The Merchant of Venice Act 4 scene 1/ Trial Scene

 >William Shakespeare , the greatest writers of all times

The merchant of Venice trial scene

Act 4 scene 1

Play background

> Play was written during the 16 to century it is believed to have been written between 1596 and 1599 .

> It was published in the first folio that appeared in 1600.

> Shakespeare is regarded as one of the makers of the modern english language who made significant contributions to  Modern English vocabulary.

> A number of phrases and catch phrases have entered English language through his plays.

>This play is also remarkable for the large bulk of phrases that have entered English language.

Plot summary

>A young Venetian, Bassanio,falls in love with Portia, a rich heiress of the royal family of Belmont. 

>Bassanio is a spendthrift, who squanders away all his money. 

>Now he is in dire need  of three thousand ducats so  that he can woo Portia, .

 >He approaches his friend Antonio, a merchant. 

>Antonio is short of money because all his wealth is invested in  his fleet, which is currently at the seas of England and Mexico.

>Antonio, instead asks Bassanio to find a money lender who can lend him the amount and Antonio shall be the guarantor and can repay the amount once his ships are back home after trade.

> Bassanio goes to jewish money lender Shylock who hates Antonio for his anti-Semitic (against usury) attitude towards him.

> Shylock already has a grudge against Antonio for he used to lend small amounts to many people without interest.

> Shylock nevertheless agrees to make the short-term loan, but he makes a condition – the loan must be repaid in three months or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio's body.

>Bassanio feels that there's something fishy about Shylock's conditions.

> But Antonio signs the contract ingnoring Bassanio's warnings.

> However, Bassanio leaves for Belmont .

> In the meantime, things turn topsy turvy as Antonio’s ships are lost at sea.

> Shylock, takes advantage over this situation and urges Antonio to repay the amount. But he is not able to pay back the amount in three months.

> Now Shylock brings Antonio for trial before the Venetian Court of Justice.

> There is one more reason behind Shylocks grudge against Antonio- Antonio is a Christian.

> Shylock hates Christians ever since his daughter, Jessica eloped with Lorenzo, a christian who got her converted into Christianity and took a large portion of Shylocks fortune along with them.

> So Shylock hates Christians.

> In the meantime, bassanio marries Portia

> Gratiano, Bassanio’s friend, marries Nerrissa, maid to Portia.

> Bassanio receives a letter from Venice, telling Antonio’s predicament.

> Soon Bassanio and Gratiano leave for Venice.

> Portia, who comes to know about the content of the letter, seeks the secret help of her cousin Bellario,a renowned advocate of Padua.

 > But keep this a secret. She sends her servant Balthazar to Bellario.

> On the day of Trial, Bassanio arrives at the Venitian Court with the money Antonio owes Shylock.


Court of Justice, Venice.

> In the beginning of the scene itself the duke expresses his pity for antonio and criticizes the jewish money lender shylock who is determined to take his pound of antonio's flesh despite Bassanio's offer of double the amount due.

> The duke calls Shylock "an inhuman wretch void and empty from any dram of mercy".

> The Duke now summons Shylock.

> As Shylock appears,  the Duke tries to pacify him by addressing him as the one who is pretending to be cruel.

How does the Duke address Shylock in the court?

Ans. The Duke tries to pacify him by addressing him as the one who is just  pretending to be cruel .

> He says that the whole  of Venice believes that shylock is going to show mercy at the last moment in order to surprise them.

> He adds that he strongly believes that Shylock would even deduct some portion from the principal amount.

"Thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture,

But touched with human gentleness and love,

Forgive a moiety of the principal,"

> But the duke's coaxing words didn't move Shylock and turned a deaf ear to all his appeals.

> Shylock silences the duke  by saying that he cannot revoke the decision for he has sworn by the Holy Sabbath to have the due .

> So if the duke doesn't allow him to do so the city's charter and its freedom are endangered.

SHYLOCK:  I have possessed your Grace of what I purpose,

And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn

To have the due and forfeit of my bond.

