Workbook Answers from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1 by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers Act 1 Scene 1 ICSE

Extract 1 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1


In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.

It wearies me; you say it wearies you.

But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,

What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn.

And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,

That I have much ado to know myself.


The truth is that, I don't know why I am so sad. I'm tired of being sad, and you say you're tired of it, too. But I don't know how I caught, found it, or came by this sadness and what is it’s origin. And since I do not know anything about this sadness, maybe I don’t understand myself very well.

(i) Where are Antonio and his friends? What does Antonio says about his sadness?

Antonio and his friends are in a street in Venice. Antonio says that his sadness makes him depressed and dull. He further says that he is yet to learn about the origin and nature of his sadness.

(ii) Give the meaning of:
(a) whereof it is born: how it originated / what is its source.
(b) a want-wit sadness: a dull and absent-minded sadness whose reason is unknown.
(c) That I have much ado to know myself: That I have much difficulty in recognising myself.

(iii) What reason does Salarino give as the probable cause of Anonio’s melancholy?

Salarino tells Antonio that he is sad because his mind is preoccupied with his ships filled with cargo, which are out at sea.

(iv) State in your own words the scene on the ocean as described by Salarino, when Antonio’s ship were sailing.

Salarino compares Antonio's ships sailing on the waves with the great lords and wealthy citizens, who look down on lesser men as they walk along the street. According to him Antonio's ships move swiftly on the sea with their canvas sails and look like grand spectacles or pageants of the sea.

(v) The play begins with the atmosphere of melancholy. Why do you think that Antonio is presented as a melancholic and passive character?

Antonio is presented as a melancholic and passive character mainly for three reasons.

  1. By portraying Antonio as a whimsical person, who is least bothered about the consequences of his actions, justifies his signing the bond-agreement.
  2. Antonio's melancholy creates a tragic atmosphere suitable for a comedy which floats on brink of tragedy.
  3. Antonio's melancholy creates a sense of mystery for the audience.


Extract 2 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1


Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,

The better part of my affections would

Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still

Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,

Peering in maps for ports and piers and roads.

And every object that might make me fear

Misfortune to my ventures out of doubt

Would make me sad.


Believe me, sir, if I had such risky business ventures like yours, I would always think about my ships at the sea. I'd be pulling up the grass in order to check in which direction the wind flows, and looking at maps of ports and piers and roads. And any little thing that might make me worry that something bad would happen to my ships would make me sad, without a doubt.

(i) Where would Salanio’s attention be if he had business ventures abroad? Why would he be plucking the grass? What else he would be doing in that context?

If Salanio had business ventures abroad, his thoughts would be fixed on the dangers to his ventures and methods of securing them. He would be plucking the blades of grass and casting them in the air to know the direction of wind, to see if it was blowing in a direction favourable to the course of his ships or not. Further, he would look into maps for harbours, channels and open road-steads near to the shore where his ships could anchor in case of need.

(ii) What would make Salanio fear some dangers in his ventures? Give two examples.

Every thought of Salanio would make him fearful of danger to his business ventures. Two examples which reminded Salarino of the danger to his ships were:

  1. While cooling his soup by blowing on it, reminded him of the stormy winds at sea causing terrible damages to his ships.
  2. The sandy hour-glass reminded him of the richly laden vessels wrecked on the sandy shore.

(iii) Give meaning of :

(a) Plucking the grass to know where sets the wind: Plucking of grass and casting them in the air to see which way the wind blew.

(b) Peering in maps for ports, and piers, and roads: Looking into maps for harbours, channels and even open road- steads near the shore.

(iv) In spite of the danger to his ships, why Antonio is not worried about his financial security?

Despite danger to his ships, Antonio is not worried about his financial security because his business is neither dependent on any one ship nor on any single location or commercial transactions of the current year.

(v) What light does the opening scene throw on the danger that sea could pose to ships ?

The opening scene describes the possible dangers that the sea could pose to ships such as strong winds, dangerous shallow waters, sand banks and dangerous rocks.

Extract 3 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1


My wind cooling my broth

Would blow me to an ague when I thought

What harm a wind too great at sea might do.

