The Merchant of Venice: Scene Notes – Act I, scene iii




·         In Venice, Bassanio and Shylock making a deal; Bassanio wants to borrow three thousand Ducats for three months., backed by Antonio’s wealth.

·         Shylock agrees that Antonio is a good man, however points out that all his money is tired in shipping ventures, therefore are very unpredictable. Yet, Shylock agrees that Antonio’s bond is good enough to guarantee the debt however wants to speak with Antonio.

·         Bassanio agrees and invites Shylock to dinner. Shylock agrees to do business with them nevertheless, is deeply offended, he feels that his religious beliefs have been slighted by the offer of a meal which would include pork.

·         Antonio enters, in an aside shylock gives vent his evil thoughts about Antonio.

·         To justify shylock’s own inappropriate (charging interests) business practice, he mentions the clever but deceitful techniques employed by Jacob against his father in law Laban which allowed him to  build up his own  dark coloured sheep and goats However, Antonio questions that this example justifies usury.

·         Shylock describe to Antonio how Antonio has criticize him in public in the Rialto, calling and treating him like a dog, and spat on him. Antonio says he would do these things again, and that the loan should be as to an enemy. 

·         Shylock states his terms as if as a joke that if the repayment does not occur on the specific date, he will receive a pound of Antonio’s flesh cut from wherever he wishes.

·         Antonio regards this as a worthy offer and believes that Shylock may be softening and will turn Christian. Bassanio disagrees and dislikes this bond and Shylock himself.



Motifs & Connotations

Antonio portray as ‘Christ’ like figure, self sacrificing:

·         Antonio states that he is normally opposed to lending or borrowing money at usance, but he's willing to make an exception to help Bassanio in his time of need. This is portrayed as self sacrificing for Bassanio.

            “Shylock, although I neither lend nor borrow

            By taking nor by giving of excess,

            Yet, to supply the ripe wants of my friend,

            I'll break a custom.

·         The scene ends with Antonio pleased to see the change in Shylock's behavior, while Antonio remains skeptical about Shylock's motives. This is also Christ like of Antonio as he is willing to give Shylock a chance and believes that Shylock could really change.

      “The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind.

·         However, this can be perceived as Antonio being naïve or over confident as he reassures his friend about the improbability of losing all his ships.

·         Also, Antonio agreeing to the bond reemphasizes self – sacrificing.   


Shylock portray as a villain:

·         In an aside Shylock mutters and reveals a deep hatred of Antonio and a lust for revenge. He resents Antonio not only because he is a Christian but because Antonio makes it a practice of lending out money without charging interest, as well as speaking out against those that do charge interest. Therefore shylock intends to use this bond to ruin Antonio.   “I hate him for he is a Christian,

            But more for that in low simplicity

            He lends out money gratis and brings down

            The rate of usance here with us in Venice.

            If I can catch him once upon the hip,

            I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.

·         When Shylock suggests that him charging interest is no different than Jacob in the Old Testament. However, Antonio counters, saying that the birth of sheep comes from god’s will and can’t be compared with charging interest.

·         Antonio says to Bassanio:  Lines 99-102

            The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

            An evil soul producing holy witness

            Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,

            A goodly apple rotten at the heart

·                     This indicates how Shylock is portrayed as the villain and reemphasizes how good Antonio is compare to Shylock.

·                     Shylock, using the situation to his fullest advantage, pretends to agree with this idea of business and suggests that no interest will be demanded out of "kindness." Pretending that it is a joke, "a merry sport," he suggests that if the loan is not repaid, he will cut off a pound of Antonio's flesh.

            “This kindness will I show.

             Go with me to a notary, seal me there

            Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,  

            If you repay me not on such a day,

            In such a place, such sum or sums as are

            Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit

            Be nominated for an equal pound

            Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken

            In what part of your body pleaseth me.”




Wealth/ Fortune:

·         Shylock reflects that Antonio is a "good" man. However, for him good refers to wealth and not to kindness or humanity. He stresses the fact that Antonio's wealth is all at sea. He observes that "ships are but boards, sailors but men," suggesting that Antonio's ventures may well be at risk. It is clear that he has kept himself abreast of the details of Venetian mercantile activity, since he can itemize all of Antonio's various ventures. This shows how important wealth/fortune is to Shylock.

·         Shylock reveals a deep hatred of Antonio and a lust for revenge. He also resents Antonio because he lends money free, reducing the rate of interest, which he as a moneylender, can charge. Antonio claims to despise usury, but he is not above using it according to his need. Again shows how money-business minded Shylock is.

            “I hate him for he is a Christian,

            But more for that in low simplicity

            He lends out money gratis and brings down         

            The rate of usance here with us in Venice.”



·         Shylock believes that his offer of money has been repaid with persecution cased on his religion – he thinks that the offer of dinner was an invitation to eat pork which he takes it as an insult.  This illustrates the pessimistic Shylock is of the Christians.

            “Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which

            your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into.

            I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you,

            walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat

            with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.”