If you deny it, let the danger light

Upon your charter and your city’s freedom!

You’ll ask me why I rather choose to have 

A weight of carrion flesh than to receive

Three thousand ducats. I’ll not answer that,

But say it is my humor. Is it answered?


Now for your answer:

As there is no firm reason to be rend’red

Why he cannot abide a gaping pig,

Why he a harmless necessary cat,

Why he a woollen bagpipe, but of force

Must yield to such inevitable shame

As to offend, himself being offended;

So can I give no reason, nor I will not,

More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing 

I bear Antonio, that I follow thus

A losing suit against him. Are you answered?

> At this moment Bassanio intervenes and calls it Shylocks arrogance and nothing else.

> Antonio intervenes to warn Bassanio not to argue with a Jew.

ANTONIO : I pray you think you question with the Jew. 

You may as well go stand upon the beach

And bid the main flood bate his usual height;

You may as well use question with the wolf,

Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;

You may as well forbid the mountain pines

To wag their high tops and to make no noise

When they are fretten with the gusts of heaven;

You may as well do anything most hard

As seek to soften that—than which what’s harder?—

> Now Bassanio tries to tempt Shylock by offering twice the amount that Antonio owes him.

> But Shylock responds by saying that he won't even accept six times the same amount.

> At this point the Duke is forced to break the silence . 

> He questions the Jew that how he can hope for mercy from others when he doesn't show it to anyone.

> And Shylock says that he isn't afraid of the Dukes judgement for he doesn't feel that he has done anything wrong.

> Shylock instead questions and criticises the Duke for the kind of cruel treatment meted out to the slaves of the Duke 

> If the Duke is really bothered about the importance of being merciful, he could have shown it to his slaves either by setting them free or getting his daughters married off to them .

> So just as the Duke owns his slaves, Shylock says that he too has rightful claim to the pound of flesh .

> So Shylock says that if justice is denied, it is equivalent to invalidating the Venetian code of justice.

> The duke who is unable to pacify the jew, adjourns the court and passes the case to Bellario,' a doctor in law'.

> At this moment, Nerissa, Portia's handmaid enters the court disguised as the lawyer's clerk.

> She says that she is from Padua and bears a letter from Bellario.

> In between Shylock is spotted sharpening his knife on the sole of his shoes 

This really shocks Bassanio.

> Gratiano says that Shylock is sharpening his knife not on the sole of his shoes but on his own soul .

GRATIANO :Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew,

Thou mak’st thy knife keen; but no metal can-

No, not the hangman’s ax- bear half the keenness

Of thy sharp envy. Can no prayers pierce thee?

> Gratiano reiterates that Shylock shall definitely find a place in hell for all his cruel deeds.

> He addresses him a disgusting dog.

> He says that despite being a Christian, he is forced to believe in Pythagorean philosophy that animal souls are reincarnated in human bodies. 

> Perhaps Shylocks dog soul previously belonged to a wolf that was killed for slaughtering humans . 

> After the death of the cruel wolf, it's soul entered Shylocks body, while he was asleep in his mother's womb.

> Still, Shylock remains unmoved. He is determined to have his penalty.

> In the meantime, the Duke announces the arrival of the young lawyer, Balthazar( Portia).

> The Duke now reads Bellarios letter aloud.

> The content of the letter was that bellario has sent a very clever intelligent young Roman lawyer named Balthazar on behalf of Bellario.

DUKE With all my heart. Some three or four of you

Go give him courteous conduct to this place.

Meantime the court shall hear Bellario’s letter. 

[CLERK. (Reads)] “Your Grace shall understand that at the receipt

of your letter I am very sick; but in the instant that your messenger

came, in loving visitation was with me a young doctor of Rome.

His name is Balthasar. I acquainted him with the cause in

controversy between the Jew and Antonio the merchant. We

turned o’er many books together. He is furnished with my opinion

which, bettered with his own learning, the greatness whereof I

cannot enough commend, comes with him at my importunity to

fill up your Grace’s request in my stead. I beseech you let his lack

of years be no impediment to let him lack a reverend estimation,

for I never knew so young a body with so old a head. I leave him

to your gracious acceptance, whose trial shall better publish his


>Now Balthazar makes his appearance. 

