This play centres on two main characters, Antonio who is an extremely wealthy merchant and Shylock a very wealthy Jew.
The main reason of hatred between Antonio and Shylock is that they both lend out money to people but Antonio wouldn’t charge interest and therefore would be making much more money than him. They also didn’t see eye to eye because they were both brought up in different lifestyles and religions ‘I Hate him for he is a Christian’. When Antonio borrows money off Shylock he then at this time came up with the bond and Antonio was therefore humiliated ‘Laughed at my losses…mocked at my gains’.
The court scene is the climax of the play; the tension created between Antonio and Shylock is one thing that makes this scene dramatically effective, also injustice is shown because of the fact that Antonio is seated and Shylock is standing before the Duke, this gives the impression that Shylock is the one on trail.
Throughout the scene the audience sit there in anticipation. For instance when Portia says to Nerissa ‘We’ll see our husbands before they think of us!’ This scene keeps the audience interested knowing that Shylock wants his pound of flesh.
The character of Shylock changes in the play, we seem to guess that Shylock will lose but he doesn’t know he is wrong by law. In this scene tension is mounted several time especially when Portia presents her argument, Shylock is waiting to cut off the flesh and the audience are waiting to see blood. Shylocks attitude to an Elizabethan audience would come across as rude and arrogant but to a modern day audience they would sympathise with Shylock. Shylocks language is very powerful and nothing can change him or his mind, he will not be forced to do anything.
The relationship between Bassanio and Antonio is purely based on friendship. Bassanio offers huge amounts of money because he feels partly responsible; he is even willing to sacrifice himself and is prepared to sacrifice his wife and the entire world. Portia’s presence is an indication of her love for Bassanio; she is prepared to do anything to rescue his friend.
Dramatic irony is shown throughout the scene especially when Portia gives her speech she uses words such as ‘gentle, heaven and blessed’ this makes it seem intense and when Antonio gives his say he captures the audiences minds ‘to let a wretched man outlive his wealth,’ he is trying to get the audience to see who is in the right.
Portia’s speech is very poetic; it shows mercy and a form of power, ‘mercy seasons justice’ this represents the qualities that kings have it scares them, mercy is more important as it is in the heart of the king. Another example of dramatic irony would be the fact that Portia and Nerissa are in disguise, in Shakespeare’s time a young man would play the part of a women dressed as a man.
After Portia’s speech shylock seems to change and becomes very sarcastic and he thinks the difference mercy and justice is ‘I stand here for law’.
At the beginning of the play Portia seems an evil character, a very pushy person, and not happy with what she has got but throughout the scene she proves herself to be very clever. Portia changes her mind about justice and mercy. She seems to be very taunting towards Shylock, we as the audience seem to feel different towards her, as we know that she is in disguise, we now realise what her intention is and why she is doing this, it starts to show quite a lot throughout her speech.
Gratiano is mimicking what shylock was saying earlier in the scene, the tables have turned. For an Elizabethan audience that would be a very powerful moment and the sympathy for him would be is dissipated. The audience seem to think Gratiano is funny but pushes it a bit to far by being too cruel. Gratiano and Bassanio give up everything for Antonio’s sake. Gratiano implies that Bassanio chooses Antonio over Portia; at this moment it’s only the audience that know Portia is listening to every word.
The theme of mercy is continued with the Duke showing Shylock mercy ‘I pardon thee life thou ask it’. The theme of justice may now seem as injustice, because Shylock has been forced to change his religion but he wants to stand up and be proud of what he is!
The stage is a grand setting, and when we see the stage as a court, we know that it’s a trail, with a judge and clerk, we see the knife and the scales on the stage they are an indication that we will see blood, the way shylock stands there sharpening the knife makes us think that whatever happens he will get what he wants even if he has to humiliate himself and that he wants pay back and wants the pound of flesh, this creates tension and conflict which makes this dramatic. We as the audience know more than what they know on stage, for example we know that the judge and clerk are not real, they are Portia and Nerissa.
Shakespeare uses a variety of language in this scene, which adds to the drama. For example he refers to shylock as ‘the Jew’ and often uses animal language, they are seeing him as inferior and he has no individuality in the court. He is a complicated character, he can use elegant language but also uses coarse language because he’s angry with the Christians and he wants revenge another example of this would be his long speech referring to animals ‘gaping pig,’ he says this because he thinks there is no point in explaining himself because there is no need to in his opinion. An example of his elegant language would be ‘When it is paid, according to the tenour’.
Portia uses sophisticated language as well as elegant language she’s shows it when talking about Shylock and his bond, she uses legal terminology when she pursues the case, she seems to make herself clear and her speech about mercy is persuasive.
Gratiano mimics Shylock in a nasty way, he seems to take the mick out of him, ‘Are wolfish, bloody, starved, and ravenous.’