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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

Date and source

1596. Allusion to a real ship of the period. 1596 English attack on Cadiz Harbour. Two galleons (San
Matias and San Andrs) were captured. Generally agreed the San Andrs renamed the Andrew. The
phrase my wealthy Andrew is small but significant evidence that it was written not earlier than the late
summer of 1596.
1598. Registration of the title in the Stationers Register on July 1598. On September 1598 also Francis
Meress Palladis Tamia, lists six comedies by Shakespeare of which The Merchant is the last: the play was
in the repertory of Shakespeares company.
First play in 1596-7 or 1597-8 acting season. Strongest indication for 97-8 comes for a proviso in the
Stationers Register (not printed without the consent of the Lord Chamberlain actors dont want the play
to be print while still success in theatre. The plays characteristics link it to the group of Shakespeares
mature comedies: Much Ado About Nothing (1598), As You Like It (1599), Twelfth Night (1601-2).
Strong affinity also with Henry IV (1597): in the first worlds of Shylock and Falstaff the same power to
individualise a character dramatically through sounds, rhythms, idioms.
Based on the Italian novella of Giannetto of Venice and the Lady Belmont of the collection called Il
Pecorone by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, written in the late XIV century, published in Milan in 1598. No
Elizabethan translation known.
A rich merchant of Venice called Ansaldo adopt his orphaned godson Giannetto, who wants to join in
a trading expedition, so Ansaldo provides him a rich cargo. In the port of Belmont, its Lady will marry
the man who is able to spend a successful night with her, those who fail lose all they possess. She tricks
everyone giving them drugged wine. Giannetto falls for the trick and returns to Venice, where he hides
for shame. Ansaldo equips him for a second voyage but everything happens exactly as it did the first
time. For a third voyage Ansaldo have to pledge(impegnare) a pound of his flesh to a Jew in return of
1000 ducats. This time a damsel warns Giannetto and he is able to win the Lady. He lives happily as
Lord of Belmont but for Ansaldo the time is over so he tells his story to the Lady who sends him off
to Venice with 100.000 ducats for pay the debt. The Jew is not deflected by his murderous intentions.
The Lady herself now arrives in Venice, disguised as a lawyer. She takes the case to the open court,
the Jew tear up (annulla) the bond. Giannetto offers payment to the lawyer, who asks instead for his
ring. They returns to Belmont, and only when The Lady has reduced him to tears she tells him she
was the lawyer.
Flesh-bond plot and the affair of the ring are virtually the same in both. Shakespeare seizes upon
all the vivid details of the Ladys invention to save Ansaldo.
Emotional cast of the tale, made of Ansaldos generosity and risk of his life for his grandson.
Recalls of the Prodigal Sons father. The Jew in the novella is a less realised character than the
merchant, with clear religious and commercial motivation.
Story of the bed test is replaced by the highly moral tale of the three caskets. Medieval collection
Gesta Romanorum includes this kind of choice as test of marriage-worthiness through a woman.
Its edition of 1595 was used by Shakespeare, but modified with common romance patterns.
Lost sources.
The Jew, play, 1579. Proof that a play combining the caskets story with that of the pound of flesh
already existed in the 1750s. No proof how it is connected to The Merchant.
Gernutus, undated ballad. Very basic story which involves only the Jew, his merchant victim and a
judge. More influence than source.
Zelauto, or the Fountain of Fames third book, by Antony Mundays, 1580. Based on an Italian
original. Strabino loves Cornelia, sister of his friend Rudolfo, who for his part falls in love with Brisana,
the daughter of a rich old usurer whom Cornelia is in danger of being forced to marry. The two friends
pledge their right eyes for getting a loan from the usurer and buy a rich jewel, winning the consent of
Cornelias father to her marrying Strabino. The usurer summons (convoca) the young men before a
judge and claims the forfeiture (multa/pena). The judge urges him to show mercy, while Brisana and
Cornelia, disguised, step forward. The usurer capitulates, accepts Rudolfo as son-in-law and declares
him his heir.
The Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe, 1589. Influence of the addiction to Shakespeares play of the
moneylenders daughter. Shylock has learn from Barabas how to respond to Christian contempt
disprezzo), racial pride. The Jew of Malta and The Merchant are a different kind of play, product of
a different kind of imagination. For Shakespeare a challenge rather than a source: he recalls the older
works in order to show how far from it he is. Resistance to Marlowe more evident in the contrast
between Jessica and Abigail (Barabass daughter).
Anti-Jewish feelings in the period The Merchant was written (first allusion 1594). During that year trial and
execution of Ruy Lopez, a Portuguese Jew by birth and physician to Queen Elizabeth, who was convicted
to attempting to poison the Queen. In some ways the Lopez affair is connected to The Merchant, but
Shylock has a very little resemblance to Lopez.

Attitudes and assumptions behind the play

The Merchant is a romantic play. The triumph of love and friendship over malice and cruelty is the theme
of most medieval romances of the Italian Renaissance and from 1570s of many English play. Plays in the
popular romance tradition had a well-defined story line and existed as narrations rather than presentations.
Disguise is very important, used for heroines devotion and worth. Romantic comedies could be set in real
places and even portray historical figures.
Miracle play and the morality. Portia intervenes to save Antonio as the Virgin Mary did in continental
miracle plays of the XVI century.
The play relies on a very different set of theatrical expectations, brought to Italian comedy.
Italian Renaissance comedies and their derivatives in France and England tend to be brisk an
The setting is urban, often a city at Carnival time. Its heroines are resourceful and adventurous.
Double or more plots give the young ample opportunity to triumph over the old by means of trickery
and disguise. The trickster is fully in control of his fate.
Speculations that Shakespeare visited Venice when plague closed London theatre in 1592-4. Shylock
however appears to live in a Christian quarter and employs a non-Jewish servant, much as a Christianised
Jew would have done in Elizabethan London.
Italian community in London also included people he was likely to meet, like the eight members of
the Venetian family called Bassani in the Queens Musick. The name that appears in the court record
Bassanye could have given rise to the form Bassanio in the play.
The name Gobbo could have been picked up from talk with those who knew Venice well (Gobbo di
Rialto). Cannot be sure this is the origin of the name.
The Myth of Venice, ideas Shakespeare and his audience shared about Venice. Several literature works
show how strongly established the myth was by the 1590s.
At the time The Merchant was written, Venice was a legend for independence, wealth, art, political
stability, respect for law and toleration of foreigners. Its highest claim to fame was its policy of right.
Two particular aspects: its inviolability and its laws availability to all (equality). The plot of The
Merchant rests on the facts that Venice recognised bonds to foreigners entered into by its own citizens,
and gave foreigners full access to its courts. This intellectual as well as commercial traffic was a pride
for the Venetians.
Belief that the Republics colony of Jews was a privileged community. In reality they had the same
rights of every others foreigners had and they were allowed openly to practise their religion and were
entitled to lend money at interest. Jews were tolerate in Venice because their moneylending was an
essential service to the poor and saved the authorities the trouble of setting up the state loan banks.
Myth of Venice in the trial scene. The Dukes ineffectual role is in accord with Venetian custom: the Doge
could not act as sole judge in any court.
Shakespeare satisfied his audiences interest in law as it was practised in XVI-century London. All were
connoisseurs of trial scenes which one form or another occur in 1/3 of Elizabethan plays.
In recent years, legal historians have tended to see the trial as a reflection of the XVI-century concern
with equity and its relation to common law. At Shakespeares day two legal systems: a civil case could
be settled either in one a common law courts by a judgement based on statute or precedent, or in
Chancery (Cancelleria) by a decree based upon equity and conscience (upon the Lord Chancellors
sense of natural justice). In the play some aspects of the trial recall Chancery proceedings.
Shakespeare wants a dramatic effect. A judgement that combined a meticulous attention to the letter of
the law with a no less meticulous concern for the principle of equity would unite all the spectators in a
common satisfaction.
In the original audience the conditions of the verdict are felt like adjunct of the Dukes mercy, but in reality
these imply Shylock is being judged on what he is.
London populace was xenophobic. At Court, however, the Queen besides her doctor, had a Jewish
lady-in-waiting (dama di compagnia). This divergence of attitude between classes was superficial.
Jews who resisted proselytization were thought of as under Gods curse for their part of killing his Son.
The older member of Shakespeares audience influenced by old plays about Crucifixion. Jew became
established as the archvillains of medieval literature.
From early medieval times, Jews had been usurers because moneylender was one of the few ways they
were permitted to earn a living. In England usury was contrary to the law of nations, of nature and of God.
Usury leads to capitalism with the 1571 Act: not openly countenance usury, relaxed the prohibition against
it. The more the usurer was needed the more he was hated for his profits. Usurers scapegoat for the
economic ills of age.
Shakespeare is less concerned with creating a scapegoat than in suggesting how scapegoats are created.
Two general points about Shakespeares manipulation of the wicked Jewish moneylender stereotype:
He seems to have gone to the Book of Genesis for the background information about Judaism
His play can be seen as the culmination of a series of extant plays about avid Jews which are all, in
one way or another, critical towards the assumed moral superiority of Christians:
The Croxton Play of the Sacrament, miracle drama dealing with the misdeeds (misfatti) of two
wicked merchants, one Christian and the other Jewish. Both in the end repent, confess and
are forgiven, but the Christian cannot trading again.
Three Ladies of London by Robert Wilson, 1580s. The merchant Mercadore is brought
before a Turkish court at the suit of his Jewish creditor Gerontus, which is horrified at the
thought he has caused a man repudiate the faith to which he was born.
The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe, 1589 ca. The closest to Shakespeares time.
Barabass hypocrisy.
Idealised friendship was a favourite theme of Renaissance literature, but cult only of the educated minority.
Platonic love, no sexual origin or sexual outcome. Belief love could exists harmoniously between sexes.
The reconciliation of love and friendship in the first seventeen of Shakespeares Sonnets, 1597-8.
Despite the happy ending, the anxiety which appears to have obstruct the real-life relationship is
present as an undertone in the play.
Bassanios reflections on appearance and reality before choice of the right casket. Parallels in
Sonnet 68, which praises the friend for an integrity.
Antonios melancholy, in the Sonnets form of a deep self-deprecation.
Dissatisfaction with the relationship between Shylock and Antonio. Shakespeares emotional
involvement with one relationship of the character had left him insensitive to the characters other
relationships. Structural difficulty as well. Antonios characters with less coherence and left in some

Experiencing the play

The Merchant is divided into 5 moments.

