Merchant of Venice Act 3 Scene 2 Summary

Merchant of Venice Act 3 Scene 2 Summary

Merchant of Venice Act 3 Scene 2 Summary, Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers

Merchant of Venice Act 3 Scene 2 Summary

Setting : Belmont
Characters : Portia, Bassanio, Nerissa, Gratiano

This scene, set in Belmont, is quite significant. Portia asks Bassanio to postpone choosing the casket for some time as she would lose him if he were to choose wrong. She says she is half tempted to reveal the secret but she cannot prove false to her oath. Bassanio wants to make the choice because of the torture of suspense. So Portia leads him to the caskets. She arranges for some music. She looks upon Bassanio as her Hercules who will rescue her. She will weep if he fails. If he chooses the right casket, music will form appropriate setting.

Bassanio reads the inscription on the gold casket, after examining all the three caskets. He is not impressed by the inscription. He says to himself that the world has always been deceived by the outward glitter of things. If a thing looks bright, its brightness hides its weakness. So he will not be swayed by the outward glitter of the golden casket and the silver casket. He rejects the golden casket and the silver casket and chooses the lead casket because lead is the most modest looking metal. He, then, opens the lead casket and finds the portrait of Portia in it.

Portia is extremely happy at the right choice made by Bassanio. Bassanio, too, is completely charmed by the portrait of Portia that he found in the casket. Bassanio reads the scroll on which it is written that he should feel contented with Portia and not think of any other woman. The scroll also directs Bassanio to give Portia a kiss and then claim her as his wife.

Portia, then, declares that from now onward Bassanio has become the master of the house and she, too, has become his. property.

She surrenders her body and soul to Bassanio. She will learn from Bassanio and seek his guidance in every respect.

Portia, then, offers Bassanio a ring as a wedding gift. She asks him never to lose it or part with it so long as he is alive. The day she finds the ring missing from his finger, she will presume that he has lost all his love for her. Nerissa and Gratiano congratulate Portia and Bassanio at their success and consequent marriage. Gratiano reveals that while Bassanio had been busy in choosing the right casket, he had been courting Nerissa and that Nerissa had agreed to marry him provided Bassanio chose the right casket and made Portia his wife. Portia asks Nerissa about all this. She tells Portia that it is all true.

At this happy occasion, Salarino arrives and gives a letter to Bassanio. While Bassanio is reading the letter, Portia notices that he is growing paler and therefore she presumes that the letter must be containing some bad news. Portia asks Bassanio that she being half of himself has the right to know the contents of the letter. Bassanio tells her that he had taken a loan from a Jew named Shylock on the surety of his best friend named Antonio. Now his friend has lost all his fortunes and is unable to return the loan to the jew. Therefore, he will have to pay the penalty.

Portia tells Bassanio to take as much money as he wants and go to Venice to save the life of his friend. Salarino tells Bassanio that Antonio has lost all his merchant ships on the sea and is ruined. Shylock has approached the Duke for justice. He demands a pound of flesh from Antonio’s breast as mentioned in the bond. Jessica confirms that Shylock is doing all this to take revenge upon Antonio. Portia, therefore, asks Bassanio to leave for Venice at once. She remarks that during the absence of Bassanio, she and Nerissa will live like maids or widows. Bassanio, then, reads the letter to Portia. Portia asks him to go to Venice to help his friend. Bassanio tells her that he will immediately leave for Venice.

Merchant of Venice Act 3 Scene 2 Critical Commentary

The scene makes us tense and curious. The plot here reaches the stage of complication. Herein the
three stories—the bond story, the casket story and Lorenzo-Jessica affair—become one, and Portia takes upon herself to resolve the complication.

Bassanio makes a successful attempt to choose the right casket. Here Shakespeare presents a dramatic irony. By this time the readers know which is the right casket but Bassanio does not know about it. He makes the choice in the right manner. He justifies the expectations of Portia’s late father. He is not fascinated by the external glitter of the gold casket and the silver casket. Like a true lover he is ready ‘to give and hazard all that he hath’. So he chooses the lead casket and finds the portrait of Portia in it. Bassanio and Portia are extremely happy.

But soon the news of Antonio’s losses mars the happy occasion. Salarino arrives and gives a letter to Bassanio. It is written in the letter that Antonio has lost all his merchant ships on the sea and has forfeited the bond. Shylock has approached the Duke and demanded justice. He demands a pound of flesh from Antonio’s breast as mentioned in the bond. Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, confirms that his demand is the outcome of his revengeful motive. We come to know the callous, cruel and revengeful nature of Shylock. Shylock considers it the best opportunity to take revenge upon Antonio. Antonio had been insulting and abusing Shylock. Now he has fallen in Shylock’s trap and Shylock will not allow him to slip away. The main interest of the play will now be on the clever and cunning moves of Shylock.

Significance of the Scene

  1. This is the scene where three stories mingle : the bond story, the casket story and the Lorenzo-Jessica episode.
  2. Bassanio chooses the right casket. Gratiano and Nerissa want to marry. Lorenzo and Jessica arrive. The news of Antonio’s bad luck comes and overshadows the happy events.
  3. The scene is significant for character interest. It sheds light on the characters of both Bassanio and Portia.

Merchant of Venice Act 3 Scene 2 Glossary

Lines 1-25
tarry : wait
detain : stop
Beshrew : curse
o’erlook’d : cast a spell
naughty : bad
peize : retard
election : choice
rack : in a state of torture

Lines 26-50
amity : friendly agreement
deliverance : liberation
proper : complete
flourish : notes of trumpets

Lines 51-80
presence : respect
Alcides : Hercules, a great Greek warrior
visages : faces
fancy : love
gazing : glances
gracious : graceful

Lines 81-110
white as milk : coward
excrement : appearance
crisped : curly
guiled : treacherous
drudge : slave

Lines 111-140
allay : decrease
measure : moderation
counterfeit : likeness
sunder : separate
gnats : small insects
shadow : ailment
fair : fortunate

Lines 141-175
giddy : drowsy
account : estimate
livings : wealth
converted : transferred
mansion : big building
presage : foretell

Lines 176-210
oration : speech
solemnize : celebrate
intermission : waiting period
pertains : welcome
falls : turns out

Lines 211-240
infidel : the Jewess
interest : right
entreat : request
nay : no
ope : open

Lines 241-280
fleece : golden fleece
shrewd : sharp
constitution : condition
impart : expressed
merchant-marring : which destroy merchants

Lines 281-337
plies : presses
impeach : oppose in law
magnificoes : noble men
deface : destroy
persuade : urge
despatch : expedite
leave : permission
interposer : separated
twain : two

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