The Merchant of Venice: Scene Notes – Act III, scene ii (lines 148 – end)




·         Now that Bassanio picked the right casket and won Portia’s hand, the happy couple promises one another love and devotion, as Portia gives Bassanio a ring that he must never part with, as his removal of it will signify the end of his love for her.

·         Similarly, Nerissa and Gratiano confess their love for each other; they suggest a double wedding and both couples bask in joy.

·         However, in the midst of this rejoicing Lorenzo and Jessica arrive, along with Salerio, who brings bad news for Bassanio, in a letter from Antonio. The letter informs Bassanio that all of Antonio’s ships are lost and that Shylock plans to collect his ‘pound of flesh’. This news about his friend, whom he had borrowed money from, provokes a sense of guilt in Bassanio.

·         In effect Portia offers to pay twenty times the sum in order to save Bassanio’s friend. She urges her husband to rush to Antonio’s aid, after he marries her. Bassanio eventually leaves for Venice, leaving his wife in Belmont.



Motifs and connotations

The ring:

The ring given to Bassanio by Portia acts as an important motif, Portia states that the ring is a metaphor for her love, nevertheless, this demonstrates the way love revolves around materialistic things, as Portia’s love is objectified. Furthermore, it is suggested by the fact that Portia states, that if Bassanio is to lose the ring their love is doomed, it is hinted that their love is in fact dependent of a materialistic object.


The letter:

The letter from Antonio to Bassanio in this scene acts as a connection between Belmont and Venice, bringing the two different worlds of law and love together. The letter from Venice brings bad news to Belmont, allowing Shylocks shadow to hang over the lovers. The letter in this scene becomes an obstacle in the plot.





·         Through out this scene different illusions of love are created. There is a strong sense of profound love built, portraying love in a light we haven’t seen before in the play, for example the exchange of vows between Portia and Bassanio are conducted at an exalted level, suggesting an idyllic romance.

·         However, Gratiano readjusts the balance by portraying love in a different light, as he boastfully wagers that he and Nerissa produce a boy before they Portia and Bassanio do, reminding us that it is physical as well as a spiritual union, “We’ll play with them the first boy for a thousand ducats “.

·         Love moreover, through out this scene is also seen as based on appearance, highlighting the theme of appearance versus reality, present through out the play, as phrases such as “A thousand times more fair” and Gratiano’s comment “My eyes, my lord, can look as swift as yours”, contrast with the image of profound love also present in this scene, as they focus on appearance and create a different illusion of love.  

·         Furthermore, this scene displays love based on materialism too, as there is a constant reference made to money “ten thousand times more rich” and materialistic items, such as the ring that Portia gives to Bassanio. Moreover, the fact that Portia immediately agrees to solve the monetary crisis that Antonio is in, which her husband feels guilty for further brings out a sense of self interest versus love, as we begin to wonder what Bassanio’s true intentions really are, for marrying Portia. 


Law (in contrast to love):

·         Till this point, Venice, “the real world”, governed by law, and Belmont, a “fairy tale world” have been kept separate. However with the arrival of Jessica, Lorenzo and Salerino from Venice in this scene, we see the two contrasting worlds meet, as the shadow of Shylock hangs over the couples and the evils of wealth and law, spawned in Venice disrupt the serenity of Belmont. The letter of Antonio’s danger, caused law puts an obstacle in the way of the happy ending for the play’s lovers, as Bassanio is torn in a dilemma, between his love for his new wife and his loyalty to his old friend Antonio. In this scene it is evident how law from Venice acts as an obstacle for love, in Belmont, as the two worlds meet.





Portia embodies the virtues that are typical of Shakespeare’s heroines. In this scene when speaking to Bassanio she appears to be the more dominant one in the relationship, she appears to be slightly authoritative, “And be my vantage to exclaim on you”. This may possibly be because she is the one with the monetary advantage. Moreover, she immediately begins to make attempts to solve the problems when Bassanio receives the letter. This ultimately undermines the image of women being minors, which Shakespeare makes beforehand. She is evidently, in this scene portrayed as a powerful character, even with the presence of men, she had the power to make a decision and immediately put it into effect.