1. (Act 1 to Act 2, Scene 1). Belmont and Venice.
Between Venice and Belmont, establishes our awareness of the action proceeding in two places and
the contrasts between them.
Antonio is the conventional business tycoon (magnate). As the scene proceeds, we understands his
real venture has been to sink all his emotional capital in a single friendship. Alone with Bassanio,
his speech rhythms quicken with feeling. Bassanios hesitations as a familiar comedy routine.
Portia presented with Bassanios romantic verse. Melancholy, wealth and tender feelings for
Bassanio serve to link Portia and Antonio in our minds far in advance of their encounter in Act 4.
Shylocks speech habits and idiolects, tell us about his personality. His talk lead-in to his proposal
of a flesh bond.
The air of financial security Antonio imparted in the play first scene serves to undermine the
distinction he draw between usury and ventures. The gap between merchant and Jew appears to be
narrowing: weakness of Antonios case gives Shylock his opening. Antonio trapped into taking a
huge and deadly risk, demonstrate his love for Bassanio. Our reception of the bond scene as
2. (Act 2, Scenes 2-6). The elopement (fuga amorosa).It is set of as a kind of interlude which recalls the
Italian commedia erudita. Love justifies any behaviour.
At the very start of the episode a moralising fool. Lancelot is a native product developed from the
Vice of morality plays. Hes debating whether or not a servant may run away from a bad master.
The question reform itself on Jessicas first appearance. Shes starved of affection. The escape
scene starts with the entry of Gratiano and Salarino.
Subliminal effect on the elopement episode is that we never quite board the merry-go-round of
festive comedy. This episode culminate with the lovers leaving into the night to be married.
3. (Act. 2, Scene 7 to Act 3, Scene 2). Debit and credit.
Alternation of scene between Belmont and Venice.
First Morocco and then Arragon makes the wrong choice of casket. By contrast concern for
Antonio but Bassanios success with Portia and her fortune.
Antonio grieves for his friends absence, while Shylock grieves for his money rather than his
daughter. Hes ready for the kill. Shylock here is both an ironic and grotesque figure. Appeal for
racial equality as justification of revenge.
Portia and Bassanio love scene. Portia reveals a turmoil of emotions and begs Bassanio to
postpone his choice, but he will not wait. Elizabethan love talk with Petrarchan conceit: the
thought of torture remind us of Shylocks intention to take a long time in killing Antonio.
Portia and Bassanio acknowledge their happiness with the symbolic gesture of giving and receiving
of the ring, and with speeches that are the apex of the scene.
4. (Act 3, Scene 3 to the end of Act 4). Dr. Balthazar.
Portia and Nerissa want to keep an eye on their husbands so they disguise. Forced back the
atmosphere of intrigue comedy.
Intrelude. Jessica and Lorenzo having dinner, meanwhile Lancelot provides entertainment.
The entry of the Duke and the magnificoes makes a brave show, but they are powerless to
override the law which is all on the side of Shylock. His savagery appals us. Masterful debating
skill turns back upon the Christians the insult in which they have denied him all humanity.
Bassanios angry protests and Shylocks retorts lead Antonio intervenes out of instinct to protect
his friend. Deny humanity to Shylock. Venice as slave-owning society. The Jews targets: racial
exclusiveness which denied human rights to non-Christian captives.
Entry of Nerissa then Portia. For the next 200 lines rhetorical symmetry. Portia unlike the
Christians (the Duke apart), speaks to Shylock as a human being. Appeal to his financial instinct.
Her last appeal is the most basic: in asking for a doctor to be present she is striving to make
Shylock grasp the non-human savagery of what he intends.
Portia is systematically offering Shylock every chance to be merciful. The confidence which was
encouraged by the conventions of comedy and by Portias eloquence begins to fade. Return to the
model of intrigue comedy. Shylock complains that time is being wasted. Portia steps back and
changes the whole direction of the trial. Offer of triple repayment.
Responses of the audience begin to diversify and to fragment. Portia and Shylock seem as cat-and-
mouse. Antonios insistence that Shylocks wealth be inherited reminder that there are others
abuses of money beside usury.
Granted that Shylock has now a chance of getting to heave, signs Shakespeare is not wholly happy
about the conversion. The proposal comes not from Portia but from Antonio, that ha a far less
consistent image. Signs of Shakespeares uneasiness in the abruptness with which Shylock signals
his agreement and leave. A humiliated character in a Shakespeare play is usually silent. Shylocks
power is gone, no need for a spectacular exit.
This moment culminates in a procession off the stage, all visibly relaxed and happy. The two
husbands are face to face with their unrecognised wives. Each husband give the ring of his wifes
keepsake on his disguised wife.
5. (Act 5). The renewing of love.
The affair of the rings allows the wooing (corteggiamento) to begin afresh. Bassanios must now plead
and Portia must remain obdurate until the battle of the sexes ends with a graceful capitulation of her
Legendary lovers with whom Lorenzo and Jessica half-jestingly (scherzosamente) identify were all
unhappy. The incantatory language of the whole passage can be felt as a kind of exorcism, the
ritual driving-out of bad spirits.
Shylock is never named in this scene nor spoken of as Jessicas father. Lorenzos words (83-8)
bring Shylock back to us as a person: victim of Jessicas spoils (bottino) and Lorenzos stratagem.
Portia restores a sense of moral security in her sententious return. When Bassanio returns the
quarrel (litigata) over the rings escalates fast. Word-game of Bassanios protest and Portias
counter-protest, but in the middle Antonio. He stands anxious, isolated and vulnerable,
embodying emotions we believe forgotten. Then finally the truth about is fate is out.
The faint discords among the harmonies are permanent elements of the play and important part of
Elizabethan dramaturgy. The play has exacted responses as complex as those we bring to real life.
Even if Antonio is not in the wedding procession, he is not left out of Belmont. Antonio slowly followed
the couples with a suggestion of his permanent melancholy.
The afterlife of The Merchant

The Merchant shares with Hamlet the distinction of having been more often performed than any other of
Shakespeares plays. Now considered as flexible but in the past has been highly vulnerable to changing
theatrical and social pressure.
No stage history fir its first 150 years. After two performs before James I in 1605, it vanished from the
English theatre, through actors who emigrated to Germany: Der Jud von Venedig. The right to
perform it assigned to the Theatre Royal after the Restoration, but its romantic treatment of love was
not the taste of the time.
In 1701 the swing of public taste in favour of sentimental drama encouraged George Granville to adapt
the play. Shylock as comic character. Keeping with prejudices of the aristocratic adapter and audience.
In 1741 Charles Macklin restore the original play. Shylock does not have a long part and makes only
five appearances. Distortions result from the various ways actors responded to changing public
attitudes towards the Jewish presence in European society.
In 1775 shown as in this century sentiment were beginning to replace fanaticism and prejudice in an
audiences response to Shylock. By the end of the century Jew seen as hero of the play.
In 1814 Edmund Keans interpretation. Old hostility of Christendom towards Barbary had given place
to a romantic fascination with the exotic. Shylock left the courtroom with the audience on his side.
Distance from Shakespeares play.
Civil disabilities of being a Jew had been abolished. Trying to understand Jewish (Shylock)
viewpoint. Kean identifies himself with the experience of being disadvantaged and despised
Insertion of an extra scene. After Jessica in 2.6, empty stage. Shylock made a slow entrance and
knocked twice on the door of his house. Long silence and the curtain fell.
The Victorians were fascinated by Venice but they no longer visited the city in order to study it, like
Elizabethans did in the past. They were fascinated by its architecture and tried in their stage sets to
reproduced it. The spectacular effects must all have been enjoyable and the best of them, but made
impossible the rapport between actor and audience that had been the heart of theatrical experience in
Shakespeares non-illusory playhouse.
Further damaging consequence of Victorian stage was the brutal cutting of the text. To economise on
scene-shifting, whole scenes were transposed. Many of Shakespeares transitions between Venice and
Belmont disappeared.
By about 1900, synthetic Merchant. Shylock emerged as tragic hero. With the exception of Portia, the
rest of the characters are set aside. The splendour of which competed with Shylock last as the
dominant memory of the play.
Productions continued well into the XX century. Shakespeares revolution, radical changes in the plays
Between the world wars, the Old Vic offered several productions of The Merchant in which the
company as a group had rediscovered the subtlety (sottigliezza) and variety of the whole play. The
final break occurred at Stratford in 1932, the first season of the new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.
Theodore Komisarjevsky challenged the whole solemn and archeological tradition by treating the
play as pure Carnival. Shylock as Jewish comedian, Portia as a china doll.
Social pressures increased with the Jewish genocide. The actor of Shylock had to take into account
the distress (angoscia) and guilt of a whole generation of playgoers. The problem could be evaded
by productions or confronted as was done by Johnathan Miller in his National Theatre production
in 1970. He bypassed XVI-century notions of an accursed race by going to the economic roots of
modern capitalism and setting the play in the late XIX century.
Laurence Oliver played Shylock as a confident arriviste who needed Jessicas flight to discover
his own nature a deep racial trauma and a compensating hatred which led him to claim his
monstrous forfeiture. Portia and her allies were his hereditary enemies. The trials reversal
came as a series of lows. Shylocks lost left the victors visibly shaken. Jessica was as much a
victim of race prejudice as her father.
The roles of Portia and Antonio have been affected by a social pressure, extended by the sexual
revolutions in XX-century society.
The social liberation of women helped audiences to understand Portia. For the sexual revolution
has also led to such distortions as Portia balefully hissing out. Passion of jealousy over a
relationship, from the 1960s tended to show as overtly homosexual.
The Merchant at The Other Place, Stratford, in 1978, is considered as the finest production of recent
years. John Barton as director, restored an equal balance of interest between Bassanio, Shylock and Portia.
Implicit criticism of an arrogant and self-gratulatory society. Shylock was a survivor in a hostile society
against which he nursed a secret desire for vengeance.
Shylocks cigarette stubs (mozzicone): live to smoke another day. When he dropped it after the
judgment, it was significantly Portia who picked it up for him, so that he still had for future use.

