The Merchant of Venice
Questions and Answers
Act I, Scene I
Q1. Where Antonio’s friends have gathered, and what does he say about his sadness?
Answer .. They are in a street in Venice where they generally meet. They all want to see Antonio ebullient, but the latter remains reticent and de-spirited. On being pressed by his friends, Antonio says that he himself is clueless about the reasons of his listlessness.
Q2. Give the meaning of:
a. Whereof it is born … It means, ‘What triggered it…’.
b. A want-wit sadness . It means, ‘A sadness that is so intriguing …’.
c. That I have much ado to know myself… It means, ‘I have great difficulty in understanding myself.’
Q3. What reason does Salarino give as the probable cause of Antonio’s melancholy?
Answer .. Salarino ascribes Antonio’s melancholy to the worry caused by his ships that are yet to return ashore. Antonio has heavy stakes in his ships, and he knows marine voyages could be very risky at times. These thoughts gnaw at his mental peace relentlessly. This is how Salarino reads his friend’s sadness.
Q4. State in your own words the scene on the ocean as described by Salarino when Antonio’s ships are sailing.
Answer .. Antonio’s ships are sailing back home. They are giant in size, and tower over other small ships in their vicinity. A storm blows and tosses the smaller vessels dangerously, but Antonio’s vessels remain unruffled and steady.
Q5. The play begins in an atmosphere of melancholy. Why do you think that Antonio is presented as melancholic and passive character?
Answer .. The play is centered around Antonio’s sacrifice, suffering, uprightness, and above all, his benign nature. A happy and boisterous person’s sacrifices do not impact the reader’s mind as much as that of a sad and suffering man. Antonio made the ultimate sacrifice for his friend Bassanio, who wanted to win Portia’s hand. The terms for the loan from the Jew were humiliating and wicked, yet Antonio went for it with the least hesitation.
Q6. Where would Salanio’s attention be if he had business ventures abroad? Why would he be ‘Plucking the grass’? What else would he be doing in that context?
Answer .. If Salanio had overseas business, he would be worried day in and day out. His mood would be sombre, and his words very circumspect. He would pluck the grass to gauge the wind direction. Additionally, he would seriously empathize with Antonio, and look seaward to spot his own home-bound vessels.
Q7. What would make Salanio fear some danger to his ventures? Give two examples from the opening scene to show how some objects remind Salarino of the danger to the ships.
Answer .. Salanio is from the same community of marine traders as is Antonio. He knows the risks ships face when storms buffet them. When he blew the air from his mouth to the cup of hot soup, images of powerful storms blowing ships adrift and sinking them came to his mind. Seeing the heap of sand in the bottom chamber of his hour glass, he conjured the scene of his wrecked ships, and the wreckages strewn all over the place.
Q8. Give meanings of:
(a) Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind.
(b) Peering in maps for ports, and piers, and roads.
Answer .. a. When you toss a blade of glass in the wind, it gets carried away in the direction of the wind. This is a very simple way to judge wind direction, so vital for sailors.
b. Maps of seas, ports, waterways, and land are crucial for marine navigation. Sailors and their employers in land refer to them frequently to ascertain the location of ships.
Q9. In spite of the danger to his ships, why is Antonio not worried about his financial security?
Answer .. Antonio is a man of means. He is sagacious and patient. He reckons that even if just one of his ships returns home safe, he can ride out the crisis. So, he is not very perturbed about his financial outlook.
Q10. What light does the opening scene throw on the danger that the sea could pose to ships?
Answer .. Sea voyages in those times were fraught and risky. Sometimes luck ran out for the sailors who drowned along with their stricken vessels and cargo. Antonio was acutely aware of this, and was gripped by disturbing thoughts.
Q11. In what mood is Salarino in this scene?
Answer .. Salarino initially was carefree and confident. Later, he became circumspect and started to worry about Antonio’s ships still at sea. He began to empathise with Antonio.
Q12. What would the wind cooling the broth remind Salarino of?
Answer .. Salario became aware of the humungous power of strong winds, and its ability to push heavy objects adrift.
Q13. Give the meaning of:
And see my wealthy Andrew dock’d in sand, ..It refers to the ship named Andrew laden with costly cargo that has run aground.
Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs. Lying upside down as a dead and abandoned vessel
To kiss her burial. Awaiting its burial
Q14. What is the ‘sandy hour-glass’? What would it remind Salarino of?
Answer .. An hour glass has a top and a bottom chamber separated by a very narrow constricted passage. Sand falls through it from the upper chamber to make a heap in the lower chamber. Wreckage of wrecked ships often pile up like this.
Q15. What is referred to as ‘wealthy Andrew’? Why is it so referred?
Answer .. Andrew is a cargo-laden ship that is worth a lot because of its merchandise.
Q16. When Salarino would go to church what would he see? What would the scene make him imagine?
Answer .. Salarino sees the stone cross in the church. He is so disturbed that the sight of the cross reminds him about the rocks in the sea that bedevil his ships.
Q17. Who said that Antonio was in Love? What was the reaction of Antonio to that remark?
Answer .. Solanio suggested that love was behind Antonio’s sullen mood. Antonio dismissed the suggestion outright showing some amount of irritation.
Q18. Antonio says that he is not sad because of love. What explanation does Salarino give in this extract for Antonio’s sadness?
Answer .. Salarino suggests that the delay in return of Antonio’s wealth laden ships was behind his mental torment.
Q19. What is meant by the ‘two-headed Janus’? Why is he referred to in the extract?
Answer .. Two-headed Janus is a two headed mythological God. He is actually the two-heading Roman god of Doorways and Openings, looking to the back (past) and front (future). This description is an allusion by Solarino to Antonio’s dual persona – one cheerful, and the other, despondent.
Q20. Describe in your own words the two types of strange fellows who have been framed by nature.
Q21. Give meaning of:
- And other of such vinegar aspect … People who are too reserved and dry –emotionless
- Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable. –A very funny and hilarious situation where anyone would burst out laughing
[To be continued]