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Merchant of Venice Study Questions

Use these, along with the scene synopsis to help guide your reading. Be sure to note the passages
that clarify the answers to these questions. If you have trouble pinning down the relevant lines,
be sure to note that too and ask in class!


1. How does Antonio feel as the scene opens? What explanations to Salerio and Solanio
offer to account for his mood? How does Antonio respond?

2. What insight does Gratiano offer about how a person’s appearance can be misleading?
How do Lorenzo’s Bassanio’s comments on Gratiano force us to see him in another light?

3. What do we learn about Bassanio’s financial state? Why does he need money?

4. How does Bassanio describe Portia? Are his motives for her hand love or money?

5. Why can’t Antonio help Bassanio financially? How do they resolve to solve the issue?


1. Note Portia’s first line. Whose line does this echo?

2. What is Portia’s situation and why does she find it upsetting? How has her father helped
create this situation? What does Nerissa say to try to console her?

3. The “roll call” of suitors gives us both a sense of Portia’s status and an opportunity for
Shakespeare to poke fun at other nationalities. How does he stereotype the various
suitors for comic effect?

4. What is Nerissa’s and Portia’s opinion of Bassanio?


1. What are Bassanio and Shylock discussing? How is the issue settled?

2. Why will Shylock not dine with Bassanio?

3. What motivation does Shylock reveal in his aside? What do we learn about Antonio from
this speech?

4. Shylock notes scripture to try to defend taking interest. In his aside to Bassanio, does
Antonio characterize Shylock’s reading of the story of Jacob?

5. What is the final agreement between Shylock and Antonio?

ACT II Questions


1. What are the prominent personality qualities of Morocco? What happens to suitors who
choose the wrong casket?


1. What is Lancelet pondering? What is his final decision?

2. How does Lancelet treat his father? Why is Bassanio hiring? Does Lancelet get the job?

3. What does Lancelet say about Fortune? Where else does this issue come up in the play?

4. Where is Bassanio going? Why? Why does he not want to take Gratiano?


1. What does Jessica ask Lancelet to do? What is her plan? How is her situation similar to
Lancelet’s? (Look back to his speech from the last scene.)


1. What are the plans of Lorenzo and his friends?

2. What does Jessica say in her letter?

3. What message is Lancelet bringing to Shylock?


1. How does Shylock feel about the invitation to the masque?

2. How does Shylock feel about Lancelet working for Bassanio?


1. What are Lorenzo and Gratiano suggesting about love in their comments?

2. How does Jessica escape? What does she bring with her?

1. Note the materials and messages of the three caskets. Which do you think the right suitor
should choose?

2. What casket does Morocco choose? Why does he decide it is the correct one?

3. What message does the casket contain?

4. How does Portia feel about Morocco’s failure?


1. What do we learn from Salerio and Salarino about Shylock’s response to Jessica’s flight?

2. How do Salerio and Salarino feel about Shylock? Do they seem to share the same

3. What was Antonio’s reaction to Bassanio’s departure?


1. What casket does Arragon choose? Why does he decide it is the correct one?

2. What message does the second casket contain?

3. What information does the messenger bring? What is Portia’s response to the news?



1. What news do Solanio and Salarino bring?

2. What is Shylock’s mood as he enters? Why?

3. Look closely at Shylock’s monologue on 52-72. What is his argument? Does it justify
his feelings and actions?

4. What news does Tubal bring about Jessaica?

5. What motive for wanting Antonio dead does Shylock reveal at the end of the scene?


1. How are things going between Portia and Bassanio? How do we know?

2. What casket does Bassanio choose? What is his reasoning for that choice?
3. How does the inscription on the casket describe Bassanio?

4. How does Portia describe herself in her speech 152-175? What does she give Antonio as
a symbol of her devotion? What does she say about it?

5. Who else is getting married?

6. What news is contained in Antonio’s letter? What is Shylock demanding?

7. How does Portia respond to the situation?

8. Look closely at Antonio’s letter. What does it suggest about his feelings for about his
situation and his feelings for Antonio?


1. What is Shylock’s state of mind in this scene? What lines suggest that?

2. How does Antonio account for Shylock’s insistence on collecting “his bond.”

3. How does Antonio feel about his prospects at the scene’s end?


1. What does Portia tell Lorenzo that she and Nerissa are going to do?

2. What does Portia send Balthazar to do?

3. What plan does Portia share with Nerissa?


1. Pay attention to the language and see if you can pick up on the jokes!

2. What issue of religious salvation is raised in this scene? How does this apply to Jessica?



1. What do we learn that the Duke has tried to do?

2. Why does Shylock refuse to show mercy? How does he justify his stance?

3. Why does Antonio say he is ready to die?

4. What information is contained in Bellario’s letter?

5. Why does Portia (as Balthazar) assert that Shylock must show mercy? How does he
6. What offers are made to Shylock to get him to spare Antonio? How are they received?

7. What does Antonio’s speech as he faces the prospect of Shylock’s knife tell you about his

8. How do Bassanio and Gratiano react to the looming prospect of Antonio’s demise?

9. How does Portia (as Balthazar) use the law to turn the tables on Shylock?

10. What does the Duke decree should happen to Shylock? Why? What happens to
Shylock’s estate?

11. What does Portia ask Bassanio for as payment for her “services.” What is his initial
response? What makes him change his mind?


1. What does Gratiano bring to Portia (Balthazar.)

2. What does Nerissa plan on getting from Gratiano? What does Portia’s comment suggest
about men?



1. Lorenzo and Jessica allude to a number of famous lovers. How does their tone seem
loving or antagonistic?

2. What do Lorenzo’s comments about music and the stars suggest about human nature?
What does he imply about Jessica? How does this compare to Shylock’s comments about
the Christian masques in II.v.?

3. How do the women manipulate the absence of their husband’s rings? How is the issue