Recent critical and stage interpretations

The Merchant has always been resistant to an uniform thematic approach. One of the major topic of the
past twenty years is the sexuality of the male characters. Nowadays productions that do not at least imply
homosexual or bisexual relationships among Antonio and Bassanio are the exception rather than the rule.
Out of its historical context (homosexuality XIX-century word).
To the Elizabethans homosexuality was not a matter of placing people into a clearly defined group.
Homosexual desire (different from homosexual act) was deeply embedded (inserito) in the poetic
discourse of early modern England.
Portia becomes an outsider in the power structures of a male dominated Venice. Plays largest part, but
she was not considered a proper Shakespeares heroine until the late XIX century.
She was adopted by both the sides of the Woman Question: to conservatives the epitome of noble
womanhood, to radicals the new woman: educated, self-assured and successful in the male domain of
the law.
The Jewish question continues to dominate critical discussion. Recent material on the Jews of
Shakespeares time. English were obsessed with the Jews in the XVI and XVII centuries, because they
were essential other, against whom the English defined themselves.
Anti-Jewish feelings were prominent in the consciousness of the ordinary English playgoer. Antonios
demand that Shylock become a Christian did not necessarily earn unanimous approval from the
original audience. Probably connection with the trial and execution of Ruy Lopez.
That Jews were commonly identified as usurers and financial brokers in early modern England is open
to doubt. The usurer, common figure in the drama of Shakespeares age, is commonly a Christian.
Interpreting a play by what a community at large may have thought about social, ethical or moral issue
has the unfortunate result of making it less interesting, for it implies that the Elizabethan theatre was a
place where dominant ideologies were always confirmed, never subverted or questioned. Actually,
theatre itself was outwith the boundaries of official ideology, at the same time being symbolically
central to its definition.
The Merchant is also about money. Contacts England had with Venice were so long-standing that for many
the myth of Venice must have been supplanted by the reality. Shylock may be based his real-life Venetian
counterparts (also the Christians).
In the 1980s and 1990s, the scope and diversity of theatrical interpretations of The Merchant offered new
ways of understanding the play.
1984. John Caird described Shylock as an unsympathetic figure while at the same time presenting the
Christians as equally, or more, deserving of condemnation.
1984. Ian McDiarmid, sets another point of view of the play, which treats Shylocks as a ghetto victim
and the Christians as a more than usually repulsive set of opportunists. Shylocks wealth and his
daughter represented his internal life. When they were stolen by the Christians, it was as if his identity
and his heart has been stolen.
1987. Bill Alexanders production on the RSC. Antony Sher represented a Shylock speaking in a
Turkish accent. Venetians more viciously hostile than in any productions previously seen at Stratford.
Emphasised homosexual relationship. Antonio was a depressive homosexual and Bassanios
reciprocation did not preclude the thought that their relationship might have been physical as well as
1995. Barry Edelsteins production for the New York Shakespeare Festival. Emphasised gay
relationship and Venetian anti-Semitism. Ron Leibmans Shylock as orthodox, total disregard for the
audience sympathy. (What will you do when there are no more Jews to hate?).
1998. Andrei Serbans for the American Repertory Theatre. Will LeBow played Shylock as a
comedian, mocking bot the Venetians and himself.
Since 1959, modern setting to highlight various aspects of the text, in particular money.
1988. In Peter Zadeks interpretation of the play, subordinated questions of anti-Semitism to an
examination of capitalist morality, placing the action in Wall Street.
1993. David Thacker. Venice was transformed into Londons City. Shylock as financier,
indistinguishable from his Christian counterparts, accepted on the surface, but always omnipresent
prejudice. The loss of Jessica transformed him into the Jew of the anti-Semites imagination.
1994. Peter Sellars. Venice as Venice Beach, California. African-Americans as Shylock, Jessica and
Tubal, Asian-American as Portia and the other Belmont characters, Latinos as the Venetian. Sellars
want to touch the texture of life in contemporary America. Near-universal disapproval from the critics.
1994. Judy Kelly brought gender politics to the fore 90s. Portia as central character, first imprisoned
by her fathers will, then having to battle an insular group of gay men. In this scenario, Shylock was a
victim of the European anti-Semitism.
Two successful productions chose the 1930s for a setting.
1996. Marti Maraden placed the action in this decade, when people you think of as very civilised are
saying thoughtless things about people whom they perceive to be alien. Venice as a wintry (invernale)
place, with an atmosphere of frigidity. By contrast Belmont seemed warm and light, with lovely female
attendants. Douglas Rain as a quiet and refined Shylock. Maraden paralleled the defeat of Shylock
with indications of the increasing hostility Italian Jews suffered at this time. No homosexual
relationship between Bassanio and Antonio was foregrounded.
1999. Trevor Numms production for the Royal National Theatre. The Venetian scenes were mostly
in the centre of a traverse stage. The productions greatest strength was in the quality of the ensemble.
Antonio middle-aged depressive who had long sublimated his secret love for Bassanio into being a self-
absorbed businessman.
The uniform quality of Numms production was most apparent in that the Belmont scenes were as
interesting as those in Venice. Reversal of how the Morocco scenes are usually played, with Portia
desperately hoping he would choose the right casket.
Act I, Scene 1

Antonio, a merchant, is in a melancholic state of mind and unable to find a reason for his depression. His
friends Salerio and Solanio attempt to cheer him up by telling him that he is only worried about his ships
returning safely to port. Antonio, however, denies that he is worried about his ships and remains depressed.
His two friends leave after Bassanio, Graziano and Lorenzo arrive. Graziano and Lorenzo remark that
Antonio does not look well before exiting, leaving Bassanio alone with Antonio.
Bassanio informs Antonio that he has been prodigal with his money and that he currently has accumulated
substantial debts. Bassanio reveals that he has come up with a plan to pay off his obligations by marrying
Portia, a wealthy heiress in Belmont. However, in order to woo Portia, Bassanio needs to borrow enough
money so that he can act like a true nobleman. Antonio tells him that all his money is invested in ships at
sea, but offers to borrow money for him.

1.1.1 7: Antonios sadness, making him in taciturn in contrast to the volubility of his friends, is often
theatrically expressed as a contrast between his stillness and their movement and gestures.
1.1.9: Aragosies: o ragusee, si chiamavano per antonomasia le grandi galee mercantili veneziane, da
Ragusa, il grande porto dalmata, dominio della Serenissima, il cui commercio con lInghilterra era
fiorente al tempo di Shakespeare.
1.1.14: As they fly by them with their woven wings: they are likened to flying birds for their speed
and to rich burghers (borghesi) for the billowing splendour of their appearance.
1.1.10: Signors: from Italian Signoria, a small group of hereditary noblemen who had an important
part in the government of Venice.
1.1.11: Pageants of the sea: corteo marino. Barges (chiatte) in water processions such as were a
feature of Venetian festivals.
1.1.15: Venture: key word of the play.
1.1.18: Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind: in order to toss it in the air and so discover
the direction of the wind.
1.1.27: My wealthy Andrew: San Andrs galleons in Cadiz Harbour. See page 1.
1.1.46: Fie Fie: the break in the metre possibly represents an embarrassed pause.
1.1.50: Two-headed Janus: Roman God with two faces. Shakespeare associates the two faces with the
sad and merry masks of tragedy and comedy.
1.1.53: Laugh like parrots at a bagpiper (cornamusa): la cornamusa era per gli elisabettiani lo
strumento della mestizia, a causa del suo suono lamentoso. Ridere davanti a un suonatore di
cornamusa , figurativamente, fare il contrario di quel che ispira la situazione.
1.1.56: Nestor: Homeric Greek hero, was as often mocked as commended for his age and gravity in
Elizabethan theatre.
1.1.75: They lose it that do buy it with much care: those who take the world too seriously find they
have lost the capacity to enjoy it.
1.178: A stage where every man must play a part: Elizabethan commonplace, it takes fresh life from
its context. Also, motto of the Globe Theatre.
1.1.93: Sir Oracle: Sir as a mock title.
1.1.94: Let no dog bark: possibly figurative, but in a play so much concerned with Jew Shakespeare
may have remembered Exod.
1.1.102: Gudgeon: ghiozzo, simbolo di insulsaggine.
1.1.110: Gear: controversial.
If it is discourse, talk, the phrase means on account of all you said
If Antonio may want to talk privately with Bassanio, matter, affair and the phrase then means for
this once.
1.1.123 133: Difficulty in Bassanios speech from his embarrassment, which renders his language stiff
(rigida) and unidiomatic.
1.1.136: Within the eye of humor: tale che possa essere riguardata come onorevole da qualunque
1.1.139 143: the notion of shooting a second arrow as a means of recovering the first was proverbial.
This is the first recorded use if this notion in English.
1.1.142: Adventuring: if the metre is intentionally irregular, Shakespeare is using it to make Bassanio
sound hesitant. But the irregularity may be sign of foul papers.
1.1.150: Hazard: key word of the play. Linking the choice of caskets with Antonios risks.
1.1.165: Portia: in Julius Caesar, the virtue of the historical Portia. Modello della donna amorosa,
saggia ed eroica.
1.1.168: Sunny locks: riccioli color del sole, non pu che intendersi riccioli biondi, anche se il sole
non un colore.
1.1.169 170: allusione al mito greco di Giasone, sposo della maga Medea, inviato dalla zio Pelia alla
conquista del vello doro nella Colchide.

Act I, Scene 2

Portia, the wealthy heiress, discusses her many suitors with her noblewoman Nerissa. She points out the
faults that each of them has, often stereotyping each suitor according to the country from which he has
arrived (Neapolitan prince, County Palatine, French Lord, Falconbridge, Scottish Lord, German Dukes
nephew). Nerissa, a gentlewoman who works for Portia, asks her if she remembers a soldier who stayed at
Belmont several years before. Portia recalls the man (Bassanio). Portia's servingman then arrives with news
that four of her suitors are leaving, but another, the Prince of Morocco, has arrived.

1.2.1 2: Little body/great world: the antithesis is the familiar Elizabethan one between a human
being as microcosm and the physical universe as macrocosm.
1.2.1: Aweary: Portias melancholy matches Antonios and so serves to link Belmont with Venice.
1.2.15 16: The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps oer a cold decree:
Portias recognition that her choices, like those of any young woman, are more likely to be dictated by
passion than reason has the effect on the audience of making her fathers scheme seem less
1.2.25: These three chests: it may indicate that the caskets are on the stage.
1.2.33: Neapolitan prince: Portias suitors are national stereotypes. The southern Italians were
famous for their horsemanship.
1.2.38: County Palatine: he corresponds to the Elizabethan stereotype of the Spaniard.
1.2.41: Weeping philosopher: Heraclitus of Ephesus, considered a melancholy recluse.
1.2.49: He is every man in no man: French lord Monsieur Le Bon. He imitates everyone and has no
character of his own.
1.2.54: Falconbridge, the young baron of England: Shakespeare took this name from his own King
John in which Falconbridge is the quintessential Englishman.
1.2.60: How oddly he is suited: the eclectic taste of the English was a joke of the age.
1.2.63: Scottish lord: changed to other in the Folio since under James I it was dangerous to satirise
the Scots.
1.2.64 67: allusione alla tradizionale inimicizia che correva al tempo di Shakespeare, tra inglesi e
Scozzesi, con i Francesi sempre pronti a dar man forte a questi ultimi. Un quadro di questa inimicizia
si trova in tutti i drammi storici di Shakespeare, specie nel Riccardo III.
1.2.87: Sibylla: lallusione alla Sibilla cumana che, avendo ricevuto da Apollo, dal quale era stata
amata, il dono di vivere tanti anni per quanti granelli di sabbia potesse contenere un pugno, divenne
tanto vecchia e consunta, che le rest solo la voce.
Shakespeare would have known about her from his reading of Ovids Metamorphoses.
1.2.87: Diana: Goddess of chastity.
1.2.90: I pray God: changed in the Folio to wish because of 1606 Act against profanity in plays.
1.2.93: Marquis of Montferrat: Shakespeare could have picked up this name from Boccaccios
1.2.95: I think so he was called: Portia attempts to cover up her eagerness (impazienza).
1.2.101: The four strangers: probably the scene had been revised to include the Englishman and the
Scot. Such inconsistency is characteristic of foul papers.
1.2.107: Devil: traditionally black. Portia seems about to make some remark about virtue mattering
more than looks.

