All the best for the exam! Use these posts to help you practice well over the weekend and you will be well prepared. If you're confident and apply your skills effectively, there's no reason why you can't perform well!
Picture courtesy of Jeremy
Merchant of Venice
PRACTICE ESSAY QUESTIONS
Use the four options from your essay tasksheet
The best thing you can do to familiarise yourself with the play is to use the study notes from your textbook edition (pages v - xxxi and 93 - 104).
Act 1 Scene 1
Antonio the merchant is sad (apparently because his friendship with Bassanio is changing). His dear friend Bassanio is a carefree and extravagant young man who has bankrupted himself. Bassanio has aplan, however: by spending more money, he thinks he will regain everything. His plan is to marry the wealthy heiress Portia. Antonio will lend Bassanio the money to make the trip, however Antonio currently has a cash flow problem and must borrow more.
Act 1 Scene 2
In Belmont, Nerissa tries to cheer up Portia, who is unhappy about all the men attempting to marry her. To do so, they must solve a riddle set by her father.
Act 1 Scene 3
Bassanio is seeking a money-lender to lend 3000 ducats to Antonio. The Jewish money-lender Shylock is very cautious and doesn't want to risk his money. Shylock hates Antonio, who has insulted him in the past, and Antonio has similar feelings towards Shylock. Antonio convinces Shylock to lend the money because Antonio is his enemy and, if he breaks the agreement, Shylock will be able to have revenge. Almost as a joke, Shylock suggests that if Antonio breaks the bond, he will give up 'an equal pound of his fair flesh'. Antonio accepts the agreement.
Act 2 Scene 1
The men who fail Portia's test will be unable to ever marry. In Belmont, the Prince of Morocco attempts to pass the test.
Act 2 Scene 2
Comedy scene between Launcelot Gobbo, his father and Bassanio, who is planning a party.
Act 2 Scene 3
Jessica, Shylock's daughter, wants to run away from her father to be with her lover, Lorenzo.
Act 2 Scene 4
Lorenzo plans to help Jessica escape by disguising her as a page boy at Bassanio's party.
Act 2 Scene 5
At the party, Shylock wishes that Bassanio's financial position would become endangered.
Act 2 Scene 6
Jessica escapes with Lorenzo.
Act 2 Scene 7
The Prince of Morocco approaches the three caskets of Portia's riddle, lead, silver and gold. He opens the gold one, failing the test ("what many men desire" turns out to be "death").
Act 2 Scene 8
Shylock is upset: Jessica has run away and taken some of his money. Salerio and Solanio hear that a merchant ship has been sunk, possibly Antonio's.
Act 2 Scene 9
The Prince of Arragon fails the test to marry Portia, opening the silver casket ("as much as he deserves" is nothing because he is a fool).
Act 3 Scene 1
Shylock protests against all the wrongdoing that has been done against him because he is a Jew. However, he wants revenge if he can get it. He is happy that Antonio's ship may have been sunk for this reason.
Act 3 Scene 2
Portia and Bassanio are fond of each other. Bassanio takes the marriage test and passes, opening the lead casket. They will be married; as a sign, Portia gives Bassanio a ring. Gratiano and Nerissa announce that they too will be married. The happy feelings are destroyed when it is revealed that Antonio's ship has been sunk and Shylock will happily take revenge.
Act 3 Scene 3
Antonio has been arrested and Shylock refuses to give him mercy.
Act 3 Scene 4
Portia and Nerissa plan some disguises.
Act 3 Scene 5
A short comedy scene featuring Launcelot.
Act 4 Scene 1
The trial. Shylock will not show mercy despite the Duke's request. Bassanio offers Shylock twice the 3000 ducats, which Shylock refuses. Portia appears in disguise in place of a famous lawyer. Shylock refuses her plea for mercy. Portia awards Shylock his pound of flesh and Shylock prepares to cut Antonio. Portia interrupts him to explain that he must take only flesh but must not spill blood. The hot-headed Gratiano is triumphant that Shylock has been foiled. Shylock tries to accept the money but Portia explains that he must take justice. When Shylock tries to leave, Portia explains another law against planning a murder. Shylock will lose all his possessions. Antonio says he will take only half (the rest being left as an inheritance for Lorenzo) and asks that Shylock convert to Christianity. Shylock is left crushed and destitute. In disguise, Portia asks for Bassanio's engagement ring, which he gives to her.
Act 4 Scene 2
Nerissa plots to take Gratiano's ring.
Act 5 Scene 1
The three young couples are reunited. Portia and Nerissa berate Bassanio and Gratiano for losing their rings before revealing their trick. They leave Antonio.