Questions and Answers from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 3 by William Shakespeare

Structured Questions from Act 1 Scene 3 of the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Bassanio : Be assured you may. 
Shylock : I will be assured I may; and, that I may be assured, I will be
think me. May I speak with Antonio? 
Bassanio : If it please you to dine with us. 
Shylock : Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which your prophet the
Nazarite conjured the devil into. 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. What news on
the Rialto? Who is he comes here? 

1. Where is Shylock and Bassanio at this time? What is the purpose of their meeting?


The characters are in a public place in Venice. Bassanio has come to ask Shylock whether he will lend three thousand ducats for which Antonio will stand as security, or not.

2. Why does Bassanio say, "Be assured you may?" What has Shylock said earlier about Antonio's ventures?


Bassanio approaches Shylock to lend him three thousand ducats, for which Antonio will stand as a surety. Shylock says that since Antonio's merchandise is in various ships, and anything may happen to the ships, Shylock is hesitant, and Bassanio assures him that he can take the bond from Antonio; he won't stand to lose.

3. Why is Shylock invited to dinner? Why was the invitation not accepted?


Shylock is invited for dinner to meet Antonio who will stand as a credit for the loan taken. The invitation was not accepted as it is the Jew's principle, to not to dine with the Christians. They eat pork which is forbidden for Jews.

4. Explain the reference to Nazarite.


Jesus of Nazarite released the devils from a possessed man to inhabit the bodies of a herd of pigs.

5. What all Shylock would not do with Christians? What is the one thing he would do? To whom does the last line refer to?


Shylock would not eat, drink or pray with a Christian but he could talk with them, walk with them and do business with them. The last line of the extract refers to Antonio who has come to meet them.

6. What does Shylock say 'aside' about Antonio when he enters the scene?


Shylock hates Antonio and says in an aside that he looks like a fawning tax-collector. He hates him because he is a Christian and also because he foolishly lends money without interest thereby affecting the business of others in Venice. He will get a chance to catch hold of Antonio, if he fails to pay the borrowed money in time.

7. Explain:
(a) Rialto 
(b) Conjured 
(c) habitation 


(a) Rialto is the market place or stock exchange of Venice.
(b) Conjured up refers to the incident in which Jesus of Nazarite, by magic, transferred the devil from the body of the possessed person, into the body of pigs.
(c) Habitation refers to the body of the pig, the home of the devil. He says he'll not eat pork or pig as Jews consider it as a sin.

Antonio : This was a venture, sir, that Jacob serv'd for;
A thing not in his power to bring to pass, 
But sway'd and fashion'd by the hand of heaven. 
Was this inserted to make interest good ?
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams? 

1. What makes Antonio refer to Jacob?


Shylock citesa biblical story of Jacob and Uncle Leban to prove that there is nothing wrong in charging an interest. In response to this, Antonio refers to Jacob in order to prove that he became prosperous not because he had the power to arrange the birth of streaked and spotted lambs but because of God's will who decided and directed the whole thing.

2. Which story form the Bible is being referred by Shylock? Why does he do that?


Shylock narrates a biblical story, which says that when Jacob the prophet went to look after the sheep of his uncle Leban, an agreement was made between the two. It was decided that Jacob would receive all the lambs born with spots and stripes. During breeding season, Jacob placed wooden rods on the ground, so that their shadows would fall on the sheep. Almost all the lambs were born with spots and stripes and Jacob profited by his trick. He did this in order to justify his practice of charging interest.

3. According to the extract, what was swayed and fashioned by the hand of heaven?


According to the extract, the birth of lambs with spots and stripes was swayed (controlled) and fashioned (shaped) by the will of God.

4. With what are ewes and rams compared? What is the tone of Antonio, when he refers to them?


The ewes and rams are compared to gold and silver coins. Antonio is sarcastic when he asks whether Shylock mentioned the ewes and rams to justify his taking an interest. Did he expect the coins to multiply like the animals.

5. What does Antonio tell about Shylock, when he talks to Bassanio, just after this extract?


Antonio calls Shylock a devil and says that the villain can quote scriptures to justify his evil purpose. A bad man producing holy arguments is like a villain with a smiling face. He is like a fine looking apple, all rotten inside. Falsehood does have a fine appearance.

Shylock : Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me 
About my moneys and my usances : 
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug, 
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe. 
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, 
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.

1. Bring out the meaning of the extract.


When Antonio asks whether, Shylock would oblige him with three thousand ducats, Shylock gets an opportunity to vent out his feelings. He says that Antonio had abused him in Rialto about his money and his money-lending practices. He had endured the insults patiently as endurance is the characteristic of his race. Antonio had called him a non-believer, murderous dog, spat on his cloak, all because he used his money to advantage. Well, now it appears that Antonio is in need of the same money which he had made fun of.

2. What's the significance of the reference to 'our tribe'?


'Our tribe' is with reference to the Jews, whom the Christians hated. Shakespeare here refers to the racial prejudice that has been existed for years. Christians considered them as non-believers, cut-throats, and uncultured lot.

3. Apart from the instances mentioned in the extract, what other acts of insult had Antonio shown to Shylock?


Apart from the insults mentioned in the extract, Shylock says that, Antonio had spat on his beard, and kicked him as he would kick a stray dog.

4. How does Antonio reply to this speech of Shylock? What kindness does Shylock offer a little later? Do you think this is kindness? Give your reason.


Antonio again calls Shylock a dog, spit on him and push him aside. It is a business transaction they are doing and Shylock should lend the money as to an enemy because a friend would never expect profit when he lends money. As an enemy, Shylock can claim penalty from him if he fails to repay. Shylock, offers to show kindness by not taking any interest. I don't think it's kindness as he has the ulterior motive of killing Antonio by taking his flesh.

5. Whom does Shylock asks Antonio to meet and why?


Shylock asks Antonio to meet the lawyer and put his signature on the bond drawn between them that he'll not take any interest in the form of money as an act of kindness.

Antonio : I am as like to call thee so again,
To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too. 
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not 
As to thy friends, for when did friendship take 
A breed for barren metal of his friend ? 
But lend it rather to thine enemy; 
Who if he break, thou may'st with better face
Exact the penalty. 

1. Whom is Antonio addressing to? What is the occasion ?


Antonio is addressing Shylock. When Antonio asked Shylock for a loan of three thousand ducats for his friend. Shylock reminded him how he had been insulting him in private and public for his usury. Antonio told him that he would always behave with him in that manner irrespective of whether he gives a loan or not.

2. Why does Antonio say 'to spit on thee again'?


Antonio says this because of his communal prejudice and personal hatred for Shylock; he would continue his negative attitude towards him.

3. Explain : (a) A breed for barren metal 
(b) If he breaks


(a) 'A breed of barren metal' implies interest on a loan of money. Money is regarded to be barren since it cannot breed like Laban's sheep and cattle.

(b) 'If he breaks' means that if he fails to pay back his loans.

4. Do you think Antonio himself is guilty of hardening the attitude of the person he is addressing? Give reasons for your answer.


Antonio, to a large extent is guilty of hardening the attitude of Shylock. Firstly, he says that he would continue insulting the Jew. Secondly, he urges him to advance this loan to an enemy, not to a friend. Thirdly, it was he who suggested that if he failed to repay the loan, Shylock was free to impose any penalty on him.

5. What penalty does the other person propose?


Shylock proposed to sign a bond according to which he would be entitled to a pound of Antonio's flesh if he failed to pay back the money on time.

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