Act I, Scene 3

Bassanio is engaged in conversation with Shylock, a Jew who makes his living as a moneylender. Bassanio
has asked him for a loan of three thousand ducats, a large sum at the time, for a period of three months. He
further tells Shylock that Antonio will be responsible for repaying the loan. Shylock knows Antonio's
reputation well, and agrees to consider the contract. He asks Bassanio if he may speak with Antonio first,
and Bassanio invites Shylock to dinner. Shylock responds that he will never eat with a Christian.
Antonio arrives at that moment and Bassanio takes him aside. Shylock addresses the audience and informs
them that he despises (disprezza) Antonio. He bears an old grudge against Antonio which is not explained,
but Shylock is further upset that Antonio lends out money without charging interest, thereby lowering the
amount he is able to charge for lending out his own money. Shylock turns to Antonio and tells him why
interest is allowed in the Hebrew faith by quoting a biblical passage in which Jacob receives all the striped
lambs from his father-in-law.
Antonio is upset that Shylock is considering charging him interest on the loan, and asks Shylock to loan the
money without any interest. Shylock offers to seal the bond, without charging interest, but as collateral for
the loan demands a pound of Antonio's flesh. Antonio thinks Shylock is only joking about the pound of
flesh, and is happy to seal the contract.

1.3.1/3/5: Well: many actors have made these lines interrogative, but Shylock is more likely to
responds to Bassanios eagerness with a studied deliberation.
1.3.20: Pirates: pronouncing /pirats/. Piracy reached horrifying proportions in the Adriatic at this
time. The prosaic explanation of a figure of speech is typical of Shylocks individual speech habits.
1.3.27 31: allusione al racconto evangelico di Ges che libera dal demonio i due ossessi: i diavoli,
allordine di uscire dai due corpi e tornare allinferno, chiedono di entrare nel corpo di due porci che
pascolano nei pressi; richiesta che Ges esaudisce. Shylock ebreo, e gli ebrei non mangiano carne di
porco e non credono che Ges sia il Messia figlio di Dio incarnato.
1.3.33: How like a fawning publican he looks: i pubblicani erano in Giudea, al tempo di Ges, gli
incaricati di esigere i tributi per i conquistatori romani; ce nerano di prepotenti e di striscianti
(fawning) per ipocrita finzione, come Shylock pensa sia adesso Antonio.
1.3.37: Usance: Shylock prefers this than say usury.
1.3.38: If I can catch him once upon the hip: verso onomatopeico, gergo della lotta, a disvantaggio.
Hip qualsiasi parte del corpo sporgente su cui il lottatore pu fare la presa, indica dunque una presa
che pone lavversario in svantaggio.
1.3.49: Tubal: by involving him in the deal, Shakespeare shows that the Jews in Venice follow the
injunction of the Book of Deuteronomy (5 of Torah), in lending freely to each other and taking
interest only on non-Jews.
1.3.52: Your worship was the last man in our mouths: Vostra signoria era lultima persona che
avevamo sulla bocca. Shylocks delay in greeting Antonio suggests his fear and revulsion.
1.3.56 57: Antonio has turned abruptly away in distaste from the moneylender.
1.3.63 66: Giacobbe, secondogenito di Isacco e nipote del capostipite Abramo, in grazia della madre
Rebecca compr per un piatto di lenticchie il diritto di primogenitura dal fratello Esa, divenendo
quindi il terzo discendente in linea retta della trib di Abramo, alla quale Shylock, come ebreo,
presume di appartenere.
1.3.83: Venture: speculation.
1.3.89: Note me: Shylock claims attention by this phrase, Antonio turns aside to Bassanio.
1.3.100: Monies: sums of money, often used in Elizabethan English in the singular. Later writers
adopted it as a typical Jewish usage, in imitation of Shylock.
1.3.126: A breed for barren metal of his friends?: an increase in a sum of money, as if it were able to
reproduce. The idea originated with Aristotles play upon Greek word for interest (offspring). The
birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the
1.3.135 136: Kindness: Bassanio use it in a normal sense (135), but for Shylock (136) pun (gioco di
parole) on the meaning natural inclination, which also supplies an ominous overtone to the word.
1.3.142: Equal: exact. This insistence on exactness is to prove Shylocks undoing (rovina).

Act II, Scene 1

The Prince of Morocco meets with Portia and tells her that he is often considered very handsome on
account of his black skin. She tells him that unfortunately she does not have the right to choose the man
who will marry her. Instead, her father created three caskets from among which each suitor must choose.
Portia warns the Prince that if he chooses the wrong casket, he must swear to never propose marriage to a
woman afterwards. The Prince of Morocco agrees to this condition and joins Portia for dinner before
attempting to choose.

2.1.3: Near bred: reared nearby (cresciuto vicino) or closely related. Morocco makes himself
sound both subservient in the courtly-love tradition and super humanly connected with the sun God
2.1.6: Make incision: the image keeps the idea of the flash bond, reverberating in the audience mind.
2.1.7: Reddest: red blood is a traditional sign of courage.
2.1.8: Thee: you, inteso come 2 persona singolare. Moroccos surprising (or foreign) use of
condescending or familiar second person singular is typical of his style.
2.1.14: Nice: over-discriminatory, choosy. Suspect Portia is also using the term to mean fastidious.
2.1.25: That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince: Sophy was the Shah of Persia, but no Shah
defeated in XVI century. Shakespeare has got his facts wrong or he is making Morocco a liar.
A comma after prince (as in Q2), would make both the Sophy and the Persian prince victims.
However Shakespeare was probably more intent on creating dramatic effect than on maintaining
historical accuracy.
2.1.21: Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear: the exploit was proverbial and probably
based on the biblical image of ferocity.
2.1.31: Hercules and Lichas: allusione alla leggenda di Ercole e del suo giovane schiavo Lica. Questi
rec alleroe, da parte della gelosa moglie di lui, Dejanira, una tunica cosparsa di sangue: era il sangue
avvelenato del centauro Nesso, che questi le aveva donato morendo, facendole credere che fosse un
filtro damore. Ercole, indossata la tunica, fu colto da atroci dolori e, credendo si trattasse dun
tradimento di Lica, lo insegu per vendicarsi, ma il giovane mor di spavento.
2.1.35: Alcides: the Greek name for Hercules. The Gods destructive frenzy (frenesia) caused by the
poisoned shirt is likened (paragonato) to the destructive grief which will overwhelm Morocco if he fails
to win Portia.
2.1.43: Nor will not: Either Morocco is agreeing to the condition that, if he chooses amiss, he shall
never court any other lady, o semplicemente non capisce la gravosit della sua scelta.

Act II, Scene 2

Lancelot, referred to as a clown, is the servant to Shylock. He tells the audience that he is thinking about
running away from his master, whom he describes as a devil. However, he cannot make up his mind about
whether to run away or not because his conscience makes him guilty when he thinks about leaving Shylock.
Lancelot's father, and old man named Gobbo, arrives with a basket. He is nearly completely blind and
cannot see Lancelot clearly. Gobbo asks his son which way leads to the Jew's house, meaning Shylock's
house. He mentions that he is searching for his son Lancelot. Lancelot decides to have some fun with his
father, and so he pretends to know a Master Lancelot. He informs Gobbo that "Master Lancelot" is
deceased. Gobbo is clearly upset by this, and Lancelot kneels down in front of him and asks his father for
his blessing. Gobbo at first does not believe that Lancelot is really his son, but then he feels his head and
recognizes him. Lancelot tells his father that he is wasting away serving Shylock and that he will turn into a
Jew himself if he stays there much longer. Gobbo has brought a present for Shylock, but Lancelot instead
convinces his father to give it to Bassanio, whom Lancelot hopes to have as his new master. Bassanio,
coming onto stage at that moment, accepts the gift of doves and tells Lancelot that he may leave Shylock
and join his service. He then orders one of the men to get Lancelot a new uniform to wear, and sends
Lancelot away.
Graziano arrives and tells Bassanio that he wants to join him on the trip to Belmont, where Bassanio plans
to go and woo Portia. Bassanio feels that Graziano is too loud and rude and asks him if he will be able to
act more appropriately. Graziano says that he can, Bassanio then agrees to take him to Belmont.

2.2.2: Fiend: Lancelot imagines himself the central character of a morality play.
2.2.8: Fia: go on. From Italian via.
2.2. 13 14: Smack/grow/taste: all three verbs are used for their sexual overtones.
The verb smack meant to kiss noisily (OE)
The noun smack meant flavour or trait, and by extension, a way with women (OE).
2.2.28: Sand-blind, high gravel-blind: half-blind, from the OE prefix sam-. Sand tradotto in
sabbia, nel contesto potrebbe definire la grana, non sottile come sabbia ma high gravel come ghiaia.
2.2.29: Confusions: nel contesto non significa niente e potrebbe essere un errore da foul paper.
Probabile che fosse conclusions (la frase risulterebbe quindi I will try conclusions: I will
2.2.39: I raise the waters: bring tears to Gobbos eyes.
2.2.49: Father: courteous form of address to an older person (e di modeste condizioni).
2.2.51: Sisters three: Parcae (Parche). In classical mythology, who spun and eventually cut the
threads of peoples lives.
2.2.71: Your child that shall be: possibly an echo of the liturgical formula ascribing glory to God.
2.2.75: Thou: Gobbo now shifts from the respectful you to the familiar thou.
2.2.84 85: I have set up my rest/I will not rest: gioco di parole su rest che nella prima
proposizione (I have set up my rest) sta nel suo significato di ho stabilito un piano e nella seconda
forma verbale di to rest.
2.2.87 88: You may tell every finger I have with my ribs: the traditional stage business of Lancelot
placing his fathers hand on the fingers of his own hand, probably fulfils Shakespeares intention.
2.2.89: Rare new liveries: In Il Pecorone, Giannetto equips his servants with liveries.
2.2.99: Grammercy: conventional polite response, from French grant merci.
2.2.103: Infection: Gobbos mistake for affection meaning desire.
2.2.110. Frutify: probably used for fructify, since Gobbo take this as his cue to produce his gift.
2.2.113: Impertinent: for pertinent.
2.2.121: Preferred: recommended. Question about when this conversation between Bassanio and
Shylock about Lancelot took place. Probably it have happened at the notarys.
2.2.124: Old proverb: The grace of God is gear enough, La grazia di Dio ricchezza sufficiente.
2.2.130: More guarded: una livrea pi bella e decorata. An exaggerated version of the uniform worn
by Bassanios servants, rather than a Fools apparel. This would not preclude his acting as a jester.
2.2.131 40: Per tutto il monologo di Lancelot. Lancelot and his father move upstage towards the
door of Shylocks house, while Bassanio and Leonardo confer downstage. This blocking helps
establish an association of two localities: house and street.
2.2.134: Go to: an expression of impatience. Lancelot, who was only too glad of his fathers help,
now pretends that his father did not think he had a chance of getting the job.
2.2.135: Fifteen Wives: errore nel contare, dovrebbero essere 20 (11 vedove, 9 ragazze).
The sexual adventures in prospect for Lancelot are a parody of his new employers love quest.
2.2.136: Simple coming-in: only a beginning. Probably a second meaning of sexual nature.
2.2.141 145: Bassanio and Leonardo have resumed the conversation they were engaged in at the
2.2.145: Herein: all the early texts give Leonardo an exit here. Shakespeare may have written one
before deciding to telescope the action by bringing on Gratiano.
2.2.151: Thee: Bassanio drops into the familiar second person singular for his admonitions.

