Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Summary

Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Summary

Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Summary, Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers

Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Summary
Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Summary

Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Summary

Setting : Venice
Character : The Duke, Shylock, Antonio, Bassanio, Portia, Nerissa, Gratiano

The Duke extends his sympathy to Antonio who is exposed to great danger. The man who he has to answer in court, says he, has no pity in him. Antonio expresses his gratitude to the Duke for the trouble he has taken to persuade Shylock to give up his demand. But since Shylock is not ready to relent, he is prepared to meet his fate.

The Duke summons Shylock to the court. When Shylock appears, the Duke makes another appeal to him. He says that he and many other believe that Shylock is persisting in his plea only to withdraw it in the end. He hopes that Shylock will not only let off the penalty but also reduce the amount of the original loan in view of Antonio’s numerous losses. Shylock tells the Duke in reply that he is under oath to have only the penalty specified in the bond. The Duke, he says, can reject his claim but it will put a question mark on the justice of the state. “If you ask me why I insist on having a pound of Antonio’s flesh, my reply is that it is my pleasure”, he adds. He cannot give any other reason.

Bassanio tells Shylock that this is the most inhuman way to deal with his opponent. A man cannot destroy the thing that he does not like. At this Shylock asks if a man hates those things which he cannot destroy or if a man would allow himself to be bitten twice by the same serpent. After hearing all this Antonio tells Bassanio not to argue with this man because he cannot change him. He adds that as it is useless to ask the tide not to rise so high, similarly it is useless to ask Shylock to soften his stand. So Antonio requests the court to give its verdict as early as possible.

At this moment Bassanio offers Shylock six thousand ducats instead of three thousand ducats. But Shylock refuses the offer and says that even if he is offered thirty six thousand ducats, he will refuse it and demand a pound of flesh from Antonio’s breast as mentioned in the bond. The Duke intervenes and says that if Shylock does not show any mercy to Antonio, he, too, cannot expect any mercy from anybody. Shylock remarks that he does not need anyone’s mercy because he has committed no crime. He declares that if the Christians can regard the slaves as their property because they have purchased them, he, too, can regard the body of Antonio as his own because he has paid three thousand ducats for it. The Duke says that he has invited Doctor Bellario, a renowned scholar on the law from Padua, to deliver the judgement in this case. At this moment Salarino informs the Duke that a messenger from Doctor Bellario is standing outside with letters. Then Nerissa dressed as a lawyer’s clerk enters the court and delivers a letter to the Duke. Gratiano sees Shylock sharpening his knife and remarks that his knife is sharper than the executioner’s axe and that no one can make him show mercy to Antonio. He quotes the doctrine of Pythagorus that says that the soul of an animal can enter a human body. He says that the soul of a wolf that was hanged for killing lambs has entered the body of Shylock. Shylock remarks that whatever he says, nothing can change his mind.

The Duke then directs Nerissa to read Doctor Bellario’s letter in the open court. Doctor Bellario writes in the letter that he has fallen ill and is unable to attend the court, and that he is sending a young lawyer in his place to listen to the case and give his verdict. He informs the Duke that though the lawyer is young in age, he is mature in intellect. He further adds that he has given his opinion to the young lawyer with regard to the case and hopes that it will help him to give the correct verdict.

After the letter is read, Portia dressed as a lawyer enters the court. Antonio and Shylock are asked to appear before her. Portia tells Shylock that though he ha§ brought a strange case in the court, the case is in accordance with the laws of Venice. Then she tells Antonio that as per the suit filed against him, his life is in danger. Portia appeals to Shylock for mercy. Shylock asserts why he should show mercy to Antonio. Thereupon, Portia delivers a fine speech on mercy and says :

“The quality of mercy is not strained./It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed./It blesseth him that gives and him that takes”.

However, Portia asks Shylock to accept the offer of money from Bassanio. But Shylock tells Portia that he has taken an oath to charge the penalty as mentioned in the bond. Portia says that he is entitled to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio’s breast according to the law and Shylock feels happy and triumphant. He shouts, “A Daniel has come to judgement!” Antonio is unhappy over the delay of the verdict and pleads to the court to give its verdict at once.

Portia, then, directs Antonio to lay bare his chest and get ready for a pound of flesh to be cut from his chest. At the same time, she asks Shylock if he has got a balance to measure the flesh. She also directs Shylock to get some surgeon lest Antonio should bleed to death. Antonio asks Bassanio to tell his wife how he has sacrificed his life for the sake of his friend. Bassanio says that though he loves his wife more dearly than his life, he will lose his life and his wife and the whole world to save the life of his friend. Portia does not like the remarks made by Bassanio.

Gratiano wishes his wife to be dead so that she could go to heaven and appeal to .the gods to change the adamant attitude of Shylock. Nerissa, too, dislikes Gratiano’s remarks. Shylock says to himself that Christian husbands have no feelings for their wives. He would like a murderer like Barrabas to marry his daughter instead of a Christian.

