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Free Study Guide-The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare-Study Guide
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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

ACT II, SCENE 8

Summary

This scene opens with Salarino and Salanio in conversation on a street in Venice. They discuss how Gratiano and Bassanio have sailed to Belmont on the same night of Jessica's elopement. They also tell how Shylock is outraged by the flight of his daughter and the loss of his ducats and jewels. Suspecting that his daughter and Lorenzo were on the ship with Bassanio, he woke the Duke of Venice to help him search the boat; but they arrived after the boat had sailed. Antonio, who was at the dock, assured them that the couple was not on the ship.

Shylock is crazed with anger and hatred and in a state of confused passion. Antonio's friends fear that in his current state of mind, Shylock will definitely want revenge from Antonio if his debt is unpaid on the due date. They worry about Antonio's fate, for they have heard reports that his ships may be lost at sea. In fact, Salanio has heard from a Frenchman that a Venetian boat, laden with goods, has sunk. The two then discuss Antonio's loving nature, and Salarino gives an account of Antonio's kind farewell to Bassanio. Both men leave to search for Antonio in order to cheer him up.


Notes

Salarino and Salanio are used in this scene to describe Bassanio's departure and Shylock's reaction to Jessica's elopement. The pair is scornfully amused at Shylock's outrage and portrays him as a raving fool. They claim he cannot decide which to mourn more-- the loss of his daughter or that of his ducats.

The men then discuss reports of ships lost at sea. Salarino hopes that the richly laden ship that has been wrecked in the English Channel does not belong to Antonio. This mention of the doomed ship casts a somber mood on the scene and foreshadows future events in the play. Antonio's character is again developed in the scene. His gentility of nature is defined by his farewell to Bassanio. It is obvious that he cares deeply for his friend and is willing to do much for him. His standing in society is brought out as the Duke accepts his word that Lorenzo is not on Bassanio's ship. Antonio is also contrasted once again with Shylock. Antonio, with no ounce of jealousy, takes pleasure in Bassanio's love for Portia; but Shylock cannot take any pleasure at his daughter's romance. Antonio does not worry about money, freely borrowing from Shylock to help Bassanio in his pursuit of Portia; Shylock is driven crazy by the fact that Jessica has stolen his wealth, and he seems to mourn its loss as much, if not more, than the loss of his daughter. Antonio is truly as selfless a man as Shylock is selfish.

ACT II, SCENE 9

Summary

In Belmont, the Prince of Arragon has arrived to court Portia. He is about to try his luck with the caskets. Portia reaffirms the rules with him. If he chooses wrongly, he must leave immediately without complaint and never woo another woman. The Prince agrees to the conditions and begins the selection process. He passes over the lead casket because it is a common metal. He spurns the golden one because he will not choose what is desired by many, not wanting to associate himself with the common desires of the crowd. At the silver casket, the Prince decides that since he himself is full of merit, he is the one deserving of Portia's hand. He smugly opens the silver casket and discovers a portrait of a fool. The Prince of Arragon is greatly offended and departs immediately.

A servant enters with the news of the arrival of a young Venetian. Portia and Nerissa go forward to greet the visitor.

Notes

The Prince of Arragon disdains to group himself with "the barbarous multitude." He refuses to choose by appearances "what many men desire." He, therefore, rejects the gold casket since most of humanity hankers after gold and judges by the outward appearance without seeing the inner worth. He is, however, blinded by the sense of his own worth, which he believes is great enough to deserve Portia. As a result, he fails the test of humility. The silver casket that he opens reveals a fool's head, which is a moral symbol. It is what his pride and vanity deserves. The Prince feels foolish and quickly leaves.

A messenger arrives bearing valuable gifts that create a favorable impression. He announces that a young Venetian gentleman has come to see Portia.

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