Merchant of Venice Workbook Answers Act 2 – Important Notes – ICSE Class 10 & 9 English
Word Meaning With Annotation
Act II Scene I
Complexion : colour, the shadowed livery of the burnish’d sun : “The dark colour which the fierce sun bestows.” “livery” is the uniform which a rich man uses for all his servants. Hence a “shadowy” or sun burnt skin is said to be the distinctive uniform or dress which the sun bestows on those who live in hot countries, neighbour, and near bred : the hot countries are near to the sun, and hence may be regarded as closer neighbours to it than cold countries, fairest : whitest; of lightest skin. Phoebus’ fire : “the heat of the sun”. Phoebus is the Greek name for the sun-god. icicles : long pointed spikes of ice.
make incision : the old surgical term for the opening of a vein, to prove whose blood is reddest : the old idea was that the most courageous man had reddest blood. The blood of a coward was always supposed to be of a pale colour, best regarded : “most respected.” except to steal your thoughts : “unless it were to attract your thoughts of love.” nice direction of a maiden’s eyes : dislikes which arise when a maiden looks on a suitor, scanted : deprived me of free choice, hedg’d me by his wit : artfully surrounded me with restrictions, then stood as fair : “would then have had as good a chance.” It will be observed that Portia is impressed by the soldierly speech and straightforward honesty of the Prince, and hastens to assure him that she does not think his oriental origin places him in the least below his European competitors.
Scimitar : sword. Sophy : the Shah or emperor of Persia. Sultan Solyman : was a Turkish Ruler; probably Shakespeare is thinking of Solyman the Magnificent, who was defeated by the Persians in 1535. but, alas the while!: An exclamation of regret: “But it is sad that it should be the case that, etc.” Hercules and Lichas play at dice : Hercules was the Greek god of strength, and is always used as the type for manly courage and physical energy. Lichas was the servant who brought Hercules a poisoned shirt, and was immediately thrown into the sea by his angry master. The sense is that a strong and brave man has no better chance than a weak man in a gambling competition, such as Morocco concluded this choice between the caskets to be. which is the better man : to decide which of the two is the better man.
so is Alcides beaten by his page : Alcides is another name for Hercules, and the page is Lichas. The idea is simply a continuation of the above. There is no story to the effect that Hercules and Lichas ever did indulge in a game of chance, but Morocco says that if they had done so, the page would have had quite a good chance of beating his master, blind Fortune leading me : with nothing to help me save pure chance. Be advis’d : think it over carefully. The temple : it was necessary for the Prince to go to the sacred building, in order to take the oath that he would observe the conditions, your hazard shall be made : you shall take your chance.
Act II Scene II
The fiend : Satan; the devil, scorn running with thy heels : “to take to one’s heels” is a colloquial phrase meaning “to take to flight.” pack : depart. Via : ‘Take the road’, hanging about the neck of : restraining, holding back. (Just as we might imagine a wife hanging about the neck of her husband, restraining him from some act.) God bless the mark! : this expression was used as an apology for having used any coarse expression: here for having used the name of the devil, which was supposed to be unlucky, saving your reverence : used in the same sense as “God bless the mark!” Master Jew’s : The word “Master” is used here as a title of respect, with much the same effect as “Sahib”, sand- blind : half-blind, “high-gravel” blind represents a further stage of blindness, but it is still not so bad as “stoneblind” i.e. completely blind, confusions : wrongly used by Launcelot, who means “conclusions”, turn up on your right hand at the next turning, but, at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house : this is deliberately given as a confused and senseless direction, sonties : God’s health, so perhaps it was customary to swear by the health of the Deity. Or it may mean “By the saints.”
raise the waters : brings tears to the old man’s eyes by telling him that his son was dead. Though I say it : an apology for boasting of his own honesty and poverty, well to live : may mean “in good health”. But the more common meaning would be “well to do.” a : a contraction for “he”; it is used only in the speech of unseated countrymen, your worship’s friend : you may call him your friend, but he is not entitled to be called “Master”. Ergo : Latin word for “therefore”. Launcelot uses it here because it sounds learned, but he seems not to know the use or meaning of the word, an’t please your mastership : if it please you, sir! talk not of Master Launcelot, father : the word “father” was used as a respectful form of address to any old man.