When Shylock is about to apply his knife to cut out the flesh from Antonio’s body, Portia asks him to wait for a moment. She tells him that when he cuts the flesh, not a single drop of blood should be shed because it is nowhere mentioned in the bond, otherwise his life will be at the mercy of the Duke. At this moment, Gratiano shouts in a fit of joy, “O upright Judge ! Mark Jew : O learned Judge !” Portia then adds that he must have nothing but justice, and so if he cuts the flesh more or less than a pound, all his property would be confiscated by the state. Shylock finds himself in a tight corner and says, “I take this offer, then pay the bond thrice. And let the Christian go.”
Bassanio says, “Here is the money.”

But Portia asks Bassanio to stop and remarks that the Jew must have full justice. He will have nothing but a pound of flesh. She further says that according to the laws of Venice if any alien tries to take the life of a Venetian, his life will be at the mercy of the Duke. Moreover, half of his property will be given to the Venetian whose life the alien wanted to take. Gratiano remarks that after the government confiscates Shylock’s property, he will be left with nothing to purchase a rope for hanging himself and therefore he has to be hanged at the expense of the government.

The Duke pardons the life sentence upon Shylock. Shylock accepts the compromise proposed by Antonio. Shylock will live and have the use of half of his property, which he will leave to Lorenzo and Jessica in his will. Half of his property will be held in trust by Antonio for the benefit of Lorenzo and Jessica. Shylock will become a Christian.

Portia, then, asks Nerissa to prepare a title deed of gift in favour of Jessica and Lorenzo and get it signed by Shylock. Shylock is completely defeated and shattered. He walks out of the court saying that he is not well. He tells the court to send the deed after him and he will sign it.

When the court is dispersed, the Duke asks Antonio to reward the young lawyer for his brilliant defence and valuable service. Bassanio at once offers three thousand ducats to Portia but she refuses to accept the money. She says that she has not come to the court to make money. She feels satisfied and happy that she has been able to save the life of Antonio. Bassanio still presses Portia to accept it as a token of remembrance. Portia accepts the pair of gloves from Antonio and asks for Bassanio’s ring. Bassanio does not want to part with this ring. So he tells Portia that he will buy her the costliest ring but Portia insists on having the ring that he wears in his finger. Bassanio tells her that this ring has been presented to him by his wife with a solemn pledge that he will never part with it. Portia replies that there are people in the world who make generous promises but rarely honour them. Portia, then, leaves the court. Antonio advises Bassanio to send the ring after Portia. Bassanio agrees and asks Gratiano to run and overtake her and present her this ring and request her to have dinner with them.

Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Critical Commentary

The trial scene is known as denouement of the play because it is in this scene that all the complicated events that seem to threaten the happiness of Bassanio, Portia and Antonio are unravelled. It depicts the victory of good and defeat of malice. Poetic justice in the strict sense is dispensed in the play by Shakespeare. No one suffers in the play but Shylock and even he receives a generous measure of mercy. Many readers may find it difficult to accept the treatment meted out to Shylock.

Significance of the Scene

  1. It is the climax of the play.
  2. It is important to see how Portia turns the tables on Shylock.
  3. It interests us mainly for Portia’s wit and ingenuity.
  4. Some critics have found fault with the procedure adopted at the trial.

Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Glossary

Lines 1-25
answer : defend
stony : cruel
void : bereft of
obdurate : obstinate
malice : revengeful spirit

Lines 26-50
moiety : part
pluck : draw
commiseration : pity
carrion : dead
baned : poisoned
gaping : with open mouth

Lines 51-75
affection : inclination
loathes : hates
lodged : deep-rooted
suit : legal case
question : argue
bate : slacken, reduce
flood : the ocean

Lines 76-110
draw : accept
abject : degrading
palates : appetite
viands : rich food
determine : decide

Lines 110-150
tainted wether : sick sheep
pierce : penetrate
infuse : enter
currish : vile, wicked
dam : mother
commend : recommend
heart : willingness

Lines 151-180
visitation : visit
importunity : request
commendation : praise
difference : dispute
forth : forward

Lines 181-220
impugn : attack
confess : admit
strain’d : forced
becomes : suites
sceptre : rod of authority
seasons : tempers
mitigate : soften
‘deeds upon my : take responsibility of my
head’ : deeds
discharge : pay

Lines 221-300
perjury : breach of oath
bid : allow
tenor : terms
exposition : interpretation
pillar : supporter
intent : meaning
balance : scales
charge : expense
arm’d : prepared
process : method
fair : well

Lines 301-400
unquiet : disturbed
trifle : worthless
jot : smallest part
urgest : demand
substance : quantity
scruple : very small unit of weight
question : discussion
hold : claim
contrive : conspire
predicament : situation
rehearsed : described
spirits : nature
prop : support
record : write legally

Lines 401-440
christening : baptism
gratify : reward
bound : obliged
account : consider
tribute : token

Lines 440-473
trifle : small thing
mind : inclination
dearest : costliest
proclamation : announcement
answer’d : refused
vow : take oath
commandment : order

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