Shakespeare – Module 5: The Merchant of Venice – 9 of 20 – Shylock’s speech (Act 3)

Objective: To explore the Shylock’s famous speech.

As mentioned last time, Act 3 contains the most famous speech (monologue) in the play. Shylock has lost everything: his servant, his daughter, the jewels/ money taken by his daughter and the money he is owned by Antonio (who cannot pay him back now that his ships have been wrecked). As a character that has reached rock bottom, his emotions are taken out in the form of anger and revenge and he will settle at nothing less than taking the pound of flesh, from Antonio, that he demands as payment.

51 Best Merchant of Venice images | Venice, Shakespeare, Merchants

Task 1: Watch the video below (watch it more than once if you need to). As you watch, make notes about how you think Shylock is feeling. Write down how you know how he feels (body language, facial expression, tone of voice, volume of voice, etc).

Task 2: Read the speech from Shylock and answer the questions afterwards (left hand side is in Shakespearean and right hand side is in modern English. Ducats = money in Venice at the time.

Shakespearean English
Why, I am sure, if he forfeit thou wilt not take his flesh.What’s that good for?
Modern English
But you won’t take his flesh if he can’t pay.
What’s that good for?
To bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the 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? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
I’ll use it for fish bait. You can’t eat human flesh, but if it feeds nothing else, it’ll feed my revenge. He’s insulted me and cost me half a million ducats. He’s laughed at my losses, made fun of my earnings, humiliated my race, thwarted my deals, turned my friends against me, riled up my enemies—and why? Because I’m a Jew. Doesn’t a Jew have eyes? Doesn’t a Jew have hands, bodily organs, a human shape, five senses, feelings, and passions? Doesn’t a Jew eat the same food, get hurt with the same weapons, get sick with the same diseases, get healed by the same medicine, and warm up in summer and cool off in winter just like a Christian? If you prick us with a pin, don’t we bleed? If you tickle us, don’t we laugh? If you poison us, don’t we die? And if you treat us badly, won’t we try to get revenge? If we’re like you in everything else, we’ll resemble you in that respect. If a Jew offends a Christian, what’s the Christian’s kind and gentle reaction? Revenge. If a Christian offends a Jew, what punishment will he come up with if he follows the Christian example? Of course, the same thing—revenge! I’ll treat you as badly as you Christians taught me to—and you’ll be lucky if I don’t outdo my teachers.
1) Why does Shylock want the ‘pound of flesh’?

Revenge over Antonio.

2) Why does Shylock feel that he is justified (right) to take the ‘pound of flesh’?

Antonio treated Shylock with disrespect – he laughed at him, humiliated him, disrespected him to other people. Antonio also seems to be antisemitic (hates Jewish people).

3) What does Shylock point out about Jews and non-Jews?

There is no difference. Just as any other person, Jews have eyes, body parts, feelings, etc.

4) What is Shylock’s view of the Christian people he has met?

Shylock thinks that Christians treat Jews badly and that they take revenge if they haven’t been treated well. Shylock suggests that he should be able to take revenge if Christians are also allowed to take revenge.

5) Which of these three techniques does Shylock use effectively? A) pathetic fallacy B) rhetorical question C) alliteration

B) Rhetorical question.

6) Why is the above technique effective?

It is clear to the audience that the answer to the questions are obvious and makes them question how badly Shylock has been treated. It also makes it clear how Shylock’s experience shows that the Christians he had met were hypocritical (they had double standards – they behaved one way and thought Jewish people should behave another way).

Task 3: Look back at Shylock’s speech and write down, a minimum of, 3 quotations which use emotive language (words/ phrases that make the reader feel an emotion). Once you have your quotations, explain what emotion they make the audience feel and why. e.g. “he laughed at my losses” – makes the audience feel sorry for Shylock as no one likes to be laughed at when something bad has happened to them.

Emotive Language | Love 4 Writing

Task 4: Write one paragraph, using one of your quotations from above, to describe how Shylock is presented in Act 3. Consider how Shakespeare wanted us to feel towards him and why he may have done this. There are sentence starters and an example paragraph, provided below, to help you.

Sentence Starters – you should include each of the following sentences in your full paragraph.

  • Shylock is presented as…
  • This is shown when he says “…”
  • This gives the impression that…
  • The word/ use of emotive language when he says “…” shows that…
  • This would make the reader feel…
  • This links to the events when Shakespeare was alive because…

Example Paragraph

Shylock is presented as a character who is treated badly. This is shown when he says “he laughed at my losses.” This gives the impression that Shylock is a character that is bullied unfairly due to his religion. The emotive use of the verb “laughed” suggests that Shylock is bullied and mocked by others who take pleasure in bad things happening to him. This would make the reader feel sorry for Shylock and angry that other people discriminate against him just because he is Jewish. This links to the events when Shakespeare was alive because Jews were treated unfairly by society.