|The MERCHANT OF VENICE
1. What are some of the reasons suggested for Antonio’s sadness? Are any of these
reasons valid? Why or why not? Explain.
2. Antonio expresses a devoted friendship toward Bassanio (approx. lines 153-159).
Prove this statement true by referring to the content of Antonio’s reply to Bassanio.
3. Why does Bassanio need to borrow money from Antonio again? What has he
borrowed money for in the past?
4. If Antonio is such a wealthy merchant, why does he have no ready cash? What is
Antonio’s solution to his cash flow problem?
5. What is the dramatic purpose of this scene? Explain in full.
1. Why does Portia experience weariness of the world? Explain.
2. Identify the suitors who come to meet Portia. Select three of these men and explain
why Portia dismisses them as husbands.
3. What does the scene with the suitors reveal about Portia’s character? Provide
4. Portia is noted for her wit. Find at least three examples to prove this statement to be
5. What is the relationship between Portia and Nerissa? Characterize their relationship
providing examples from the play.
6. Explain how scene two is linked with scene one.
1. Identify three reasons for Shylock’s hatred of Antonio.
2. How does Antonio feel about Shylock? Explain in detail.
3. Why does Antonio approach Shylock for a loan? What are the conditions of the
4. What is Antonio’s attitude to the forfeiture of one pound of flesh? Why does
Antonio feel this way? Explain.
5. Do you think Shylock is serious about taking a pound of Antonio’s flesh, or is he
jesting? Base your arguments on the evidence you find in this scene. Support your
response with evidence from this scene.
6. What is the dramatic purpose of this scene? Explain.
1. What kind of suitor is the Prince of Morocco? Use evidence from the text to support
your response. List both positive and negative qualities.
2. What is Portia’s reaction to him? Provide evidence.
3. Is Portia’s treatment of the Prince fair? Why or why not?
1. Who is Launcelot Gobbo?
2. What does Launcelot Gobbo do to his father when he meets him on the street? Why?
3. Do you think Launcelot Gobbo’s trick is humourous or cruel? Support your response.
4. Gobbo is a typical Shakespearean clown. His humour lies in practical jokes and the
misuse of words (malapropisms). Find at least two examples of misused words in this
scene and identify the word that should have been used.
5. Why does Bassanio hesitate to take Gratanio with him to Belmont?
1. How does Jessica describe her home life?
2. How does Jessica react to Launcelot’s announcement? Why?
3. What does Launcelot say about Shylock and Jessica? In what respects are they
4. What plan does Jessica reveal in this scene?
1. Explain how the love between Jessica and Lorenzo is revealed.
2. What are his friends’ plans for the evening? What is Lorenzo’s plan?
1. Why would the audience feel sorry for Shylock in this scene?
2. What will Jessica disguise herself as in this scene? Why is it necessary for her to have
1. Why does Lorenzo love Jessica? What are her feelings for him?
2. What do you think of Jessica’s conduct in scene 6? Be specific and support your
opinion with evidence from the play.
1. Why would Shakespeare have the Prince of Morocco read the inscriptions and
describe each of the caskets?
2. What are the inscriptions on each of the caskets? What do they mean?
3. How do the inscriptions differ from one another? Do you think there is a clue here?
4. Why does the Prince choose the gold casket? What does he find when he opens it?
Where did he make his mistake?
1. Who are Solanio and Salarino? What are their dramatic purpose in this scene? (ie.
what news do they bring?)
2. What other suggestion is there that disaster is closing in on Antonio?
3. Who does Shylock go to see and why?
4. Why would Shakespeare choose not to have Shylock appear on stage to express his
rage over his daughter’s elopement and the theft of his ducats and jewels?
What is his reaction?
1. What three conditions are imposed on the suitors choosing the caskets?
2. What does the Prince of Arragon have to say about each of the caskets?
3. Which of the caskets does he choose? Why? What does he find in the casket?
4. Why would the Prince of Arragon give no consideration to the lead casket?
5. How does Act 2 end? Describe Portia’s mood as the act closes. Why is this
ACT III – Merchant of Venice
1. Explain why Shylock’s speech beginning “To Bait fish withal. . .” is so significant in
the play. Focus on character development, theme development, and the creation of pathos.