the sister three, and such branches of learning : the three sisters, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, were also called the Fates and Destinies; they are the symbolic classic conception of fate and destiny, ranches of learning : may be read as “learned names and phrases.” Shakespeare is satirising those people who are not content to use plain speech, but attempt to use learned words and phrases, staff of my age, my very prop : Launcelot had been a source of support to his father, just as a staff is to a feeble person, or a prop to a wall. Cudgel : a club or lathi, this is used palyfully and is suggested by the literal meaning of the word “staff’ in the previous line, hovel-post : a wooden post or upright used in the building of a hovel or hut. It is a wise father that knows his own child : this coarse expression still persists in English. The meaning is, of course, that if a man has a wife who is immoral, he can never tell whether the child which is bom belongs to him or not. truth will out : truth cannot be conceaed.
let’s have no more fooling : Let us cease to talk in jest about it. I know not what I shall think of that: but I am Launcelot, the Jew’s man; and I am sure Margery, your wife, is my mother : the thought is again of the coarse nature such as pleased the calsses of Elzabethans. Launcelot says that no man can be sure who his father was, although there is no doubt about his mother. It is an echo of the words “It’s a wise father that knows his own child.” Dobbin my fiil-horse : ‘fill-horse’ denotes a horse used for drawing a cart, and “Dobbin” has always been an affectionate name bestowed on a horse in England, grows backward : becomes less instead of longer, of : used instead of “on.”
set up my rest : determined; resolved. This phrase is derived from a gambling game, and meant to stand upon the cards in one’s hand, relying that they would be better than those of an opponent, you may tell every finger I have with my ribs : the words “finger” and “ribs” should be interchanged. Launcelot means that he has not been sufficiently fed while in Shylock’s service, with the result that anyone is able to count all his ribs by feeling with a finger. But he makes this mistake, something a kin to what we call a “Spoonerism.” who, indeed, gives rare new liveries : In the meantime, Bassanio is engaged in fitting out his expedition to Belmont, and evidently Launcelot has heard that Bassanio’s servants are being clothed in fine new suits of uniform.
I am a Jew : “May I become a Jew myself etc.” Launcelot means that this is- equally impossible as it is for him to remain longer in Shylock’s service. Grammercy : An exclamation denoting thanks; Bassanio acknowledges the respect paid in the words “Your worship”, he hath a great infection : He has a great desire. The word “infection” is deliberately used wrongly instead of “affection” saving your worship’s reverence : “with apologies to you Sit.” or “if I may mention the fact, Sir.” frutify : another word used wrongly by Launcelot; he means “explain” or “set forth”. Impertinent : ridiculous mistake. He means “pertinent” i.e. “my application pertains to or concerns myself.”
defect : Gobbo means the “substance” or “effect” of the matter, and hath preferr’d thee, if it be preferment : the verb “prefer” meant either to : recommend or to promote, the old proverb is very well parted between my master Shylock and you, sir; you have the grace of God, sir, and he hath enough : the proverb is “The grace of God is better than gear (possessions).!’ lodging : place of abode, guarded : “braided”. In the first place the edge of the cloth was bound with material to protect it and keep it form fraying. Then it came to mean additional cloth applied by way of ornament. Launcelot is to have a uniform with more ornamental stripes on it than the other servants.
