Jessica Lomeli on The Merchant of Venice, Act 3

Published by admin_main on Mon 13 Sep, 2010

11. In Act 3, Scene 2, what accounts for Bassanio's success in choosing the leaden chest rather than the golden and silver ones? How might the song "Tell me where is fancy bred?" be a way of describing Bassanio's choice?

To start with, from the reader's perspective we know that other suitors had chosen gold and silver incorrectly. Bassanio didn't choose the gold, then he said that the silver was a "common drudge." Then he chose the lead casket. Right after the song was sung, on page 463 line 73, Bassanio says, "So may the outward shows be least themselves, the world is still deceived with ornament. " Those lines are referring to gold. The golden casket seems to have the most worth of the three and be more sought after, but that one had turned out to be the one with a skull. Portia's father was trying to weed out the suitors that do not make well thought out decisions, which is what the Prince of Morocco fell victim to. Then on page 464 line 80, Bassanio says,
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"hiding the grossness with fair ornament" further supports this idea regarding the gold. The song "where is fancy or love bred" ties back to the saying on the outside of the casket. It says, on page 455 line 8, " Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." Choosing this must be out of love. The lead was the least appealing casket and offered the least appealing saying. But, love isn't about getting "what all men desire or deserve", quoted from the gold and silver caskets also on page 455, but it is about giving up and sacrificing. That kind of sacrifice and "hazard" is where love is bred from, and it describes Bassanio's choice. This idea of giving is a Christian idea.

13. In Act 3, Scene 5, is there any significance in Lancelot's theological quibbling with Jessica over her religion? How might we connect this comic scene with the play's more serious events?

There is evidently lots of discrimination against Jews in this play. Jessica is convinced that once she marries Lorenzo, page 471, Act 3 Scene 5, line 15, "I shall be saved by my husband. He hath made me a Christian," she will leave her past behind and will be Christian. However, it seems like Lancelot is insinuating that she can't leave her past regardless of what she does not, like marrying Lorenzo. On page 472 line 65 reads, "For having such a blessing in his lady" and is referring to Portia. Then on the next page 473 line 69, "Why if two gods should play some heavenly match, and on the wager lay two earthly woman and Portia one." These lines show that Jessica shows how she feels inferior to Portia. Shylock, her father and a Jew, seems to struggle with this idea throughout the play and that is one of the more serious on-going events. Page 461, beginning with line 48, Shylock asks his Christian hearers,

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt the with same weapons, subject to the same diseases healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?

These lines also show how Jews were made to feel inferior to Christians. However, Shylock seemed to be more proud and want to attain justice for himself, but Jessica was ashamed and wanted nothing to do with her dad or with being Jewish.

Additionally, while Lancelot is speaking poorly about being a Jew and how it is ruining it for Christians, he is having a relationship with one of Portia's workers or as they refer to the in Scene 3 Act 5, "the Moor." She is pregnant with his child, but they are not married. He seems to have a do as I say, not as I do philosophy because his actions don't amount to living in a "Christian" way.