·         Shylock agrees to the terms of the loans, he reminds Antonio of all the insults that have been made against him by Antonio. Antonio has insulted his religion, called him a cut-throat and a dog and spit on him. This shows Antonio being anti-Semitism, as he is prejudice and hostility toward Jews.  

            “Signior Antonio, many a time and oft

            In the Rialto you have rated me

            About my moneys and my usances:

            Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,

            For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.

            You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,

            And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,”

·         Shylock questions why should he lend money to someone who hates him? Antonio replies that he will continue to harass Shylock and that it should be easier to lend to someone Shylock hates – an enemy that way Shylock won’t mind exacting a punishment for a defaulted loan. This again reemphasizes Antonio being Anti – Semitism as he is willing to make a deal with Shylock – a Jews he is not willing to change his attitude towards Shylock showing his strong hatred against Shylock.

            “I am as like to call thee so again,

            To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.

            If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not

            As to thy friends; for when did friendship take

            A breed for barren metal of his friend?

            But lend it rather to thine enemy,

            Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face

            Exact the penalty.”



·         Friendship and love are idealized as the values worth sacrificing one’s all for, as shown in the relationships of Antonio and Bassanio. Antonio going against his believes of no borrow nor lend in order to help out Bassanio shows great friendship and love. Furthermore, Antonio agreed to take the bond if the debt is not paid by the exact date, "an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me." Antonio taking this bond also shows self – sacrificing due to his love towards Bassanio.




The bond:

·                     The bond is between Shylock and Antonio, as this scene is the first time it is being mentioned however was referred to repeatedly. Shylock uses the opportunity to revenge Antonio by using the bond to punish him if the debt was not repaid on the exact date.  This bond is a tied down for Antonio manipulated by Shylock.

            “Yes Shylock, I will seal unto this bond.”





·         A merchant of Venice, a well-respected businessman. He is a wealthy man and offered his friends the loan of money, without interest. He is a model Christian gentleman. He is esteemed and loved by his many friends, though his outward appearance is sad. His dignity and generosity have earned him many admirers. A philosophical man, he is tired of frivolous activities and tends to be reflective. Moreover, on a particular moment when Antonio was unable to lend his most trusted friend Bassanio, 3000 Ducats. His whole fortune was tied up on ships that were yet to arrive. Antonio, being a loyal friend offered to be Bassanio's Guarantor. Antonio attempted to borrowed money from a Jew, Shylock, as he was the only person who was able to lend the money. He told Shylock that the money would be paid back within three months. Shylock accepted his proposal, but on a condition, if the money were not paid back within the three months, then Antonio would have to repay him back with a pound of his flesh. Antonio accepted the bond, as he was desperate to help out his friend. This demonstrates a Christ like figure of Antonio as he is willing to do whatever it takes to help a friend out. However, other interpretations are that Antonio is over confident of his wealth therefore overlooked the possible results. Or that Antonio is naïve and due to his secret love for Bassanio, he is willing to do anything for Bassanio.

·         Despite his God like behavior, Antonio is considered an anti – Semitism as he insulted Shylock and harassed him.


·         A Jewish moneylender in Venice where the Jewish religion is considered evil.  The people of Venice including Antonio, have ridiculed him, called him dog, and spat out his name in vain. All because he is a Jew. He was considered an alien and yet was constituted to the Venetian Law. He was bitter due to the horrible treatments he received from the puritans. When Antonio asked to borrow money from him, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to fulfill his revenge. Asking for a pound of flesh was the only way he could take his vengeance without being prosecuted, it was a bond, and Antonio could not break it. Shylock was offered three times the amount owed, but he still did not forfeit the bond. He was portrayed as a villain of the story.



·         A good friend of Antonio, wanted to travel to Belmont to try to win the hand of Marriage from Portia, a wealthy heiress. In doing this, Bassanio required 3000 Ducats, in order to pay for his travel expenses and to make him appear a noble man. Since Antonio did not have his money, they had to borrow from Shylock. Basanio, refused to agree with the bond between Shylock and Antonio, this showed how close there friendship was. Although he is not shown as being remarkably intelligent however his basic goodness and good nature win him the love of Antonio.




Venice: A northern Italian port city, famous for its canals. It was a place of fabulous wealth, royal merchants, richly attired gentlemen, and refined culture. Antonio is very much a part of this society therefore it is not surprising they chose this place to deal business between Shylock, Bassanio and Antonio.



Narrative Style / Structure

A lot of long speeches/monologues were given by Shylock to construct him as a villain character. However can be interpret as asking for sympathy for Shylock explaining his bitterness suggesting that deep down Shakespeare felt for the Jews.



Relation of Part to Whole

This scene is when Bassanio and Antonio meet Shylock and the bond is arranged.  This is the part where the bond is first mentioned, the bond which later on backfired due to the shipwrecks of his wealth therefore he was to be punished accordingly to the bond. However, Portia managed to use the law against Shylock and saved Antonio.