>Actually it is Portia who has appeared in disguise of Balthazar.

> The Duke summons both Antonio and Shylock.

>First Portia addresses Shylock and comments that the case is an unusual one, though the Venetian law can't stop Shylock from proceeding.

>Then she turns to Antonio and asks if he acknowledges the contract, to which he replies yes.

>Now as Antonio acknowledges, the contract, the only way left out is to pray for the Jew's mercy.

>But Shylock is not ready to show mercy.

>Now Portia makes an eloquent speech on the quality of mercy

The Quality of Mercy

> Portia speaks about the importance of the quality of mercy. Human beings ought to be merciful.

"The quality of mercy is not strained;

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath."

> Being merciful is not a mechanical process, it just happens so naturally.

It is a divine quality possessed by the divine.

t is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

>It is a blessing that operates in two ways.

>It blesses the one who shows mercy and the one who takes it .

"’Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown.


But mercy is above this sceptred sway;".

>It is the  strong equality in the strongest.

>The Kings crown represents his power. 

>But the quality of mercy is even higher than that.

"It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself,

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice."

> A merciful king is elevated to the status of a God, when he mixes mercy with justice.

"...Therefore, Jew,

Though justice be thy plea, consider this:

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render 

The deeds of mercy".

> Here Shylock's plea is for justice and it's on his side .

>But Portia reminds him that it is not justice, but mercy that is going to help Shylock achieve salvation.

>Many people fight for justice, during the course of which they forget to be merciful.

> They discard the quality of mercy.

> So we request you to give up this strange case, for,  according to Venetian code of justice, we shall be forced to take actions against this poor merchant.

> But Shylock still remains unmoved, 

So Shylock remains unmoved despite  Portia's eloquent speech on the importance of being merciful.

☑️Next Portia asks Shylock if there is any scope for Antonio paying off the debt.

☑️If so, Bassanio is ready to offer twice the sum and if that also seems unsatisfactory for the Jew, he is even ready to pay upto ten times the money and even ready to mortgage his hands, head and his heart as security.

☑️And if that too doesn't make the Jew happy, then he is really a malicious being


☑️so Bassanio pleads the Duke to help Antonio from the devilish jew, even at the cost of  amending the Venetian law.

☑️But Portia intervenes to say that it is not possible. At any cost, the Venetian law should not be amended.

☑️The reason Portia states is that, following the example , many crooked ones shall plea for the same. So it cannot happen. 

☑️At this moment, Shylock who is really impressed with Portia's just judgement, hails her as a Daniel who has come to judgement.

A Biblical Allusion

☑️ Daniel was a wise young man in Bible, who shows great wisdom while acting as a judge in the case of Susanna, who was falsely accused.

☑️Here Shylock speaks ironically, for Portia is also in disguise just like the Biblical character Daniel.So the technique used there is irony.

☑️Portia tries her best to dissuade Shylock from executing his revenge by saying that Antonio was even ready to offer thrice the sum. 

☑️But Shylock is not ready for anything less than the penalty.

☑️Finally Portia decides to pronounce the judgement.

☑️As the money wasn't paid back before the specified date, the Jew may lawfully claim a pound of flesh nearest the merchant's heart to be cut off by him.

☑️But Shylock can show mercy by accepting the latest offer and tearing off the contract.

☑️But all these doesn't move Shylock.

☑️ Instead he urges Portia to pronounce the final verdict.

☑️ Antonio too urges for the same.

☑️So Portia now delivers the judgment.

☑️ Shylock is now free to claim his pound of flesh as mentioned in the contract.

☑️but Shylock can only have the pound of flesh precisely weighed, not more than a pound or less 

☑️He should also produce a doctor/ surgeon to bind the wound, or else the merchant might bleed to death.

☑️But Shylock denies it says that these conditions are not mentioned in the contract.