2. Examine what aspects of Shylock’s behaviour and character continue to repel the audience.
3. Explain the dramatic significance of the line “It was my turquoise. I had it of Leah
when I was a bachelor.”
4. Explain how suspense is created in this scene.
5. Explain not only the mood of the scene when it ends, but how it is created.
1. Examine what Portia says to Bassanio before he chooses a casket and why.
2. Summarize the song Portia has the chorus sing and explain why she would do this.
3. Relate the song to Bassanio’s speech as he chooses the casket. Compare his
reasoning with the Princes of Morocco and Arragon.
4. Explain how lines 149-175 of Portia’s speech is in keeping with her character.
5. State why she gives the ring to Bassanio, and state what else she gives him.
6. Explain how Bassanio is able to retain his dignity and Portia’s sympathy when he
confesses his debt to Antonio.
7. Examine how Shylock is described in this scene and explain to what extent Jessica
has contributed to this description.
8. State what Portia’s immediate response is to the contents of Antonio’s letter, and
how her behaviour is in keeping with her character.
1. Argue with proof whether, in the beginning of the scene, Shylock appears the villain
2. State why, according to Antonio, why Shylock refuses to show him mercy.
3. Explain why the Duke can’t declare the bond invalid.
4. List 3 reasons why this scene is dramatically significant. Do not restate the same
ideas as presented above. Support your response with evidence from the play.
1. Explain how this scene “humanizes” Portia.
2. State how she explains her departure from Belmont to Lorenzo.
3. List the plan Portia has for herself and Nerissa. Predict the obstacles, possible
1. Explain what the audience learns in the conversation between Gobbo and Jessica.
2. List the reasons why this scene could be omitted. List the reasons why the scene is
3. State which two plots reach a crisis in Act 3 and explain how this occurs.
1. What is the Duke’s opinion of Shylock and Antonio? Given this, can Shylock receive
a fair trial?
2. Why does Shylock refuse to provide reasons for his hatred toward Antonio? Why will
he show no mercy?
3. What offer does Bassanio bring to the table? Why wouldn’t Shylock accept this?
4. What is the dramatic irony in this scene?
5. How are Portia and Nerissa able to get away with their ploy in court?
6. Summarize Portia’s “quality of mercy” speech.
(a) What does she say about mercy? (b) What is she asking of Shylock and humanity
in general? Explain.
7. Why does Portia refuse Bassanio’s pleas to bend the law to save Antonio?
8. Why would Portia have Shylock refuse the payment of triple the amount owed to
him? Why would Shylock refuse it?
9. What is Shylock’s reaction when Portia tells him he can have his pound of flesh?
10. What is the effect on the audience?
11. During the trial scene Portia stops Shylock in the act of taking the pound of flesh
when she says “Tarry a little, there is something else. . .”
Outline the three major steps after this statement by which Portia brings about the
downfall of Shylock.
12. What is Shylock’s reaction to her legal trap?
13. What other trap does Portia reveal for Shylock?
14. What is Antonio’s reaction to this victory?
15. Do the Christians show mercy toward Shylock? Explain with reference to the events
in the courtroom.
16. What payment does Portia ask for from Bassanio?
1. What deed does Nerissa have Shylock sign?
2. What does Nerissa ask of Gratanio?
3. If Bassanio and Gratiano love their wives, why would they give up their rings?
4. Why would Shakespeare include the ring plot in the play? Explain.
1. What role does music play at the beginning of the scene? Explain.
2. What news does Launcelot bring to Lorenzo and Jessica?
3. How do Portia and Nerissa react when they learn their rings are gone? How do they
tease their husbands?
4. How do their husbands try to defend themselves? How do they learn the truth?
5. What news does Portia bring about Antonio’s ships?
6. Shakespeare must end his comedy on a “happy” note. How does he achieve this in
Act Five through his use of (a) love poetry; (b) the ring plot; (c) Portia’s wit and
word play? Explain, providing examples of each from Act Five.
After Reading Questions
Is this a “happy ending” for all characters? Explain.
Imagine it is five years after the play has ended. Explain what has happened to each of the couples, Antonio and Shylock since the play’s conclusion. Provide reasons for each for your predictions.