Act II, Scene 3

Jessica, the daughter of Shylock, meets with Lancelot and tells him that she will miss him after he leaves to
go work for Bassanio. She hands him a letter to take to Lorenzo, who is supposed to be a guest of
Bassanio's that night. After Lancelot leaves, Jessica informs the audience that she is in love with Lorenzo, a
Christian. She intends to meet him soon and run away from her father's house in order to marry him.

2.3.10: Adieu: a high-flown word, unlike Jessicas farewell.

2.3.10: Tears exhibit my tongue: in mistake for inhibit, we cannot be sure this is not intentional.
Lancelot vuol dire tears inhibit my tongue, ma seguita a spropositare, a meno che, come intendono
alcuni curatori, le lacrime si esibiscono nel senso di parlano in luogo della lingua.
2.3.10: Most beautiful pagan: Jessica pagana perch ebrea, ma pagan detto di una donna
spregiativo. Lancelot non vuol offendere lonore della sua padroncina. Nella sua foga della
commozione per il commiato, egli usa questespressione un po ardita.
2.3.11: If a Christian do not play the knave and get thee: verso fortemente contestato perch nel 2F
vi did not play in luogo del do not play del Q2. Intendendo get thee (averti Q2) per beget thee
(generarti - Folio), il senso cambia radicalmente giacch il cristiano sarebbe non riferito a Lorenzo ma
ad un supposto vero padre di Jessica il quale avrebbe insidiato la moglie di Shylock. In sostanza nel
Q2, Lancelot direbbe sarei deluso se a generarti non fosse stato un cristiano.
Act II, Scene 4

Lorenzo, Graziano, Salerio and Solanio are preparing for a masque that night. Lancelot arrives with the
letter from Jessica and hands it to Lorenzo. Lorenzo reads it and tells Lancelot to inform Jessica that he will
not fail her. Lancelot leaves to bring the news to Jessica, and also to invite Shylock to Bassanios house for
dinner. After the other two men leave, Lorenzo shows Graziano the letter from Jessica. He tells his friend
that he and Jessica plan to steal away from her father's house that night, along with a great deal of her
father's gold and jewels.

2.4.1: Slink away: la masque serale era uso comune in et elisabettiana. The Elizabethan masque
involved a spectacular entry, with music and torches, into a great hall. After parading around, the
masquers led the ladies of the house in to the dance floor.
2.4.5: Spoke us: probably confusion, from us to as in Shakespeares handwriting.
2.4.6: Quaintly ordered: skilfully organised. Shakespeare the man of the theatre speaks through
2.4.7: Undertook: an Elizabethan use of the past tense for the past participle.
2.4.22: Torchbearer: Jessica.

Act II, Scene 5

Shylock informs Lancelot that he will have to judge for himself whether Bassanio is a better master. He
then calls Jessica, hands her the keys to the house, and tells her that he must leave for dinner that evening.
Lancelot tells Shylock that there will likely be a masque that night. At this news, Shylock orders Jessica to
lock up the house and not look out the windows. As Shylock gets ready to depart, Lancelot privately tells
Jessica that Lorenzo will come for her that night. She is grateful for the message, and after Shylock leaves
she comments that, "I have a father, you a daughter lost".

2.5.18: I did dream of money bags: dreams were supposed to go by opposites, so Shylock is afraid
he is going to lose money.
2.5.20: Reproach: Lancelot probabilmente sbaglia reproach (rimprovero), per approach (arrivo).
2.5.22: Conspired: Lancelot vuol dire, verosimilmente, combined.
2.5.24: Nose fell a-bleeding: a lot of Elizabethan allusion on this ill omen (malaugurio). Lancelots
prognostications mock Shylocks dream about the moneybags.
2.5.29: Wry-necked fife: piffero traverso con bocchino a forma di becco di uccello.
2.5.35: Jacobs staff: Through not a Jewish expression, this recalls Shylocks admiration for Jacobs
2.5.41: Jews eye: old genitive in this phrase. The source of this expression is more likely to be
biblical (eye for an eye) than from stories of medieval atrocities against Jews.
2.5.42: Hagars offspring: Shylock considers Lancelot descendant of the Egyptian bondwoman
Hagar, because as him, she fled from Abrahams house complaining of harsh treatment.
2.5.49: Go in: Shylock is hesitating anxiously at the door. The door key becomes an important stage
2.5.52: Fast bind, fast find: very common proverb form the XV century onwards.

Act II, Scene 6

Salerio and Graziano are part of the masquers partying through the street of Venice. They stop and wait for
Lorenzo, who has asked them to meet him at a certain spot. Lorenzo arrives and thanks them for their
patience. He then calls out to Jessica, who appears in the window of Shylock's house dressed as a man.
She throws out a casket to Lorenzo filled with much of her father's gold and jewels. Jessica then goes back
inside and steals even more ducats before joining the men on the street.
Everyone departs except for Bassanio, who unexpectedly meets Antonio. Antonio tells him to get to the
ship heading for Belmont, because the wind has started blowing the right way and the ship is ready to

2.6.1: Penthouse: portico. A projecting upper storey (piano). Gratiano may indicate either the slightly
projecting gallery above the stage doors or the whole stage roof, which could have supported the upper
storey of the tiring-house.
2.6.6: Venus pigeons: the doves drawing Venuss chariot (carro).
2.6.17 - 20: Strumpet wind: the repetition, a rhetorical figure called epistrophe, throws into relief the
contrast of hugged and embraced with lean, rent, and beggared.
2.6.26: My father Jew: future father-in-law, probably used sarcastically. Lorenzo si accinge a rubare
Jessica al padre, perci si paragona a un ladro.
2.6.44 45: Tis and office of discovery, love, and I should be obscured: the torchbearers figure is
to show up what is happening.
2.6.51: Moe: modernised to moe in F, but originally a distinct word meaning more in number.
2.6.52: By my hood: an emphatic phrase, no specific meaning. Graziano per si suppone indossi un
2.6.59: On, gentlemen, away!: Jessica makes impressive entry in her pages costume, causing
Lorenzo laughingly to address her as Gentleman, as he hands her the torch and they go out together.
2.6.61 69: It is surprising that Antonio should act as Bassanios messenger, but perhaps his
appearance is needed here to make clear that he knows nothing about the elopement.

Act II, Scene 7

The Prince of Morocco is brought into a room containing three caskets, gold, silver and lead. Portia tells
him to make his choice. The Prince reads the inscriptions on all the caskets. Gold Who chooseth me shall
gain what many men desire, silver Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves, lead Who
chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.
Portia tells the Prince that the correct casket, or the one that will allow him to marry her, contains a
miniature picture of her likeness. The Prince looks over all the inscriptions a second time, and decides that
lead is too threatening and not worth risking anything for. He also spurns the silver, which he feels is too
base a metal to hold such a beautiful woman as Portia. The Prince therefore chooses gold.
Portia hands him the key, and he opens the casket to reveal a golden skull. The skull holds a written scroll
that poetically indicates that he chose superficially. The Prince departs after a hasty farewell, while Portia
watches him go.

2.7.34: I do deserve: theres no need to add her. This intransitive form of the verb, meaning am
worthy, accords with Moroccos liking for the language of courtly love.
2.7.43 - 47: Fair Portia: this use of the rhetorical figure of epistrophe contributes to his rhapsodic
2.7.44: Watery kingdom: Neptunes realm of the sea, rhetorically contrasted with the land masses of
Hyrcanian and Arabia. Not a reference to Spain.
2.7.57: Thats insculped upon: engraved (inciso). The word occurs nowhere else in Shakespeare so
its use here has been traced to a possible source of the casket story.
2.7.65: All that glisters and not gold: proverbial more familiar today, with the synonymous glitters
rather than glister.
2.7.75: Then farewell heat, and welcome frost: Morocco deliberately, inverts the saying farewell and
frost, giving space for Portias words.

Act II, Scene 8

Salerio and Solanio meet in the street and discuss the hasty departure of Bassanio and Graziano for
Belmont. They further tell the audience that Shylock returned home and discovered his daughter had run
away with Lorenzo. Shylock then woke up the Duke of Venice and tried to stop Bassanio's ship, which had
already set sail. Antonio assured Shylock that Jessica was not on board the ship, but rather had been seen in
a gondola with Lorenzo. However, Shylock continues to blame Antonio for the loss of his daughter and his
Solanio informs Salerio that Shylock was later seen in the streets crying. Solanio is worried about Antonio,
whom he says had better repay his bond with Shylock on time, because Shylock is furious. Salerio indicates
that a Frenchman mentioned a Venetian vessel had sunk in the English Channel the day before. Both men
hope that it is not Antonio's ship.

2.8.1 11: This makes clear to the audience that Antonio and Bassanio can in no way be held
responsible for Jessicas abduction.
2.8.8: Gondola: the capital letter and the uncertain spelling suggests that the word was unfamiliar to
the compositors.
2.8.23 24: mockery. Stones can mean testicles and coins often imply semen.
2.8.40: Slubber: Q2 and F substitutes this word for Q1s slumber. Probable misreading by the
compositor of Shakespeares manuscript.