If any man in Italy have a fairer table, which doth offer to swear upon a book, I shall have good fortune! : The general sense is- “Any one who has (or who can swear he has) a hand better endowed than mine, is lucky indeed.” “Table” is a technical term in palmistry, meaning the palm of the hand on which the lines are read. It is enough to remember that Shakespeare depicts Launcelot as overjoyed by his good luck, and makes him speak in a confused and excited manner, simple line of life : a clearly marked line on his palm, denoting that he will have long life, coming-in : that which comes in, i.e. something acquired, to be in peril of my life with the edge of a feather bed : The sense is “and I see also from my hand that I shall at one time be in danger of losing my life, and also I see the symbol of a bed, denoting a wealthy marriage for me.”
a good wench for gear : a kind lady for showing me this prospect of possessions, in the twinkling of an eye : “in an instant”, or, as the saying goes, “As quickly as you could wink.” Orderly bestowed : carefully placed on board the ship, feast : entertain, hie thee : “Betake yourself’ or “Go.” you have obtained it : Bassanio grants the request before he knows what it is. parts : characteristics; manners, too liberal : overdone; too bold, allay : to weaken; to abate, skipping spirit : unruly disposition. I be misconstrued : I should find my errand misunderstood.
Put on a sober habit : assume quieter manners, wear prayer books in my pocket : to give people the impression that he was a devout man, given to religious exercises, demurely : modestly; equietly. hood mine eyes, thus with my hat : men of quality wore hats at meals; probably the custom was that when the grace (prayer of thanks) was being said, they held the hat reverently in front of the face. Amen : the word which concludes a prayer. Use all the observance of civility : company with the usages of good society, sad ostent : appearance of solemnity. Bar to-night : make an exception of tonight gauge, judge, that were pity : it would be a pity to do so. boldest suit of mirth : “Your gayest dress”, or “Your most mirthful mood.” the latter is more suitable to the context.
Act II Scene III
Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil : our home has been as miserable as hell, but enlivened somewhat by the presence of such a merry fellow as yourself. Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness : who relieved the monotony a little. Tears exhibit my tongue : emotion keeps him from speaktng. I shall end this strife : Jessica has been divided between loyalty to her father and love for Lorenzo; now she declares that the latter has won.
Act II Scene IV
Slink : go stealthily, disguise us : dress up in the fancy costumes and masks required for the proposed procession, spoke us yet : ordered in advance. We use the verb, “be speak” in the sense of “to order beforehand.” torch-bearers : each gentleman participating in the procession would be preceded by an attendant who carried a lighted torch. Quaintly ordered : arranged so as to present a pretty spectacle, take this : on the stage Lorenzo accompanies the words by giving a coin to Launcelot. I am provided of a torch-bearer : evidently the idea has just come into Lorenzo’s mind that he will disguise Jessica as a boy, and smuggle her away as the attendant carrying his torch in the procession. Some hour : in about an hour. I must needs : “needs” is superfluous; read simply “I must” or “I feel compelled to.” page’s suit : a servant boy’s clothing, cross her foot : “Cross her path.”
Act II Scene V
The difference of : the difference between your late master and your new one. gormandize : “devour large amounts of food.” It will be remembered that is Scene II, Launcelot said that he had had so little to eat in the Jew’s service that all his ribs might be easily counted. But Shylock takes a different view of the matter. Bid forth : invited out. to feed upon, the prodigal Christian : this shows the meanness of Shylock, who goes out for no other reason than to enjoy a free meal at the expense of the open-handed Bassanio. loath : reluctant, ill a-brewing : there is some mischief impending or being prepared, tonight : when we use this phrase, we usualy do so in a future sense, i.e. the night which is to come. But Shakespeare here, uses it in the sense of “last night.”
reproach : blunder for “approach”. And they have conspired : this is another case where Launcelot uses a word which is hardly suitable for his meaning, but it expresses unconscious truth, for the audience knows that there had indeed been a conspiracy by the lovers. So that is an other skilful use of dramatic irony, my nose fell a-bleeding : there was a superstition that if person’s nose commenced to bleed, it was a sign of bad luck. Black Monday : Easter Monday, so called because, according to Stow’s Chronicle, …. “Easter Monday was full dark of mist and hill, and so bitter cold that many men died on their horses’ back of the cold.”
