Shakespeare/Merchant of Venice/Close Reading

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Close Reading:

O that estates, degrees, and offices,

Were not derived corruptly, and that clear honour

Were purchased by the merit of the wearer.

How many then should cover that stand bare?

How many be commanded that command?

How much low peasantry would then be gleaned

From the true seed of honour? And how much honour

Picked from the chaff and ruin of the times,

To be new-varnished? Well but to my choice.

Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.

  1. Who speaks these lines and on what occasion?
  2. Where does the speaker read the last line of the passage; what has he said previously to show that this line makes an especial appeal to him?
  3. What is meant by “gleaned from the true seed of honour” (lines 6-7) and “O that estates, degrees, and offices, were not derived corruptly.” (lines 1-2)?
  4. What does the speaker choose when it comes to his “choice” (line 9)? What does his choice tell us about his character?
  5. Mention two consequences which follow the speaker’s choice.

Close Reading:

Gratiano: A second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew.

Now infidel I have you on the hip.

Portia: Why doth the Jew pause? Take thy forfeiture.

Shylock: Give me my principal, and let me go.

Bassanio: I have it ready for thee, here it is.

Portia: He hath refused it in the open court.

He shall have merely justice and his bond.

Gratiano: A Daniel still say I, a second Daniel

I thank thee Jew for teaching me that word.

Shylock: Shall I not have barely my principal?

  1. Where does this episode occur? Say briefly what is taking place.
  2. Portia asks “Why doth the Jew pause ?“ (1. 3). What was Shylock hesitating to do? Give one reason which made him pause.
  3. What was the “principal” (1. 4)? What offer had Bassanio made earlier, relating to this “principal”?
  4. What does Gratiano mean by “I have you on the hip” (1. 2)? Refer briefly to an earlier passage in which the same metaphor is used by Shylock.
  5. What is Gratiano alluding to when he says “A second Daniel” (1. i)? Give one other instance from this scene of his taunting of Shylock.