I should not see the sandy hourglass run,

But I should think of shallows and of flats

And see my wealthy Andrew docked in sand,

Vailing her high top lower than her ribs

To kiss her burial.


I would get sad while blowing on my hot soup, because it would make me think of what a strong wind at sea could do to my ships. If I would see the sands running in an hourglass, I would think of flat shallows where my ship, "The Andrew," run aground with all its riches flipped over.

(i) Where does the scene takes place ? Name the people who are present there. In what mood Salarino is in this scene ?

This scene takes place in a street in Venice. Antonio, Salarino and Salanio are present in the scene. Salarino is in a talkative mood and wants to know the reason for Antonio's melancholy. He says that he too would be feeling melancholic if his ships were sailing on the sea.

(ii) What would the wind cooling the broth reminds Salarino of?

It would remind Salarino of the stormy winds at sea and of the terrible damages they might cause to the ships.

(iii) Give meaning of :

And see my wealthy Andrew docked in sand, Vailing her high top lower than her ribs To kiss her burial.”

Wealthy Andrew refers to a Spanish ship called Andrea captured by the British sailors in 1596. It ran aground when it was being brought to England. Since then Andrew refers to a big cargo ship. In the above lines Salarino imagines that his rich cargo ship is grounded in sand and her mast dipped down lower than her sides as if trying to kiss the sands that surround her.

(iv) What is sandy hour glass? What would it remind Salarino of ?

Sandy hour-glass is an apparatus used to indicate time. It would remind Salarino of the dangers from hidden banks of sand at sea, on wihch a ship may run aground.

(v) What is referred as wealth Andrew ? Why it is referred so ?

Salarino refers to his richly laden ship as wealthy Andrew. It is so referred because Salarino feels that like the Spanish ship Andrea captured by the British in 1596, his ship too is majestic and rich with cargo.

(vi) When Salarino would goto church what would he see? What would scene make him imagine ?

When Salarino would go to the church he would see the holy building made of stone. This scene would make him think of the dangerous rocks of the sea and imagine that a collision of his ship with these rocks would be sufficient to break his vessel into pieces and scatter all her spices and silks on the sea.

Extract 4 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1


Not in love neither? Then let us say you are sad

Because you are not merry— and ’twere as easy

For you to laugh and leap and say you are merry

Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Janus,

Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time.

Some that will evermore peep through their eyes

And laugh like parrots at a bagpiper,

And other of such vinegar aspect

That they’ll not show their teeth in way of smile

Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.


You're not in love either? Then let's just say you are sad because you are not happy. It would be just as easy for you to laugh and jump around and just say you are happy because you are not sad. I swear, by two-headed Janus (a roman god) , nature has made all kinds of different people. Some people are always happy and could even laugh at a funeral, while others are so sour they don't even crack a smile at anything, not even at a joke that Nestor called the funniest.

(i) Who has just said that Antonio was in love ? What was reaction of Antonio ?

Salarino has just said that Antonio was in love. Antonio calls the remark as nonsense and completely denies that he is in love.

(ii) What explanation does Salarino give in extract for Antonio’s Sadness ?

Salarino concludes that Antonio is sad because he is not happy. He remarks that there are some curious creatures in the world. He swears by Janus, the two-headed Roman God that some people have merry natures and are continuously laughing whether the things they see are subject for mirth or not. Again there are others with the sourest countenance who will not laugh at any thing though the gravest old warrior Nestor himself confirms the joke as most amusing.

(iii) What is meant by two headed Janus? Why is he referred to in the extract?

Janus is a Roman god usually depicted with two heads looking in opposite directions—one frowning and the other smiling. He had received from god Saturn, the gift to see both the past and the future. He is referred to in the extract to show that there are two types of people — one happy and the other sad.

(iv) Describe the strange fellows framed by nature?

Nature has two types of people. The first type of people have happy natures and often laugh even if the subject of laughter is too trivial. The second type of people are those with serious and grave faces, who do not laugh even at the most amusing jokes.

(v) Who was Nestor? Why is he referred?