Act II, Scene 9

The Prince of Arragon arrives in Belmont and decides to choose from among the three caskets. Portia
takes him into the room and makes him recite the oath never to reveal which casket he chooses, and further
to promise never to marry should he choose the incorrect casket. The Prince of Arragon agrees and starts
to read the inscriptions. He rejects lead because of the ominous warning, and thinks that gold refers to the
foolish populace. Instead he chooses silver which indicates he will receive what he deserves. The Prince
takes the key and opens the casket to reveal a blinking idiot. The scroll indicates that those who are self-
loving deserve to be called idiots, and would not make good husbands for Portia. The Prince is upset by his
choice, but is forced to leave.
Portia is happy that the Prince has chosen the wrong casket. Her messenger comes into the room at that
moment and informs her that a young Venetian has just arrived. Portia goes to see who it is, while Nerissa
secretly wishes that it might be Bassanio.

2.9.27: Martlet: another name for swift (rondone), but probably Shakespeare meant the house
2.9.46: True seed: the image suggests progeny and succession, as well as being an echo of the
parable of the good seed.
2.9.48: Varnished: it blends the meaning of polished and newly painted.
2.9.51: Unlock: either imperative, because the proud prince expects a menial to open the casket for
him, or optative let my destiny be revealed.
2.9.54: Schedule: written scroll (original meaning of the word).
2.9.60 -61: To offend and judge are distinct offices, and of opposites nature: Portia has been the
indirect cause of offence to Arragon, so it would be improper for her to judge his case. More likely to
be courteous than censorious, as it would be if she meant Arragon was the offender.
2.9.68: Silvered oer: allusion to the silver ornamentation of court officials dress rather than to grey
2.9.70: I will ever be your head: you will always be a fool.
2.9.71: sped: ambiguous slang term.
2.9.76/77/78: Oath/wroth/moth: mere eye-rhyme, but pointless in the theatre.
2.9.84: My lord: this kind of riposte, used by several characters in Elizabethan drama, was a verbal
trick of the time. Perhaps we are to note that Portia is still thinking of a husband.
2.9.86: Young Venetian: Presumably Gratiano is making himself of service.

Act III, Scene 1

Solanio and Salerio discuss the rumour that Antonio has lost yet a second ship. Shylock enters and
complains that both Solanio and Salerio had something to do with his daughter's flight. They do not deny it,
but instead ask Shylock if he has heard about Antonio's losses. Shylock tells them that Antonio should look
to his bond and make sure he repays the money, or else Shylock is planning on taking his pound of flesh.
Shylock is furious with Antonio, whom he blames for the loss of Jessica, and also bears an older grudge
against the man. He then delivers his famous soliloquy. The speech concludes with Shylock saying that he
will be revenged for all the times he has been treated badly by Christians.
One of Antonio's servants arrives and bids Solanio and Salerio to go to Antonio's house. They leave, and
Tubal, another Jew, arrives to speak with Shylock. Tubal has been in Genoa, where he tried to locate
Jessica. He tells Shylock that Jessica had been in the city, and had spent over eighty ducats while there. She
had also traded a turquoise ring for a monkey, a ring which Shylock regrets losing because he had received
it from his wife Leah. However, Tubal also brings Shylock news that Antonio has lost yet a third ship, and is
almost certain to go bankrupt in the near future. Shylock is excited by this news, since he has decided that
he would rather exact revenge on Antonio than receive his three thousand ducats back.

3.1.3: The Goodwins: the Goodwin Sands off the Kent coast reached six miles out into the Channel
and were a byword for danger. The name has great dramatic effect, though in fact many Venetian ships
did not have to brave the Sands.
3.1.5: Gossip: originally meant a fellow godparent, and by extension, a good friend.
3.1.8: Giger: zenzero. Associated with old women.
3.1.27: If the devil may be the judge: only the devil (perhaps identified with Shylock), would damn
Jessica for such a good deed.
3.1.29: Rebels it at these years?: Solanio wilfully pretends Shylock is speaking literally of an erection.
3.1.33: Red wine and Rhenish: a contrast between crudeness and refinement, like that between
cheap table wine and a fine one. Rhenish wine is white.
3.1.47: Affections, passions: Elizabethan psychology distinguished between affection (inclinations of
the senses) and passion (feelings believed to originate from the heart).
3.1.49 50: Warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer: Shylocks second use of the
rhetorical figure chiasmus, or crossed antithesis.
3.1.62: Tubals entry (3.1.60) is repeated here in Q1. Shakespeare may have failed to cross out his
entry after he had inserted a passage containing an entry for Tubal.
3.1.67: Curse: probably Christs prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.
3.1.72: Why so?: the actor who plays Shylock has the choice of making this an exclamation, a
question or a kind of deliberation.
3.1.95: Torturest: the truth of this accusation has to be decided by actor and director. Tubal can be
played as a business rival now getting his own back on Shylock or he may simply be feeding Shylocks
anger because his hatred of Antonio.
3.1.95: Turquoise: hypothesis that the turquoise was an eastern talisman which Jessica deliberately
parted with because, in the west, it was held to cause sterility.
3.1.102: Synagogue: in Elizabethans contemporaneity it was a formal oath.

Act III, Scene 2

Portia tells Bassanio that she wants him to wait a month or two before choosing from the caskets so that she
may be guaranteed his company for a while longer. Bassanio tells her that he is desperate to choose, and
feels like he is being tortured the longer he waits. Portia finally agrees to take him into the room with the
She orders music to be played for Bassanio, and one of her servants starts to sing a song in which the
rhymes all rhyme with lead. Bassanio speaks directly to the audience and tells them that too many things are
gilded and coated with ornaments. He therefore decides to do away with gold, comparing it to Midas' greed.
The silver casket he also ignores, saying it resembles money and is therefore too common. He thus chooses
the lead casket and finds Portia's picture inside. He then takes the scroll and reads it, then goes over to
Portia with the note, and she offers him everything she owns, including herself. Portia then hands Bassanio
a ring as a token of her love and commitment and tells him never to lose it. He promises, telling her that if
he ever stops wearing the ring it will be because he is dead.
Graziano then informs them that he would like to be married as well. He tells Bassanio and Portia that he
and Nerissa are in love. Bassanio is thrilled for his friend and agrees to let them get married as well.
Jessica, Lorenzo and Salerio arrive at Belmont. Bassanio is happy to see all of them, but Salerio then hands
him a letter from Antonio. Bassanio turns pale at the news that Antonio has lost his fortune and his ships,
and he asks Salerio if it is true that all of Antonio's ventures have failed. Salerio tells him it is true, and that
Shylock is so excited about getting his pound of flesh that even if Antonio could repay him he would likely
refuse it. Portia asks what amount of money Antonio owes to Shylock, and then orders Bassanio to return
to Venice and offer Shylock six thousand ducats to destroy the contract. She informs Bassanio and
Graziano that she and Nerissa will live like widows in their absence. They all agree to get married first and
then go straight to Venice to rescue Antonio.

3.2.4 6: the tightrope act of all the willing but modest heroines in Shakespeares middle comedies.
3.2.7 10: Portia is saying that she would like to keep Bassanio with her so that he might come to
know her feelings, even though she cannot express them openly.
3.2.14: Beshrew: affectionate imprecation.
3.2.16 18: it might be that Portia is deliberately being witty (spiritosa).
3.2.18: Naughty: this word, basically meaning worthless, is much stronger in Elizabethan than in
modern English.
3.2.21: Let Fortune go to hell for it, not I: let fortune go to hell for robbing you of your just due, not
I violating my oath. Fortune is often conceived as the power that bestows the destiny.
3.2.33: Where men enforced do speak anything: connected with Ruy Lopez, whose trial may have
been in Shakespeares mind when he wrote the play. He had been forced to confess to avoid to been
racked (tormentato).
3.2.43: Let music sound: it is theatrically most effective if the music begins here as an
accomplishment to Portias evocation of a romance atmosphere. But music only at 3.2.65.
3.2.50: New-crowned: though there had been no coronation since 1559, Shakespeare would have
been familiar with the ceremonial of stage coronation and would have heard talk of Henry IVs
crowning in Paris in 1594.
3.2.66: Reply, reply: printed in the right of the page in Q1, Q2 and F. Probably a direction of the
rest of the song to be sung as an answer to the opening question.
3.2.76: Seasoned: made acceptable. The Elizabethans used seasoning, or spices, to mask the taste of
long-kept food.
3.2.86: Livers white as milk: the liver was believed to be the seat of courage, so a white liver was the
badge of pusillanimity.
2.3.99: Indian beauty: the Elizabethan dislike of a dark skin made this a rhetorical figure, oxymoron
(contradiction in terms).
3.2.106: Paleness: pale as lead, common expression in Elizabethan writings.
3.2.111: O love, be moderate, allay thy ecstasy: Portias feelings overflow into an alexandrine (12-
syllabe line).
3.2.122: A golden mesh: this conceit, which may have originated with Petrarch, is used extensively in
Spencers sonnets and occurs also in those of Sidney.
3.2.124 126: the underlying conceit is that of the ladys eyes as a sun which blinds her lover by its
3.2.126: Unfurnished: without a companion. Considered also unfinished correct.
3.2.158: I sum of something: in F nothing obscures the gentleness of Portias self-deprecation.
3.2.165: Her lord, her governor, her king: le donne dovevano sottomettersi al proprio uomo come
avrebbero fatto con il loro sovrano.
3.2.191: I am sure you can wish none from me: nothing you desire for yourselves can lessen my joy
(because I have found a comparable happiness). Idea of happiness to spare for all four lovers.
3.2.199 200: You loved, I loved; for intermission / No more pertains to me, my lord, than you:
Q1, Q2 and F have no stop after loved and a comma after intermission.
3.2.215: Stake down: depositare la somma della scommessa. Money laid on the table to cover a bet.
3.2.236: Cheer: to welcome. Shakespeare does not necessarily imply that Portias attendants have
cold-shouldered Jessica. All attention has been fixed with Salerio.
3.2.238: Royal merchant: a form of superlative.
3.2.245: Turn so much the constitution: disturb in mind and body. A constant constitution was
thought to consist of a stable and harmonious mixture of the humours.
3.2.267: Mexico: near-impossibility of a rea life merchant of Venice trading with Mexico.
3.2.277: Impeach: discredit, perhaps with the rather stronger implication of accuse on the state of
treason in disobeying its on laws.
3.2.284: To Tubal and to Chus: Shakespeare must have pick these names up in his reading of the
Book of Genesis. They are different from Shylock. The Jews believed themselves to be descended
from Noahs eldest son, Shem, whereas Tubal and Chus were the sons of Shems brothers.
3.2.296 297: Bassanios embarrassment account for the break in the metre. The quickness of
Portias reply restores it.
3.2.312: Since you are dear brought: the indelicacy of Portia telling Bassanio that he is costing her a
lot of money has trouble critics. Some suggest that the expression means he is costly to Antonio (rather
than Portia).