☑️ Meantime Antonio bids farewell to all his friends assuming that he is going to be killed.

☑️Now Bassanio and Gratiano is ready to give up their wives for the sake of Antonio.

☑️ Shylock makes fun of Christian ideal of love

☑️He says that Christian men are ready to give up their partners for petty things.

☑️So now Portia says that Shylock can cut the flesh , but only the precisely weighed pound of flesh, that too without shedding a single drop of blood.

☑️If Shylock sheds one drop of Christian blood, according to Venetian law, the state can confiscate his land .

☑️ Everybody is now shocked to hear Portia's wise judgement.

☑️ Shylock who appreciated Portia, now feels confused .

☑️ suddenly Shylock, feeling trapped, opts for the latest offer of Antonio, that is thrice the sum.

☑️ Shylock very well knew that taking a pound of flesh without shedding a single drop of blood was impossible for him 

☑️He expresses his consent in taking the offer and letting the merchant go.

☑️and Bassanio comes forward with the sum

☑️But Portia intervenes and says that for the time being, the Jew can only have the penalty and nothing else 

☑️so the only way left out for Shylock is to exact the pound of flesh from Antonio's body .

☑️She adds that if he takes more or less than exactly a pound of flesh, even if it is the division of the 20 th part, ie the tiniest fraction of an ounce, the Jew shall die and all his property shall go to the state 

☑️With such a wise judgement, Portia puts the Jew on the horns of dilemma.

☑️Now Gratiano hails Portia as a second Daniel who has come for judgement.

☑️Now Portia urges the Jew to take his penalty

☑️At last, Shylock begs for the Principal amount ie 3000 ducats.

☑️But Portia doesn't permit it.

☑️Portia says that, according to Venetian law, if a foreign resident  tries  to kill a Venetian citizen, the person he tried to kill can have a compensation of one half of the foreigners goods 

☑️The remaining half shall be confiscated by the state too 

☑️So if you are begging for mercy now, only the Duke can help you.

☑️The generous Duke now says that he is  ready to reduce the penalty to a fine, once the jew becomes humble.

☑️But Shylock who is now guilty asks the Duke to proceed with Portia's judgement.

☑️Now Portia turns to Antonio 

" What mercy can you render him, Antonio"

☑️ Antonio says that he agrees with the Duke 

☑️There shall be a considerable reduction in the States half. 

☑️And the other half that Shylock owes Antonio shall be given to Shylocks daughter Jessica.

But there are two conditions

☑️ Shylock must become a Christian

☑️he must also make a will, right in front of all, that he shall leave all his property to his daughter and son in law after Shylocks death.

☑️ Shylock agrees

☑️ The issue is solved

☑️Now Portia, who is disguised as Balthazar is about to leave the Venetian court.

☑️The Duke now asks Antonio to give Portia a reward for the help done.

☑️Bassanio thanks her and expresses his desire to give 3000 ducats to Portia as a token of gratitude.

☑️But Portia declines the reward and says that She shall have Antonio's gloves and Bassanio's ring as a souvenir of appreciation.

☑️But Bassanio is not ready to part with the ring, for it is his wedding ring that was gifted by Portia herself.

☑️Bassanio says that he shall get her the most expensive ring available in Venice, but not this one, for it is a gift from his wife.

☑️But Portia criticizes Bassanio by saying that it is just a typical excuse made by all men to avoid giving gifts 

☑️ However Portia and Nerissa bids goodbye.

☑️But Antonio chides Bassanio for not giving Portia a reward and urges Bassanio to  send the ring as a gift.

☑️Bassanio does so.

☑️ Portia and Nerissa arrives at Belmont , where they meet Jessica and Lorenzo who are happy to hear what has happened in Venice 

☑️But the next day, when Bassanio and Gratiano arrives, both Portia and Nerissa accuses them of faithlessly giving the wedding ring to other women.

☑️Though both get confused for a while, Portia reveals the truth, before the deception goes too far.

☑️Lorenzo and Jessica are happy

☑️ Antonio's ships return safely.

☑️The play has a happy ending.



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