The Merchant of Venice: Scene Notes – Act II, scene v




Shylock informs Lancelot that he will have to judge for himself whether Bassanio is a better master. He then calls Jessica, hands her keys to the house, and tells her that he must leave for dinner that evening. Lancelot tells Shylock that there will likely be a masque that night. At this news, Shylock forbids Jessica from leaving the house. As Shylock gets ready, Lancelot privately tells Jessica that Lorenzo will come for her that night.



Motifs & Connotations

Submissive role of women:

·         In this scene, Jessica is portrayed as submissive and subservient towards Shylock. “Call you? What is your will?” Furthermore, she is depicted as if a belonging. This is seen when Shylock says, “Jessica, my girl, Look to my house.” The use of “my” indicates Shylock’s dominance within the household. During Shakespearean time, this would be seen as a norm as men tend to make the decisions.



·         Loyalty is a lasting motif throughout the play. However, in Act 2 Scene 5, we see a lack of loyalty where both Shylock’s servant and daughter conspire to leave him. Jessica’s soon-to-be departure indicates how distant she is to her father as we as readers do not learn of her reasons.


Negative portrayal of Shylock:

·         Shylock is portrayed as vampiric and money hungry. “…to feed upon the prodigal Christian…” “…dream of money-bags…” Furthermore, even in the stage instructions, Shylock is introduced by his religion- a Jew. His portray aims to stereotype the perception of Jews during Shakespearean times where Christianity and Judaism were in conflict. By presenting Shylock as a villain, it makes depicts Antonio as a victim of malicious intent.  




Prejudice and stereotypes:

·         This play has been labeled as anti-Semitic as Shylock has been presented outwardly as a villainous character. In some scenes (Act 2 Scene 5), he is ridiculed as a comic character. “’Fast bind, fast find’- A proverb never stale in thrifty mind.” The use of rhyming couplets at the end creates a comical contrast against the beginning of his speech.





·         presented as money hungry, vampiric and a Puritan. All this further dehumanizes him.



·         presented as submissive, and to the audience, would be seen as trapped. The audience would be supportive of her flight.




This scene takes place in front of Shylock’s house. This is perhaps to emphasise his Puritan beliefs when he forbids Jessica to participate during the masques. This would go against Christian beliefs, further alienating Shylock and making him a villain. “Let not the sound of shallow fopp’ry enter my sober house.”



Narrative Style / Structure

The length of speech by Shylock exceeds both Launcelot and Jessica put together. This shows that Shylock is in control under his own roof. As Launcelot is a clown, Shylock is still of a higher social class despite their difference. Jessica, although his daughter, has the fewest lines, indicating that women, in terms of social power, were below men.



Relation of Part to Whole

Shylock's character starts to emerge very strongly within this act. We see him now not only as a moneylender demanding interest, but also as a villain. He shows an aversion to fun, demanding that Jessica lock the door and close the windows when he finds out there will be a masque that night. This scene also foreshadows Jessica’s flight. Much of this act therefore develops the negative aspects of Shylock character.