Ash- Wednesday : this festival always falls on the first Wednesday in Lent, six weeks before Easter. So it is absurd of Launcelot to talk of Easter Monday and Ash Wednesday falling at the same time, was four year in the afternoon : in the same speech, Launcelot says that this event happened last year; then that it happened four years ago. First he says it was in the morning, and then that it happened in the afternoon, drum and the vile squealing of the wry-necked fife : probably refer to the players, rather than the instruments, i.e. drum is the same as our “drummer”. In a work called English Garner Tudor Tracts, we hear that a “drum…. was shot in both legs.” Similarly “fife means a fife-player”, “wry-necked” (i.e. corrked-necked) refers to the fact that it was necessary for the fife player to twist his head to one side when playing his instruments, vanish’d faces : Faces painted or made up with colour, foppery : foolery, by Jacob’s staff : Shylock swears by the staff which his ancestor, Jacob, is said to have carried according to Biblical stories, there will come a Christian by, will be worth a Jewess’ eye : this refers to Lorenzo. He will pass by, and will be worth looking upon, what says that fool of Hagar’s off spring; ha : the Gentiles, the people despised by the Jews, were supposed to be descended from Hagar, while the Jews traced their line back to Sarah. So, Launcelot, the servant, is a son of Hagar, the slave woman.
Patch : fellow; fool. The word is probably derived from the motley coat of the professional jester, which was “patched” i.e. of different colour, drones hive not with me : the male bee is called the drone. He never searches for honey, but allows the female bee to do all the work. Here the sense is “Idlers may u live with me.” help to waste his borrow’d purse : Shylock wishes the wasteful Launcelot to ai. Bassanio in squandering the borrowed money, fast bind, fast find : “what you lock up securely will be found safe when you return.”
Act II Scene VI
Pent house : a house with a projecting roof, forming an overhead shelter. Out-dwells : delays longer than his appointed time, venus’ pigeons : Venus, the Goddess of Love, is depicted by the ancients in a carriage drawn by doves. The sense is that Venus is quick to seal the promises of new lovers, but not in such a hurry to intervene to prevent a breach of marriage bonds among married people, untread again his tedious measures : retrace his steps over the ground where he has performed tedious walking, younger : a young man, literally, a “younger”, scarfed bark : the ship which is ornamented with gay scraf or flag.
Hugged and embraced by the strumpet wind : “strumpet” is an immoral woman; a prostitute. The wind is said to meet the ship with just such caresses as such a woman gives a reckeless young man. prodigal : this is an allusion to the parable from the Bible which tells of the prodigal son, the young man who asked his father to advance his share of the inheritance, then went away into far- off countries and squandered it all. In the long run, he was compelled to come home, sad and poverty- stricken. over-weathered ribs : “greatly beaten by the rough weather.” Lean : rent, and beggared by the strumpet wind : just like the prodigal son returning home, thin, ragged, and reduced to poverty by the wicked women (so has the ship been treated by the wind) Long abode : my long delay, please : desire; be inclined, watch : wait, and thy love : who is also your lover, casket : the box of gold and jewels which she is taking away, worth the pains : you will find the contents make it worth your trouble, my exchange : my change into boy’s dress.
But love is blind, and lovers cannot see, the pretty follies that themselves commit : the classical god of love, Cupid, is always represented as a blind boy, with bow and arrow. So the idea here is that just like Cupid, lovers are always blind to each other’s faults. Descend : on the Elizabethan stage, the upper window would be denoted by Jessica speaking from the upper stage, they in themselves, good-sooth, are too-too light : there is a play on the word “light” here; it has the double sense of “visible” and ‘frivolous.” Why, ’tis an office of discovery, love : why, to cany a torch is a duty which reveals me, my love! Garnish : dress; adorn, for the close night doth play the run-awav : to ‘play the runaway’ is simply to act like a person who is running away, i.e., “concealing night is even now passing away.”
I will make fast the doors, and gild myself, with some more ducats, and be with you straight : to “gild” is to cover a thing with gold; this is Jessica’s flippant manner of saying that she will help herself to some more of Shylock’s money before departing. The callous manner in which she robs her father will offened our notions of honesty and filial piety alike, but most critics have overlooked this, seemingly accepting Shakespeare’s view that to rob and afflict Shylock is no sin. Beshrew me : a mild oath, by my hood. And true she is, as she hath proved herself : it is ironical that the term “true” should be applied to Jessica as she is in the act of robbing her father. Shall she be placed in my constant soul : shall her memory remain in my faithful heart, come about : “changed so as to blow from the opposite direction”. Again the scene concludes with a rhyming couplet, showing that the present action is concluded.
