Act 4 Scene 1

The aforementioned extract is taken from the much-celebrated play, “The Merchant of Venice” by the legendary “William Shakespeare.” The scene talks about the moment when the loopholes in the contract are debunked, and how Shylock, the overly enthusiastic, is humiliated in the courthouse. This scene is extremely climatic and uses series of repetitions, witty phrases, clever word play, varied sentence structures metaphors, character developments, etc that make the scene dramatic.


The extract is started of with a dialogue of Portia that suggests that the much-dreaded bond between Shylock and Antonio will be enforced. The audience is surprised and saddened, as the protagonist, Antonio who is liked by almost all, will have to succumb to the ‘law’ and loose a ‘pound’ of flesh. As the court seems to ‘award’ this claim, it is made certain that in this conflict between Antonio and Shylock, the villain [Shylock] has defeated the hero [Antonio]. Moreover, the short sentences produced by Portia are suggestive of the pace with which speaks. It seems similar to a chant as she repeats the “The court awards…give it,” which builds up suspense to the scene, as it throws light on the fact that Antonio’s death is now imminent. Also, the repetition iterates that she is firm on the belief that Antonio is indeed at fault and should ‘pay.’ Such a response from her has made Shylock enthusiastic as he too, in state of complete delight, repeats “Most rightful judge!” “ Most learned judge!” The exclamation is also repeated thrice, clearly suggesting Shylock’s childlike behavior. It envisages that he was extremely excited and elated, as he would finally be able to literally ‘cut’ and take revenge from his business opponent. It seems Shylock’s mind has been blinded by his sudden joy, and is growing impatient. The audience can see that all sophisticated manners of this merchant have completely vaporized. These childlike behaviors are further accentuated when he repeatedly praises Portia, calling her “the most” “learned” and “rightful.” This attempt is to make sure that Portia doesn’t change her current decision. Thus, this highlights his desperation for the bond. Alternatively, these dialogues are very short in length, and rapidly increase the speed of the play, making the audience more engrossed. These techniques seem like a build up to a great climax and make the seen dramatic.


Shakespeare has also used varied sentence structures and punctuations, biblical references to make the scene more stirring. There is sudden change in pace and tone. From the rapid dialogues, the Portia’s dialect seen to ‘tarry a little.’ It is seen that her speech is frequently punctuated with semi-colons which makes it run with ‘no haste’. This suggests that Portia wants her words to be understood by everyone, and most importantly Shylock, as they contain ‘something’ that no one thought of. Such wordplay delay the place of the play and make the scene more intense and suspenseful. As Portia has spotted loopholes in the contract, she is compared to the biblical creature “Daniel” who is seen to be extremely meticulous and fair. The use of the words “just” “if” “or less” “so much” are suggestive of her calculative nature and throw light on her “upright” and “just” character who would not even ignore “a twentieth part of a hair” of injustice. Portia’s character contradicts to that of any other woman in the Elizabethan Era. Though being subdued by the men in her life, she is not afraid to face any ‘prepare [d]’ enemy. The use of archaic personal pronouns such as “ thou” “ thee” which are directed to Shylock describe that now he is being challenged by Porti, as he has gotten stuck in the loopholes by himself. This implies that there is no one beside him, so Shylock shouldn’t ‘pause’ and wait for support. Everybody in the ‘open court’ have been convinced by Portia manipulation to ‘refuse’ to help him. Thus, this suggests that Portia was extremely alert and also merciless when it came to being fair and unbiased. Therefore, seeing a rather tragic ending, the audience has witnessed a drastic change in the characters and story of the play. Thus, the scene tends to more melo-dramatic.


The use of wit, sarcasm and with major developments in the character of Shylock, the scene seems to be more dramatic. Shylock, who once was proud of the decisions of this ‘rightful’ court, is himself questioning the loopholes that are presented by ‘the law.’ He seems to be falling short of words on being outwitted. Moreover, later he is dialect has also seemed to alter. From using his aggression where he demands to “Give me [him]” his principal, later he is seen is gently ask, “ Shall I not have” my principal. This change can be because Shylock knows that the opponent have the upper hand in the battle, wishes them to be generous. The expression “barely…” envisages that Shylock had now surrendered to the law, and is willing to ‘cut’ his demands. The phrase highlights his desperation, as it seems like the merchant frets about his business without the money. Alternatively, he pleads to “let me[him] go.” It is ironic, as he was the one who brought Antonio to the court, but was now willing to leave without his wants being fulfilled. One can conclude that after being mocked by being called “infidel” and “ peril Jew” Shylock was humiliated and wished to leave immediately. Thus, we see another character, whose personality changes completely. Therefore, the sudden transformation in the plot making this scene immensely dramatic.


Thus, with the usage of a series of repetitions, witty phrases, clever word play, varied sentence structures metaphors, character developments, etc the scene becomes dramtic.




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