Nestor was the King of Pylos. He was one of the greatest generals in the Trojan War. He was famous for his wisdom, justice, knowledge of war and profound gravity. If he laughed, it meant the joke was really funny. He is referred to in the extract to describe the sad and grave people.

(vi) Give meaning of

(a) And other of such vinegar aspect : The second type of people who are grave and serious.

(b) Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable : Even if the wise and grave Nestor certify the joke as funny.

(vii) Why are class of people are compared to parrots ?

A class of people are compared to parrots because they laugh even at a bag-piper as foolishly as a parrot laughs at anything.

(viii) Who comes at the end of Salarino’s speech? Why does Salarino leave then?

At the end of Salarino's speech, Bassanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo come. Salarino leaves Antonio then because Antonio's friends, Bassanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo have come to give him company.

Extract 5 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1

Why should a man whose blood is warm within

Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster,

Sleep when he wakes, and creep into the jaundice

By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio—

I love thee, and ’tis my love that speaks—

There are a sort of men whose visages

Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,

And do a willful stillness entertain

With purpose to be dressed in an opinion

Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,

As who should say, “I am Sir Oracle,

And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark!”

Why should a man be so inactive that he is practically asleep while awake, and start to get jaundice due to his cheerlessness? I tell you what, Antonio—I love you, and I'm speaking out of love—there are some people whose faces are so unmoving that they grow scum like a still pond, and they try hard to maintain a still expression so that they can seem to be wise, serious, and profound, like someone who could say, "I am Sir Oracle, and when I open my lips to speak, let no dog bark!"

(i) Gratiano gives the example of a warm-blooded young man who represses his spirits and forces himself to stillness till he looks like the marble image of his grandfather. He does so to advise Antonio not to remain in melancholy. He is likely to be infected with jaundice due to his bad tempe.

(ii) (a) Some men overcast their faces with a pale expression as still as the cream that forms on the surface of milk and as the scum that forms on the surface of a stagnant pool.

(b) maintain an obstinate silence not to disturb the solemnity of their faces.

(iii) In the extract, Gratiano speaks about people who try to obtain a reputation for wisdom, seriousness and deep thought by remaining silent. Such people mean to say that they speak with the authority of the Greek Oracle and they alone are infallible in their utterances. When they speak, other should keep quiet.

(iv) 'I am Sir Oracle' means 'I speak with the authority of the Greek Oracle'. The Greek Oracles made known the will of Gods and were received by all without questions. 'Let no dog bark' means 'let no one speak'. It refers to the attitude of those wise men who consider themselves as the fountain of wisdom and want that when they speak, others should remain silent.

(v) At the end of his speech, Gratiano advises Antonio not to be one of those who try to gain a reputation for wisdom by being silent. He further tells Antonio not to use melancholy as a bait to win the reputation of wisdom and cheap popularity. which is like a worthless cheap fish, a gudgeon.

Extract 6 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1


I urge this childhood proof

Because what follows is pure innocence.

I owe you much, and, like a willful youth,

That which I owe is lost. But if you please

To shoot another arrow that self way

Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,

As I will watch the aim, or to find both

Or bring your latter hazard back again

And thankfully rest debtor for the first.


With this example from my childhood in mind, listen to my plan, which is completely innocent. I owe you a lot, and like a rash young man I have lost the money I owe you. But if you shoot another arrow the same way you shot the first, by lending me money again, I have no doubt that I will bring both arrows back to you, because I'll watch the second one more carefully. Or at least I'll bring back the latter loan, and remain in your debt for the original sum.

(i) Bassanio and Antonio are in a street in Venice. Prior to this extract Antonio asks Bassanio to tell him about his plans. He adds, that if Bassanio's plan is as honourable as he is, he then promises him everything that he has— money, influence, personal help and utmost resources.

(ii) The above lines mean that at any rate Bassanio could pay the latter loan and remain his grateful debtor for the first.

(iii) Earlier, Bassanio confesses to Antonio that he has spent his wealth by having a more lordly way of living than his moderate income allowed him. Therefore, he has incurred heavy debts because Of his youth and extravagance. This proves that Bassanio is a spendthrift.