Act II Scene VII
Discover : reveal, several : different; various. Blunt : the words of the inscription on this casket are plain and unattractive, just as lead itself is in comparison with gold, withal : “along with the casket.” Back again : going back to the beginning again: rereading the inscriptions in the opposite order. A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross : “A mind of high quality is not deceived by worthless shows.” From this we can analyse the mind of Morocco, and see why he chose wrongly. He is not able to understand that a modest nature might choose plain outward appearance, and that great things in life may be gained only by hazard and sacrifice. He can only understand outer show and glitter, virgin hue : “white colour”. White was always supposed to be the colour which symbolised purity, and hence is often used for the dress of pure and virtuous people, with an even hand : with impartial estimation, be’ st rated : art judged, by thy estimation : by his own estimation of himself, afeard : “afraid”.
To kiss this shrine, this mortal, breathing, saint : The old pilgrims used to see some sacred relic or saintly man, and would esteem it a privilege to kiss the hand of the saint. Hyrcanian desert : wild stretch of country in Asia, vasty wilds : vast wilderness. The watery kingdom, whose ambitious head Spets in the face of heaven, is no bar : The vast waves rising up in a storm, and dashing their spray right to the sky. foreign spirits : “men from foreign countries.” Twere damnation to think so basa a thought : just as it would incur punishment to think a base thought in spiritual matters, so would it be false love for him to think this, rib : to enclose, cerecloth in the obscure grave : The cere-cloth was waxed cloth, used to enclose a body in the coffin, immur’d : lock up.
A coin that bears the figure of an angel : this was so called because the figure of St. Michael was shown on the coin in question; it was worth about ten shillings. But here an angel in a golden bed Lies all within : but that angel is only stamped on the surface of the gold, while this angel, Portia, lies completely surrounded by gold, and thrive I as I may : and no matter how I may succeed. Carrion death : “a loathsome skull.” The skull is often spoken of as a “Death’ shead”, and is used as the symbol of death, scroll : a sheet of paper in the form of a roll. Gilded tombs do worms enfold : “a tomb may be a fine building covered with gold, but all that it contains is a mass of dead bones, where worms live.” This is a reminder to Morocco that he has been deceived by the outward appearance, inscroll’d : written so in this scroll, your suit is cold : your errand of love has failed, then, farewell heat; and welcome frost : he now passes from fervent love to cold disappointment. Gentle riddance : “a good riddance” or “we are well rid of him.” complexion : disposition; nature.
Act II Scene VIII
Raised the duke : stirred him up to action. The Duke : the old city of Venice was an independent republic, and the chief ruler was the Duke, gondola : the city of Venice is built upon a number of islands and channels of water take the place of streets, instead of carriages, long narrow boats called gondolas ply back and forth, double ducats : it seems that there were two kinds of ducats in circulation, one being double the value of the other. Keep his day : discharge his debt punctually on the agreed day.
Marry, well remembered : this is a contraction for “By St. Mary, it is as well that you have reminded me, etc.” miscarried : wrecked; met with disaster, fraught : laden; stored with cargo, slubber : to perform any business in a hasty and slovenly manner, but stay the very riping of the time : as the farmer does not gather his crops too soon, but waits until they are quite ripe, let it not enter in your mind of love : Let it not enter into your mind, which should be full of thoughts of love-making, ostents : evidence or displays of affection, big with tears : full of big tears. Embraced heaviness : the heaviness or melancholy which Antonio has voluntarily embraced, or taken to himself. They think that he is rather making too much of his assumed sadness.
