Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1 Summary and Question Answers

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Act 1 Scene 1 Summary Merchant of Venice

Students should read the Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1 Summary ICSE Class 10 notes provided below designed as per the Merchant of Venice book used in ICSE Class 10 English Books. You should refer to all notes provided here for Merchant of Venice Workbook which are really important and can help you to get better marks in ICSE Exams

Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1 Summary


The opening scene is set in a street of Venice it introduces the main characters of the play and refers to remaining important characters. Antonio, Bassanio, Salerio, Salanio Gratiano are present here and Portia and Shylock are referred.

It tells us about the characteristics of those present. Antonio’s melancholic nature and Bassanio’s happy go lucky nature are highlighted. This scene is also indicative of ring episode and bond episode. In the very first scene, we
come to guess what is going to happen later, as Bassanio needs money and Antonio does not have it. They plan to go to borrow it.

Classical references And Historical Events

1. Argosies: Argosies refer to big merchant ships. According to Greek mythology, Argo was a ship built by Argus for Jason. He reached Colchos after a long adventurous voyage. At Colchos, Media fell in love with him and with her help, he was able to get the Golden Fleece which was guarded by a dragon.

2. Wealthy Andrew: In 1596 the English copied a Spanish ship in Cardiz. The ship was named Andrea. Since then Andrew refers to a big cargo ship.

3. Janus: He is a Roman God having two heads looking in opposite directions – one serious, another smiling. Saturn, according to a legend, had gifted him the power to see both, the future and the past. Jason was worshipped at the beginning of harvest time, marriages, births, etc. The month of January is after him. He is mentioned here to show
that there are generally two types of people one happy and the other sad.

4. Nester: In Greek mythology, Nestor was the oldest, most grave and venerable of the Greek leaders of Troy. When such as he found a thing funny, it must have been so.

5. Golden Fleece: In Greek mythology, it is referred to as the fleece of the winged ram Chrysomallos. Phryxus sacrificed the ram to God Poseidon. The precious golden fleece of the ram was given to king Aectes who hanged it on an oak tree in the grove sacred to God Ares, where a dragon guarded it. With the help of Medea, it was taken by Jason, The ram became the constellation, Aries.

6. Colchos (Also known as Colchis): According to Greek mythology it was a precious land, situated in a country of Asia bordering the Black Sea. In Colchos, the Golden Fleece was kept until it was taken by Jason.

Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1 Questions and Answers

1, Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follows:

    My wind, cooling my broth,
    Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
    What harm a wind too great at sea might do
    I should not see the sandy hourglass run,
    But I should think of shallows and of flats,
    And see my wealthy Andrew docked in sand,
    Vailing her high top lower than her ribs
    To kiss her burial

Ques. Where does this scene take place? Name the people present there. In what mood is Salarino in this scene?
Ans. This scene takes place in a street of Venice.
Antonio, Salanio and the speaker are present there.
Salarino is in a serious and pensive mood, sympathising with Antonio.

Ques. What would the wind cooling the broth remind Salarino?
Ans. The wind which is cooling the broth remind him of strong winds which may harm his ships. When a small wind can cool the hot soup, what the strong winds could do to his ships.

Ques. Give the meaning of broth, ague and sandy hourglass.
Ans.• Broth means meat soup.
 Ague means shivering because of fever.
 Sandy hourglass indicates time, a device before clocks and watches were invented.

Ques. What is referred to as Wealthy Andrew? Why is it so referred?
Ans. Wealthy Andrew is reference to the Ships of Antonio.
It is so referred because Antonio is sad and the speaker thinks that he is worried about his ships which are laden with precious cargo and may be in danger. ‘Wealthy Andrew’ refers to a Spanish ship Andrea, which was captured by the British.

Ques. What is the speaker trying to do by referring to these things?
Ans. The speaker is showing his concern for Antonio and tries to sympathise with him so that he may be a little cheerful and his sadness may lessen.

2. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
    Now, by two headed Janus,
    Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time, some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
    And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper,
    And others of such vinegar aspect,
    And they will not show their teeth in way of smile
   Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable

Ques. What had the speaker said just before these lines?
Ans. Just before these lines, the speaker had said that Antonio’s unhappiness is not because of love but it is because he is not in love.

Ques. What is meant by two headed Janus?
Ans. Janus is the Roman God of exits and entrances with one face merry and another sad. Actually, Salarino has been trying to cheer up Antonio and not been successful. That is why he comments on nature having created strange creatures.

Ques. Describe in your own words the two type of strange fellows who have been framed by nature.
Ans. In this world we see different kinds of people. It is truly said that it takes all kind of people to make the world. There are normal people and there are extremes. Some people are never happy and some are never sad. Some people are of cheerful disposition, they can laugh, even in the saddest of circumstances and there are others of so serious a nature that they cannot laugh even at something most humorous.

Ques. Who is Nester? Why is he referred to in the extract?
Ans. Nester was the oldest, most grave and venerable of the Greek leaders of Troy.
Such a person would not have easily called a thing funny. Here he is referred to, in the context of such people who cannot smile or laugh at the funniest or most humorous things, even if Nester agreed that it was funny.

Ques. Who comes at the end of Salarino’s speech? Why does Salarino leave them?
Ans. Bassanio comes at the end of Salarino’s speech.
Salarino leaves them saying that he will go now because, Antonio has a better company. He means to say that Bassanio is closer to Antonio than he is.

3. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
    Sometime from her eyes
    I did receive fair speechless messages
    Her name is Portia; nothing undervalued
    To Cato’s daughter, Brutus’ Portia;
    Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth;
    For the four winds blow in from every coast
    Renowned suitors; and her sunny locks
    Hang on her temples like a golden Fleece;
    Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos’ strand’
    And many Jasons come in quest of her.

Ques. What is meant by ‘fair speechless messages’ and ‘nothing undervalued’.
Ans. ‘Fair speechless messages’ are those when one tries to convey one’s feeling without speaking or when someone tries to tell another person something without saying a single word.
‘Nothing undervalued’ means in no way inferior.

Ques. Who are Cato and Brutus? Why are they referred here?
Ans. Cato was Portia’s father and Brutus was Portia’s husband.

They are referred here to show that Portia of Belmont was in no way inferior or less precious than the famous Portia of history who was a caring, virtuous and loving wife, famous for her beauty, wisdom and devotion to her husband.

Ques. What evidence is there in the passage to show that Portia’s fame had spread throughout the world?
Ans. Bassanio tells Antonio that suitors from all over the world come to woo her. He further says, “many Jasons come in quest of her.” Her golden locks are compared to Golden Fleece. This is the evidence in the passage which shows that Portia’s name and fame had spread throughout the world.

Ques. Describe in your own words the meaning and significance of the ‘Golden Fleece’ which Jason sought in Colchos? Where was Colchos?
Ans. In Greek mythology, Golden Fleece is referred to as the fleece of the winged ram Chrysomallous and Phryxus saved his life. By escaping on the ram, he reached Colchos. The precious Golden Fleece was given to the king Aectes who hanged it on an oak tree in the grove sacred to God Ares and from there it was taken by Jason. Now Jason’s adventurous journey was because of the precious Golden Fleece in the same way, as Portia’s suitors came to woo her from the four corners of the world and this is the significance of the reference.

Colchos is a city in a country of Asia bordering the Black Sea.

Ques. Describe briefly the first impression of Portia the audience have in the start of scene.
Ans. In the opening scene, Portia is described by Bassanio as the woman whose beauty is incomparable to anyone and who is a wealthy heiress. He describes her as fair and fairer than the word. That is why suitors from far and wide come to Belmont to woo her. The audience gets the impression that Portia’s merits and beauty are unsurpassable. Licensed

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