Through out this scene Bassanio’s character become more preferable as he has by now won Portia’s hand and in this scene continues proclaiming his love for her. Nevertheless, his love at certain points can be questioned as there are several references made towards monetary items in this scene. However, because Bassanio is torn by an agonizing conflict between his love and loyalty toward his new wife and his love and loyalty to his old friend Antonio but eventually by the end of the scene gets to marry Portia and leave to Venice to meet his friend, he becomes a character whom is easy to gain a liking for.



It becomes evident in this scene that Jessica, in fact plays a larger role in the plot of the play than it would appeared before. She is given little attention by Portia and the others at Belmont, suggesting that considering she is the daughter of the antagonist shylock, her intentions remained suspicious to the others. Therefore the fact that she speaks Shylock's murderous intention, suggests that she is desperate to avoid being the object of suspicion. Nonetheless, it also becomes evident in this scene that it is in fact Jessica who is responsible for her fathers rage and thus for her fathers harshness to Antonio. Jessica is largely responsible for the plot of the play and nonetheless we remain more sympathetic towards her, than her father.



In this scene Salerio escorts the newlyweds Jessica and Lorenzo to Belmont, his role in this play and specifically in this scene, as it is set in Belmont, is larger than we would imagine. Considering the passage of time in this play is peculiar, as Shakespeare juggles different chronologies, the three months that Antonio has to pay the debt go by quickly, while in Belmont time moves in a slower pace, Salerio, in this scene is used to update the audience on the events that occurred during the Venetian weeks, while the focus was given to Belmont. Salerio connects the two different settings.




Shakespeare through out this scene plays with the imagery of the theme of love. He portrays love in several different lights and allows us to interpret the theme in various ways, either as uncorrupted, as for the first time in the play there is an image of profound love created between Bassanio and Portia.


Nevertheless, the image of profound love is undermined with the images of money and appearances which are present through out this scene, therefore demonstrating how the imagery of love is exploited throughout the scene and is in fact dependant on how we wish to interpret it.




Evident from earlier in the play, Belmont is portrayed as the city which houses a rich and jovial society. In contrast to VeniceBelmont is a fairy-tale world of love and the events that occur in this scene emphasize this, as the lovers unite and a joyful mood is conveyed.


Moreover, there evidently appears to be no complexity in Belmont, there’s no room for predicaments and when a problem does appear, such as the letter Bassanio receives, it is quickly solved. Unlike Venice, Belmont is not governed by law, the fact that in this scene a poor young nobleman comes to the city and eventually ends up marrying a fair and wealthy maiden demonstrates this. Moreover, the fact that Jessica and Lorenzo escape from Venice to come to Belmont, in this scene further portrays the city as a sanctuary from the ‘real world’.



Narrative style

As a drama text the atmosphere created heavily relies on the narrative style of the characters. Initially, in this scene it is evident that Portia and Bassanio speak the most; they both speak a large amount of lines as they devote their love to each other. Moreover, the couple speaks in iambic pentameter, emphasizing on the status of the characters. Initially in this scene, while Portia and Bassanio are devoting their love to each other, there is also a large sense of hyperbole in their narrative style, further emphasizing on the theme of profound love present.



Relation of Part to Whole

Ultimately this scene is essential to the whole play; it’s after Bassanio’s casket climax and in fact portrays an image of love never seen before in the play, as profound and uncorrupted. Moreover, in the aspect of characters, Jessica’s character is given more depth as we discover more about her and a new impression of Portia is created, undermining the previous image of women as minorities in comparison to men.  In this scene, despite the fact that one obstacle is overcome, a new problem has arisen and the plot is thickened.