Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 3 Summary and Question Answers

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Act 1 Scene 3 Summary Merchant of Venice

Students should read the Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 3 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 3 Summary


Another change of scene, the audience is back from the radiant cheerfulness of Belmont to ‘hard dealings’, sly tactics and intense racial and religious malice in Venice.

Bassanio and Antonio go to Shylock, the usurer, for borrowing three thousand ducats. Shylock sees a lifetime chance of taking revenge from Antonio who had always looked down upon Shylock because of his being a Jew and merciless usurer and Antonio had many times publicly insulted Shylock. Shylock asks Antonio to sign a bond, according to which if he fails to pay the amount within a given time, Shylock would be entitled to take a pound of flesh from his body. Although Bassanio warns him against signing such a bond, Antonio, being confident of his ships’ timely return signs it. Shylock, to make the atmosphere light and to befool Antonio calls it the merry bond and Antonio misjudges Shylock’s intentions in his naivety and says, “The Hebrew will turn Christian, he grows kind.”

In this scene, we come to understand the characters of Shylock and Antonio completely. Shylock is portrayed as the typical 17th century Jew, crafty, unscrupulous and cruel. Whereas Antonio is portrayed as kind, naive and decent. One quality is common in both, that is their hatred for each other.


1. Nazarite: It refers to Jesus Christ who lived in Nazareth and was called the Nazarene. b Devil or Satan is a supernatural being opposed to everything good and virtuous and tries his best to allure man to sin.

3. Fawning Publican: Fawning means pleasing somebody by praising him. The word publican is derived from the Gospels. Publicans were tax collectors for Romans, hated by Jews. Publican is a general term of contempt used by Jews. Actually, by term Shylock categories Antonio as Fawning Publican, the person who used to abuses him
and now needs his help.

4. Jacob: Jacob was Issac’s son and the grandson of Abraham, the founder of Jewish race. Jacob’s elder brother, Esau should have inherited Isaac’s possessions but with the cunning plan of Jacob’s mother, while Esau had gone out in the fields, Jacob goes in place of Esau before Isaac who was old and blind. Although he was suspicious, he
blessed Jacob and thus, Jacob became the third possessor.

Another reference from the Bible is of Laban, Jacob’s uncle who is also deceived by Jacob’s crafty and evil plan. Jacob served his uncle Laban. They entered a pact that Jacob would receive as his wage the lambs which were born with spots. During the breeding season, Jacob arranged the wooden rod in such a way that the shadows of the
rod fell on the sheep. As a result, most of the lambs were born striped and Jacob had most of the sheep.


1. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

   (Aside) How like a fawning publican he looks
   I hate him for he is a Christian
   But more, for that in low simplicity
   he lends out money gratis and brings down
   the rate of usance with us in Venice
   If I can catch him once upon the hip
   I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him
   He hates our sacred Nation and he rails
   Even there where merchants most congregate

Ques. What is meant by a ‘Fawning Publican’? Give three reason why Shylock hates Antonio?
Ans. Publicans were the tax collectors for Romans. Fawning means pleasing somebody by praise. In fact, fawning and publican these two words are contradictory. Publicans were oppressive, not fawning. People disliked them. Shylock means to say that Antonio is like a publican though outwardly seems good natured. He says this because
Antonio used to abuse Shylock openly and he himself was respected and liked by the people.

The three reasons why Shylock hated Antonio are as follows:
1. Antonio lent money to people without interest and this was against Shylock’s interests.
2. Antonio was a Christian and Shylock hated Christians. Antonio also did not like Jews.
3. Antonio abused Shylock openly and thus Shylock felt insulted.

Ques. Give the meaning of:
a) low simplicity b) gratis c) rate of usance
Ans. a) Low simplicity – childish foolishness
b) Gratis – without interest
c) Rate of usance – rate of interest

Ques. Write the meaning of the following in your own words.
Ans. If I can catch him once upon the hip I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. Shylock means to say if once he gets a weak spot in Antonio, he will take revenge and his old grudge will be satisfied. If he gets only one chance, it will be enough for him.

Ques. What old grudge does Shylock have against Antonio?
Ans. Shylock had a long standing grudge (feeling of ill will or envy) against Antonio because Antonio was a Christian and he disliked Shylock. He also openly criticised Shylock’s greed and way of lending money and charging interest. As Antonio was overall a gentleman and well liked, Shylock could not oppose him openly.

Ques. What does the sacred nation refer to?
Ans. The sacred nation refers to the Jewish nation or the abode of the Jews.