(iv) Bassanio says that when he was a boy at school and he lost one of his arrows while shooting, he would shoot another arrow in the same direction. Thus, by risking the second, he often regained both the arrows.

(v) Bassanio proposes to pay back his previous loan as well as the present loan by carefully managing the expenditure of his second loan amount.

Extract 7 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1


Sometimes from her eyes

I did receive fair speechless messages.

Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued

To Cato’s daughter, Brutus' Portia.

Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,

For the four winds blow in from every coast

Renown├Ęd suitors, and her sunny locks

Hang on her temples like a golden fleece,

Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strand,

And many Jasons come in quest of her.


I think she likes me. Sometimes the expression on her face tells me she likes me. Her name is Portia. She’s as rich as that famous Roman heroine Portia, the daughter of Cato and wife of Brutus. Her wealth is world-famous. Famous and important men have come in from all over the world to try to marry her. The hair that hangs down on her forehead is like gold, calling every adventurer to Belmont like a gold rush. Antonio, if I only had enough money to hold my own against those suitors, I know I could win her!

(i) 'Fair speechless messages' mean glances which are silent messages of love. Bassanio wants to say that sometimes he received from Portia's eyes lovely silent messages. The words 'nothing undervalued' mean ‘not less precious’ or ‘no way inferior to’. Bassanio says that his Portia is no less precious than Cato's daughter.

(ii) Cato, the father of Brutus' wife Portia, was the great-grandson of the famous Cato, the Censor. In the Civil War between Pompey and Caesar he supported Pompey and was defeated by Caesar. Brutus, husband of Portia, was the chief of the conspirators against Caesar and caused his assassination. They are referred to show that Portia of Belmont is as precious and great as Cato's daughter, Portia.

(iii) The passage says that Portia's fame had spread throughout the world as suitors from every part of the world come to Belmont to win her hand in marriage.

(iv) Jason was a Greek hero, who was sent by Pelias, his uncle who had usurped the throne, to fetch the golden fleece from Colchos. In Greek mythology, golden fleece is referred to as the fleece of the winged ram Chrysomallos. It was kept at an oak tree in a grove sacred to god Ares and guarded by a dragon in Colchos. Bassanio compares Portia to the golden fleece and himself in his quest for Portia, to Jason on his voyage to fetch the golden fleece. He refers to Other suitors as Jasons.

(v) Bassanio's description of Portia in the opening scene reveals that she is a paragon among women. She is rich and beautiful with golden hair. She has wonderful mental qualities and is virtuous as well. Her fame has attracted suitors from all over the world. She is in no way inferior to her namesake, Cato's daughter and Brutus' wife.

Extract 8 from The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1

(i) Antonio is unable to help Bassanio at once since he has no money in hand as all his business ventures are at sea.

(ii) The sum was three thousand ducats. It was required urgently for Bassanio to go to Belmont and present himself before Portia as a worthy suitor.

(iii) Antonio instructs Bassanio to find out a merchant who is ready to give him money against his name.

(iv) (a) The credit shall be stretched to the utmost limit. Antonio says that he is ready to stretch the credit as far as to equip Bassanio to go to Belmont to woo Portia.

(b) Either on the security of my name or from feelings of personal friendship.

(v) In the opening scene, Bassanio comes to Antonio to borrow money so that he can go to Belmont to win his lady love. But Antonio confesses that he has no ready cash and instructs Bassanio to borrow money from a merchant against his security or name. Thus, Shakespeare links the first scene to the Bond story which involves the loan from Shylock

(vi) Antonio is introduced in the scene as a rich merchant having many shipping ventures at sea. He is in a state of melancholy and not interested in love. Loyalty and generosity towards Bassanio are the major traits of his character. Compared to Antonio, Bassanio is shown as a spendthrift young gallant, who lives a life of luxury beyond his means. He seems to take undue advantage of Antonio's generosity. Unlike Antonio, he is a romantic man, who wants to marry Portia, a rich and beautiful heiress from Belmont.

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