Act III, Scene 3

Shylock has come to watch Antonio be taken away by a jailer. Antonio pleads with Shylock to listen to him,
but Shylock refuses to listen to any of the pleas for mercy. After Shylock departs, Antonio tells Solanio that
Shylock hates him because he used to loan money to men who were in debt to Shylock, thus preventing
Shylock from collecting the forfeiture. Antonio is prepared to pay his "bloody creditor" the next day in
court, but prays that Bassanio will arrive in time to watch him die.

3.3.8 10: there may be a suggestion that Antonio is being treated by the authorities with uncommon
3.3.24: Therefore he hates me: Shakespeare may be emphasising that Shylock is motivated by
commercial jealousy rather than by racial hatred, and that the feeling is of long standing and does not
just date from Jessicas disappearance.

Act III, Scene 4

Portia and Nerissa, worried about their new husbands, tell Lorenzo that they are going to stay at a local
monastery for a few days in order to pray. After Lorenzo and Jessica leave, Portia sends her servant
Balthasar to her cousin Doctor Bellario with instructions that Balthasar should bring anything Bellario gives
him to Venice. Portia then informs Nerissa that they are going to dress up as men and go to Venice in order
to help their husbands.

3.4.3: Good-like amity: the phrase catches the exalted tone of much Renaissance writing on male
3.4.7: Lover of my lord: lover can be used of a friend in Elizabethan English.
3.4. 21: From out the state of hellish cruelty: the state to which the diabolical cruelty of Shylock has
reduced him.
3.4.45: Now, Balthazar - : the broken line gives time for Lorenzo and Jessica to leave and for
Balthazar to come downstage.
3.4.49: Padua: Mantua in Q1, Q2 and F, but there are three later allusion to Bellario being in
Padua. Shakespeare may have written Mantua before he remembered that there was a renowned
school of civil war at Padua. Or the printer may just have misread the copy.
3.4.53: Traject: possible Anglicisation of traghetto.
3.4.78: Why, shall we turn to men?: doppio senso lubrico. La frase to turn to men pu intendersi
trasformarci in uomini ma anche concedersi ad uomini. Nel primo senso lintende Nerissa, nel
secondo finge dintenderla Porzia.

Act III, Scene 5

Lancelot and Jessica are in an argument over whether she can be saved by God since she was born a Jew.
Lancelot tells her that since both her parents are Jews, she is damned. She protests that she can be saved
once she becomes a Christian because her husband Lorenzo is a Christian. Lancelot then makes a joke,
and says that Lorenzo is a bad man because by converting all the Jews he is raising the price of pork (since
Jews do not eat pork, but Christians do). Lorenzo then arrives and orders Lancelot to go inside and prepare
the table for dinner. He and Jessica praise Portia for being such a wonderful hostess before entering the
house to get their dinner.

3.5.1 2: The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children: Shakespeare recalls the wording of
the Second Commandment.
3.5.3: Agitation: in error for cogitation (contemplazione).
3.5.13: I shun Scylla your father, I fall into Charybdis your mother: Ulysses had to sail between the
monster Scylla and the whirlpool (mulinello) of Charybdis in the narrow seas that separate Italy and
3.5.13: Fall into: bawdy sense, enter sexually.
3.5.16: Enow: in Elizabethan English, enough is use of quantity and enow of numbers.
3.5.31: Moor: black attendant, unica occasione in cui la si sente nominare. A slave girl presented by
Morocco would make a partner for Lancelot in the final scene, through the time scheme of their affair
does not bear scrutiny.
3.5.33 34: It is much that the Moor should be more than reason; but / if she be lest than the honest
woman, she is more than I took her for: gioco di parole sullomofonia di Moore e la preposizione
more che in Elizabethan English avevano pronuncia praticamente uguale.
3.5.52: Humours and conceits: humours are of physiological origin, conceits are mental acts.
3.5.75: Let me praise you while I have a stomach: now Jessica is witsnapping, with a play on the
meanings inclination and appetite.

Act IV, Scene 1

Antonio is brought before the Duke and the magnificoes of Venice to stand trial for failing to pay off his
obligation to Shylock. The Duke is upset about the penalty, a pound of Antonio's flesh, but cannot find any
lawful way of freeing Antonio from his bond. Shylock enters the court and the Duke tells him that all of the
men gathered there expect him to pardon Antonio and forgive the debt. Shylock replies that he has already
sworn by his Sabbath that he will take his pound of flesh from Antonio. Bassanio then comes forward and
offers Shylock the six thousand ducats as repayment for the loan. Shylock tells him that even if there were
six times as much money offered to him, he would not take it. The Duke asks Shylock why he has no
mercy, and he responds that he is doing nothing wrong, and compares his contract with Antonio to the
Christian slave trade. He tells the Duke that he does not demand that the Christians should free their slaves,
and therefore the Christians should not demand that he free Antonio.
The Duke threatens to dismiss the court without settling the suit brought by Shylock if Doctor Bellario fails
to arrive. Salerio tells him that a messenger has just come from Bellario, and Nerissa enters dressed as a
man and informs the Duke that Bellario has sent a letter to him. Shylock whets his knife on his shoe,
confident that he will receive his pound of flesh. The letter from Bellario recommends a young and
educated doctor to arbitrate the case. The Duke asks where the young doctor is, and Nerissa tells him that
he is waiting outside to be admitted into the court. The Duke orders him to be brought in, and Portia enters
dressed as a man, pretending to be a doctor named Balthazar.
Portia tells the Duke that she has thoroughly studied the case and then asks, "Which is the merchant here,
and which the Jew?" (4.1.169). Antonio and Shylock both step forward, and Portia asks Antonio if he
confesses to signing the contract. He does, and Portia then says that Shylock therefore must be merciful.
She delivers a short speech on mercy, but Shylock ignores it and demands the contract be fulfilled. Portia
then asks if no one has been able to repay the amount, but since Shylock has refused the money there is
nothing she can do to make him take it. She comments that she must therefore side with Shylock.
Portia rules that Shylock has the right to claim a pound of flesh from next to Antonio's heart according to
the bond. Antonio's bosom is laid bare and Shylock gets ready to cut. Portia asks him if he has a surgeon
ready to stop the bleeding once he has taken his pound of flesh. Just as Shylock is about to start cutting
again, Portia says that the bond does not give him permission to shed Antonio's blood. The laws of Venice
are such that if any Venetian's blood is shed, all the goods and lands of the perpetrator may be confiscated
by the state. Shylock realizes that he cannot cut the flesh without drawing blood, and instead agrees to take
the money instead. However, Portia is not willing to back down and instead only gives him the pound of
flesh, further saying that if he takes a tiny bit more or less he will be put to death himself. Shylock, unable to
comply with this stipulation, decides to withdraw his case.
Portia tells Shylock to remain in the court. She says that Venice has a further law which says that if any
foreigner tries to kill a Venetian, the foreigner will have half of his property go to the Venetian against whom
he plotted, and the state will receive the other half. In addition, the life of the foreigner will be in the hands
of the Duke, who may decide to do whatever he wants to. Shylock is forced to kneel on the ground before
the court, but the Duke pardons his life before he can beg for mercy. Antonio intervenes on Shylock's
behalf, and asks the Duke to allow Shylock to keep half of his wealth. He further offers to take care of the
half he was awarded as a form of inheritance for Jessica and Lorenzo. The only requirements Antonio puts
on his offer are that Shylock must convert and become a Christian, and further that he must give everything
he owns to Lorenzo upon his death.
Shylock, wretched and having lost everything he owns, tells the court that he is content to accept these
conditions. The Duke leaves and tells Antonio to thank the young doctor who has saved his life. Bassanio
and Graziano go to Portia and thank her profusely, and Bassanio offers the young doctor anything he wants.
Portia decides to test her husband's trustworthiness, and asks him for the engagement ring, the ring which
she made him vow never to part with. He refuses, and Portia and Nerissa leave. However, at Antonio's
urging, Bassanio takes off the ring and gives it to Graziano, telling him to take it to Portia and invite her to
dinner that night at Antonio's.