Ques. What does ‘aside’ mean? What is the purpose of an aside?
Ans. Aside is a remark which other are not supposed to listen.
‘Aside’ is used for making audience or reader to understand the real feelings emotions, qualities of the speaker’s character and motive of the speaker.

2. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

   When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban’s sheep –
   This Jacob from our holy Abraham was,
   (As his wise mother wrought in his behalf)
   The third possessor: ay, he was the third, –

   And what of him? Did he take interest?

   No, not take interest, not as you would say,
   Directly interest, mark what Jacob did
   When Laban and himself were compromised,
   That all the eanlings which were streaked and pied should fall as Jacob’s hire.

Ques. What topic is referred to in the extract? Who were Jacob and Abraham?
Ans. Lending money for interest is the topic referred here.
Abraham was the founder of the Jewish race and Jacob was his grandson who became the third possessor by deceiving his father Isaac.

Ques. Give the story of Jacob describing how he deceived his uncle Laban and got his share as payment
from Laban.
Ans. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, the founder of Jewish race. He became the third possessor. Jacob went to work with Laban, his uncle. They had an agreement that the sheep which were striped or spotted will be Jacob’s as his wages. Jacob was very cunning. He planned to deceive his uncle. During the breeding season Jacob arranged
the wooden rods in such a way that the shadows of the rods fell on the sleep. As a result, most of the lambs were born with spots or stripes and thus they became Jacob’s share.

Ques. What is the difference between taking interest and receiving payment for one’s labour.
Ans. Taking interest means charging specific amount on the money given as a loan.
Receiving payment for one’s labour is getting money for a work done or for giving one’s services.

Ques. Why does Shylock give a reference of Jacob and Laban? What does Shylock intend to do?
Ans. Shylock gives a reference of Jacob and Laban because he himself has plans to do the same. He wants to emphasis
the fact that his ancestor used a clever plan to benefit himself and it was just cleverness and intelligence, nothing
bad or evil.
Shylock intends to do the same. Jacob deceives Laban and here Shylock is going to deceive Antonio and take
his revenge.

Ques. What role did Jacob’s wise mother play to make him the third possessor?
Ans. Jacob’s mother played a trick on her husband Isaac so that Jacob, not Isau, the elder brother and rightful person to become the third possessor, should inherit the legacy of Abraham and be the third possessor. As Isaac was old and blind, she disguised Laban as Isau and sent him to Isaac to get his blessings while Esau was sent by her to the
fields to hunt for meat. In his absence, although Isaac was a little suspicious, but he blessed Jacob and thus he became the third possessor by his mother’s vile trick.

3. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Why look, how you storm!
I would be friends with you and have your love, forget the shames that you have stained me with, supply your present wants and take no doit of usance for my moneys, and you will not hear me. This is kind I offer.

Ques. What were the shames which ‘stained’ Shylock?
Ans. Antonio insulted Shylock openly and abused him before other merchants and public for taking interest on the money lent by him. Shylock considered taking interest not a vile practice. Those abuses and insults were the shames which ‘stained’ him.

Ques. What is meant by the present wants? On what terms is Shylock ready to supply them?
Ans. Present wants’ means the need for a present that is, three thousand ducats which Antonio wants at present.
Shylock says that he will lend three thousand ducats, he will take no interest on the money supplied by him and he will forget the shames heaped upon him by Antonio. In case of default to repay he would just take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. These are the terms on which he is ready to supply the wants.

Ques. How does Antonio storm Shylock? Why was Shylock willing to lend money without interest?
Ans. Before this extract, Shylock, at the demand of three thousand ducats as loan, reminds Antonio that many times he has abused, spurned and insulted him calling him a dog. So, he asks a question if a dog has money. Antonio gets angry and says that he will again insult him, spurn him and spit at him. Shylock should lend him money not as a
friend but as an enemy.
Shylock is willing to lend money to Antonio not because he wants to be his friend but because he has another purpose to solve and revenge to take.

Ques. What did the speaker propose to do immediately after this?
Ans. The speaker proposes to go to the notary immediately to sign the bond, in which there is a condition. If Antonio is not able to pay the money on fixed date, Shylock will have the right to cut a pound of flesh from any part of Antonio’s body. He will not take interest on the given amount.

Ques. What does Shylock call the bond? How does he befool Antonio?
Ans. Shylock calls the bond a ‘merry sport’.
In this way, he deceives and befools Antonio because Antonio thinks that it was really a joke.

Ques. Name the person present there who asks Antonio not to sign the bond as it was dangerous.
Ans. Bassanio is the person present there who asks his friend not to sign that bond because if the ships were delayed and Antonio was not able to pay the money on time, it may prove dangerous and risky considering Shylock’s hatred towards Antonio.

Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 3 Summary