Act II Scene IX
Straight : at once, election : “selection”, i.e. his choice between the three caskets. If you choose that wherein lam contain’d : the one which contains my portrait, nuptial rites : marriage ceremonies, which casket ’twas I chose : which casket it was that I did choose. And so have I address’d me : and I have prepared myself accordingly. Fortune now to my heart’s hope : he addresses the Goddess of fortune. Gold; silver; and base lead : the use of the word “base” reveals that Arragon starts in the same mistaken attitude that Morocco showed. Arragon is immediately prejudiced against the leaden casket, because the metal of which it is made is not so showy and attractive as silver or gold. Evidently the intention of Portia’s father, when he arranged the trial of the caskets, was that the inscriptions alone should be the proper test. The different metals would only serve to mislead men who paid too much attention to outward show and appearance.
You shall look fairer, ere I give, or hazard : he falls into the same error as Morocco, and does not realise that the hazard is to be made for Portia, not as he says for lead, fond : foolish, which pries not to th’ interior : which does not search for the inner meaning of anything, martlet : let martin, a species of swallow, which builds a nest of mud against the outer walls of houses, even in the force and road of casualty : “open to disaster, and in the very path of danger.” for who shall go about : who shall attempt, cozen : “to cheat”, be honourable : “attain to honoqrs.” estates : “positions of dignity”, degree : “high mark”, derived corruptly : granted from unworthy motives; sold, clear honour : unstained or innocent honour.purchased : obtained. There is no reference to buying in the usual sense, cover : keep their hats on. low peasantry : “base fellows”. This shows the habit which had crept in, during the middle ages, of thinking of two great classes, the upper classes or nobility who were men of honour, and the lower classes who were base cultivators of the soil.
I will assume desert : I shall be content with what I deserve. Blinking idiot : stupid-eyed fool, schedule : the same as “scroll”, deservings : merits: deserves: to offend, and judge, are distinct offices, and of opposed natures : “Arragon may be regarded as having been on his trial, and a prisoner is not supposed to criticise the verdict”. Still it may be better to explain “You have been sentenced but not insulted; there is nothing personal in the decision!”
distinct offices : separate things. The fire seven times tried this : “this” refers to the silver. The line refers to the words from the Bible, some there be that shadows kiss : “shadow” is here used generally as being the reverse of “substance” i.e., some people neglect the sound and substantial things of life to pursue empty shows, shadow’s bliss : “unreal happiness.”
I wis : Certainly, silvered o’er : “whose folly is concealed by their silvery hairs.” you are sped : your business is completed, by the time I linger here : the longer I remain here, with one fool’s head I came to woo, But I go away with two : I came here a fool, and I depart a double fool, wroth : misfortune. Not the usual sense of “anger”, thus hath the candle sing’d the moth : Arragon is here compared to a foolish insect that has fluttered around a bright light, and has been burnt, deliberate fools : deliberating fools, in the sense that they calculated too much. The right choice depended not on skilful reasoning, but on love, which should have been prepared to “hazard all he hath”, they have the wisdom by their wit to lose : “They have enough sense, at any rate, to allow their small minds to lead than astray”, heresy : falsehood, hanging and wiving goes by destiny : “Wedding is destiny, and hanging like wise”.
Sensible regrets : salutations which are not merely words, but are sincerely felt, to wit, (besides commends and courteous breath) : namely in addition to compliments and courteous words, etc. likely : prepossessing; of good promise, ambassador of love : the messenger who now comes as the representative of Bassanio, to announce that his lord is coming on an errand of love, and to prepare his reception. He is compared to an agent who represents his country, costly summer : summer which is the rich and goregeous season of the year, fore-spurrer : the one who comes squrring (riding) on before, to prepare for the coming of his master, high-day wit : “high-day” is the same as “holiday”, so we might translate this by “holiday humour,” the fine speeches and prepared words that one might use only on a holiday or special occasion.
Quick Cupid’s post that comes so mannerly : the swift messenger of Love, who comes in such a courteous manner. Bassanio, lord Love, if thy will it be : “lord Love” still refers to Cupid as the presiding deity, and Portia means, “I hope it is thy will that this is Bassanio, O God of Love.”
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