith - contract of your love,
infidel - non-believer,
power - right,
commends him to you - sends his greetings,
estate - condition,
shrewd - unpleasant,
constitution - complexion,
blotted paper - spoiled paper,
freely - honestly,
was a braggart - was exaggerating,
to feed my means - to get the money I needed,
merchant marring - that ruin merchants,
confound - destroy,
plies - keeps on urging his demand,
impeach - question,
freedom of the state - integrity of the law of Venice,
port - position,
unwearied - not tired of,
courtesies - acts of kindness,
ancient Roman humour - age old values of loyalty to friends and the country,
appears - displayed,
draws breath - lives,
deface - cancel,
unquiet soul - distracted and disturbed,
miscarried - been lost,
estate - means,
dispatch - finish,
no bed shall be guilty - I will not take rest,
interposer - one that comes in the way,
twain - two

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