4.1.6: From: used in place of of for euphony. Prepositions were more variable then than now.
4.1.8: Obdrate: stressed on the second syllable.
4.1.16: Make room and let him stand before our face: this line indicates Shylocks effective entry
through the group of Antonios fiends to an isolated position confronting them.
4.1.20 21: Strange/strange: the first means remarkable, the second abnormal.
4.1.32: Turks and Tartars: classed with Jews as infidels.
4.1.63: Sabaoth: by using this word Shakespeare is able to give Shylocks words religious fervour
without himself appearing profane. Elizabethans seem to have taken it to mean heavenly repose and
thought it was the same word as Sabbath.
4.1.37: The due and the forfeit: Shylock uses for emphasis the rhetorical figure called hendiadys two
linked nouns in place of a noun and modifier.
4.1.39: Upon your charter and your citys freedom!: the terms belong to an English city granted
privileges by a feudal monarch, rather than to the independent republic of Venice. Shakespeare
involves his audience by blending the familiar with the exotic.
4.1.65 69: this line-by-line exchange is the rhetorical device of stichomythia, which the Elizabethans
imitated from Senecas tragedies. It is especially appropriate here as it catches the dramatic tension of a
quasi-forensic interrogation.
4.1.73 74: You may as well use question with the wolf / Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the
lamb: allusion to Ruy Lopez (lupus=wolf). Image from Virgils Aeneid.
4.1.74: Bleat: belare. Bleake in Q1 and Q2, Somerset dialect.
4.1.90 93: Shakespeare, nel mettere in bocca a Shylock questa parole, mostra di sapere che a
Venezia ancora alla fine del XVI secolo esisteva ancora la schiavit (Slavs, Tartars, Moors, Africans)
malgrado le severe pene comminate dagli statuti della Serenissima ai mercanti di carne umana.
4.1.114: I am a tainted wether of the lock: castrated ram (montone). Antonio may mean he is
expendable because he has no family on his own.
4.1.123: Not only thy sole, but on thy soul: Shylock is stropping is knife on the sole of his shoe.
4.1.128: Inexecrable: F4 emends to inexorable, but inexecrable, meaning that cannot be
execrated enough, applies better to a dog rather than a does inexorable, and Shakespeares
expression appears to be imitated as execrable dog.
4.1.130 131: Graziano knows that theologians consider Pythagorass doctrine of the transmigration
of souls to be a heresy.
4.1.134: Wolf: usurers were often called wolves. The wolf is an emblem of Envy in XVI-century
literature, and a predatory animals executed in Europe till the late XVII century. In views of these
facts, a specific reference is unlikely here.
4.1.150 162: Bellarios letter. No implied that the letter is read out by a clerk and not by the Duke.
4.1.153: Balthazar: Shakespeare uses this name for four other characters, which makes it unlikely
that it was chosen here to echo Beltashazzar. Kyds The Spanish Tragedy is more likely source, but in
any case Baldessarro is a common Italian name.
4.1.161: Trial: either the proceedings over which Balthazar will preside, or the test to which his
reputation will be put.
4.1.166: Take your place: it is difficult to see what this is. Perhaps the Duke indicates a place beside
him on a wide judgement seat, like a magistrates traditional bench. But the actress of Portia is likely to
want to keep her freedom of movement on the open stage.
4.1.176: You stand within his danger: at his mercy. Merchant explains it as coming from the legal
French phrase en son danger.
4.1.178 179: Must/must: Portias must expresses a moral imperative. Shylocks, external coercion.
4.1.193 198: Through Portias arguments may remind Venetian Christians of the Lords Prayer, they
have a specifically Hebrew resonance as well.
4.1.216: Recorder for a precedent: Shakespeare is thinking in terms of English law, which is based
on previously cases rather than on a code. Equity courts however were not originally bound by
4.1.219: Daniel: in the Apocryphas story of Susannah and the Elders, Daniel is the young child who
makes sure that the lying elders are convicted out of their own mouths. The story was familiar in XVI-
century art and literature.
4.1.251: Balance: treated as plural in order to avoid an excess of sibilants and because the object
itself is double.
4.1.268: Oh such misery: Shakespeare nowhere stresses misery on the second syllable so F2
regularises the metre by reading a misery.
4.1.277: Ill pay it instantly with all my heart: Antonio points out that such witty nonchalance, or
spezzatura, was a virtue of the Renaissance gentleman.
4.1.292: Barabbas: stressed on the first syllable, as in Marlowes The Jew of Malta. At the crowds
demand, Pilate released Barabbas, who was a thief, rather than Jesus. Shylock would rather his
daughter had married a Jewish thief than a Christian such as Lorenzo.
4.1.307: Confiscate: word such as this, which were derived from Latin past participles, were treated
as participial adjectives in Elizabethan English and so did not take the d ending.
4.1.310: Is this the law?: the stage business of letting knife and scales fall to the ground at this point,
favoured by some XIX-century actors, was finally abandoned by Irving in 1884.
4.1.324 326: In the substance / Or the division of the twentieth part / Of one poor scruple: the
scruple was an apothecarys measure, weighing a little over one gram, and the twentieth part of this,
called a grain, was 65 milligrams.
4.1.352: Of the Duke only, gainst all over voice: without appeal. This may indicate that the limitless
powers of a stage Duke were know by Shakespeare not to be enjoyed by the Doge of Venice.
4.1.369: Ay, for the state, not for Antonio: Portias interpolation makes it clear that the Duke is
speaking of the states share of Shylocks property, not of Antonios share.
4.1.370 373: Shylocks response. Echo of The Jew of Malta.
4.1.379: The other half in use: the other half in trust. Antonio is offering, provided the state, on its
part, exact nothing from Shylock, to administer in a productive way the half of Shylocks fortune to
which he is entitled, and to make it over on Shylocks death to Lorenzo and Jessica.
Use need no imply usury, but the choice of the word here is disturbing.
4.1.394 395: In christening shalt thou have two godfathers: / Had I been judge, thou shouldst have
had ten more: to bring number up to twelve means create a jury.
4.1.403: The exit of the Duke and his brief conversation with Balthazar, helps relax the tension of the
scene and so prepares us for a change of mood.
4.1.417: Dear Sir: Bassanio now runs after Portia, the ensuing (happen or occur afterward or as a
result) dialog gains its effect from the audience knowing they are husband and wife.
Act IV, Scene 2

Portia gives Nerissa the deed by which Shylock will pass his inheritance to Lorenzo. She tells Nerissa to
take it to Shylock's house and make him sign it. At the moment Graziano catches up with the two women
and gives the ring to Portia. She is surprised that Bassanio parted with it after all, and Nerissa decides to test
Graziano in the same way. Nerissa takes the deed and asks Graziano to show her the way to Shylock's

Act V, Scene 1

Lorenzo and Jessica, still at Belmont, sit outside and enjoy the night. They compare the night to the stories
of Troilus and Cressida, Pyramus and Thisbe, and Dido and Aeneus, and then extend the analogy to their
own love affair. They are interrupted by Stefano, who tells them that Portia is returning home with Nerissa.
Lancelot then arrives and informs Lorenzo that Bassanio will also be back by morning. Both Lorenzo and
Jessica return to the house and listen to music.
Portia and Nerissa, dressed as themselves again, return home and enter the building. Lorenzo recognizes
Portia's voice and comes to greet her. She orders the servants to pretend as if she had never left, and asks
Lorenzo and Jessica to do the same. Soon thereafter Bassanio, Graziano and Antonio arrive.
Nerissa demands that Graziano show her the ring he gave away to Portia's "clerk" in Venice. They start to
argue over it, with Graziano defending his action as a form of kindness for Antonio. Portia overhears them
and pretends to "discover" what happened. She then demands that Bassanio show her his ring, which he of
course cannot do. Portia and Nerissa then berate their husbands for giving away the rings, and even tell
them that they would prefer to sleep with the doctor and his clerk rather than with their unfaithful
Antonio offers his assurance that neither Bassanio nor Graziano will ever give away their wives' gifts again.
Portia thanks him and asks him to give Bassanio another ring to keep. Bassanio looks at the ring and
recognizes it as being the same ring he gave away. Portia then tells him that the doctor came back to
Belmont and slept with her. Bassanio is amazed and does not know how to respond.
Portia finally clears up the confusion by informing Bassanio that she and Nerissa were the doctor and the
clerk. She further has good news for Antonio, namely a letter that indicates that three of his ships arrived in
port safely. Nerissa then hands Lorenzo the deed from Shylock in which he inherits everything after
Shylock dies. The play ends with Graziano promising to forever keep Nerissa's ring safe.

5.1.4: Troilus: a memory of Troilus and Criseyde.

In the stanza beginning line 645, Troilus watches the moon wane.
In the stanza beginning line 666, Troilus walks on the walls of Troy, gazing at the Greek camp to
which Criseyde has been taken in an exchange of prisoners.

Troilo, ultimo figlio del re Priamo di Troia, innamorato di Cressida, figlia di Calcante, sacerdote troiano, incontrava la
ragazza nella casa dello zio di lei Pandaro - divenuto per questo il simbolo del mezzano damore. Tutto and bene finch il
padre di lei non fu inviato al campo greco come ostaggio; la ragazza fu costretta a seguirlo e ad allontanarsi da Troilo. Ma la
separazione fu fatale, perch Cressida cedette alle voglie di Diomede. Per vendicarsi, Troilo sfid al duello nientemeno che
lo stesso Achille, dal quale fu miseramente ucciso.

5.1.7/10/13: Thisbe/Dido/Medea: their stories, in this order, are told in Chaucers Legend of Good
Women, which he himself regarded as a sequel to Troilus and Criseyde.
5.1.8: Lions shadow: Pyramus finds Thisbes blood-stained garment, concludes she has been killed
by a lion and kills himself. Shadow implies moonshine, and Shakespeare associates Pyramus with the
Tisbe, vergine assira, aveva deciso di fuggire col suo amato Piramo, perch la relazione era contrastata dai genitori. I due si dettero
convegno presso la tomba di Nino, re di Babilonia. Tisbe giunse prima allappuntamento ma la vista dun leone la fece fuggire
atterrita e nella fuga perdette il velo, che la belva addent e lacer sporcandolo del sangue di una recente preda di cui aveva ancor
lorde le fauci. Piramo, giunto poco dopo, vedendo la belva e il velo insanguinato, crede che la fanciulla sia stata sbranata dal leone
e si uccide. Tisbe torna sul luogo, vede Piramo morto e si trafigge con la spada di lui. Una divertente rievocazione in chiave
parodistica delle vicenda fatta da Shakespeare nel suo Sogno duna notte di mezza estate.

5.1.10: Dido: Dido was abandoned by Aeneas, but the details here are from Chaucers tale of
Ariadne, who was abandoned by Theseus on an island in the wild sea. The willow is substituted as the
traditional symbol of forsaken love.

Leggenda di Didone ed Enea, cantata da Virgilio nellEneide. Shakespeare vi aggiunge il ramoscello di salice, simbolo dellamore
disperato e infelice, che una specie di leit-motiv di tutte le vicende delle sue eroine amanti sfortunate.

5.1.13:Medea: after helping the husband Jason win the Golden Fleece, Medea concocted a herbal
broth with which she rejuvenated Jasons father Aeson (in a full moon night). The incident is not in
Chaucers poem.
5.1.18: Stealing her soul: more serious meaning than its teasing context implies. Lorenzo has
converted Jessica to Christianity.
5.1.47: Sweet soul: most editors give Lancelot an exit here. Many editors place sweet soul at the
beginning of Lorenzos lines at .49, which is two syllable short of a regular blank verse line without it.
5.1.52: Your mistress: the fact that Lorenzo does not mention the master of the house indicates that
the announcement of Bassanios return is an interpolation.
5.1.59: Patens: a paten was the small dish or plate used in the Holy Communion, and this
association is thought by most editors to fit the reference of Lorenzos tone. The conceit may be that
patens inset into the floor of heaven would appear from below like gilded bosses of an elaborate
Elizabethan ceiling, reflecting points of light.
5.1.60 61: Theres not the smallest orb which thou beholdst / But in his motion like an angel
sings: the idea that the concentric spheres of the Ptolemaic universe produced music by their friction
was familiar in the XVI century, mainly through Ciceros Somnium Scipionis.
5.1.62: Young-eyed cherubins: Traditions about the nature of the cherubim are linked by this
compound adjective. I Cherubini, gli angeli pi alti della gerarchia celeste, hanno gli occhi giovani,
dotati cio di una perenne acutezza visiva, per poter godere appieno ed in eterno della vista di Dio.
The irregular plural cherubins occurs frequently until the middle of the XVII century.
5.1.66: Wake Diana: call forth the moon, which appears to have gone behind a cloud.
5.1.87: Erebus: in classical legend the place of darkness between Earth and Hades.
5.1.109: The moon sleeps with Endymion: Endymion was the shepherd on Mount Latmos who, in
Greek legend, was loved by the moon.
5.1.118: Go in, Nerissa: no exit is given for Nerissa, who perhaps stays where she is because the
tucket sound.
5.1.136: You should in all sense be much bound to him: Portia plays on the three meaning:
indebted, pledged, imprisoned.
5.1.230: Argus: the watchful guardian in classical fables.
237: The young clerks pen: Grazianos badly quibble, penis.
5.1.278 279: Portias victory, triumphantly watching the men poring over their letters.
5.1.298: And charge us there upon intergatories: an expression used of any searching examination
under oath. This is Portias last bit of legal slang, spoken with a momentary return to her courtroom
5.1.307: Nerissas ring: Gratianos last bit of bawdy, since ring could mean vulva.