Merchant of Venice Act 4 Scene 1 Summary and Question Answers

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Act 4 Scene 1 Summary Merchant of Venice

Students should read the Merchant of Venice Act 4 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 4 Scene 1 Summary


Now the much-awaited trial scene is there. It will decide Antonio’s fate. The Duke asks Shylock to have mercy, many prominent citizens of Venice also approach Shylock but he has only this answer to everyone that he wants justice and Antonio’s pound of flesh. Bassanio asks him to take thrice the money lent to Antonio, but Shylock gives the same answer. Everyone is helpless, Now the Duke can do nothing except to give judgment in favour of the
Jew. He is just waiting for the famous and learned lawyer Dr. Bellario, from Padua, who may suggest some way to defeat the Jew. The atmosphere of gloom is everywhere. Then Nerissa disguised as clerk enters the court and gives the Duke a letter from Dr. Bellario, who has written that he is not well but he is sending a young lawyer, Dr. Balthazar, although young but very efficient and competent. Portia disguised as Dr. Balthazar enters the court and the procedure begins. She also requests the Jew to show mercy and gets the same answer. Then Portia says that the Jew has the law on his side and he should get his pound of flesh, The Jew is overjoyed and cries, “Daniel come to judgment.” As he is ready to cut Antonio’s flesh, Portia asks him to wait and listen. He has the right to his pound of flesh but not a single drop of blood should be shed. This is the law. Now the tables are turned. Then he asks for his money and let the Christian go. Portia says that there is another Venetian law which forbids and punishes any alien who deliberately tries directly or indirectly to attempt to seek the life of any citizen. Now he has to beg mercy of the Duke and to yield half his goods to the victim and other half to the state. The Duke pardons his life but all his state and money is confiscated. Shylock is totally lost.

In this scene Belmont and Venice meet and Belmont saves Venice.
Portia’s sheer competency and balanced arguments save Antonio’s life.

Also, the real characters of Antonio, Bassanio, Portia and Shylock come to the forefront and the play reaches its climax. In short, this scene is the complete drama and a real comedy is provided.


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

    I have heard your grace hath ta’en great pains to qualify.
    His rigorous course, but since he stands obdurate,
    And that no lawful means can carry me
    Out of his envy’s reach, I do oppose.
    My patience to his fury, and am armed
    To suffer, with a quietness of spirit,
    The very tyranny and rage of his

(i) Where does this scene take place? What has the Duke said before this extract?
This scene takes place in the Venetian Court of Justice in Venice.
The Duke has said before this extract to Antonio that he is sorry for him. The cruel Jew is not going to listen to any pleas of mercy.

(ii) What ‘rigorous course’ is referred here?
The ‘rigorous course of the Jew’ is referred here who is bent upon having justice and his bond. It is now clear that his hatred for Antonio is boundless.

(iii) Why does Antonio say that no lawful means can carry him out of his enemy’s reach?
No lawful means can help him, this Antonio knows. Shylock hated him and wanted to take revenge and now law and justice are within his reach and as for as bond is considered, he has won and Antonio has lost. That is why he says that there is no hope for him.

(iv) Give the meaning of – a) obdurate, b) out of envy’s reach
a) Obdurate – Obstinate, unchangeable
b) Out of envy’s reach – Away from the clutches of jealousy

(v) In what mood are Shylock and Antonio at this function?
Shylock is in the mood of heightened pleasure. His lifelong desire to take revenge is going to be fulfilled. Rage and fury are also there at the pleas of mercy by others on Antonio’s behalf.
Antonio is resigned to his fate. With quiet courage and patience, he is ready to die. He does not want anyone to plead with Shylock. He is in the mood of ‘what cannot be cured must be endured’.

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

    But touched with human gentleness and love,
    Forgive a moiety of the principal,
    Glancing an eye of pity on his losses,
    That have of late so huddled on his back,
    Enow to press a royal merchant down,
    And pluck commiseration of his state
    From brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flints,
    From stubborn Turks and Tartars, never trained,
    To offices of tender courtesy.
    We all except a gentle answer, Jew.

(i) What is meant by a moiety of the principal? Why does the Duke request Shylock to have mercy on Antonio?
‘A moiety of the principal’ means some portion of the total amount of three thousand ducats.
The Duke requests Shylock to have mercy on Antonio because he is already ruined by
the loss of his ships.

(ii) Give the meaning of – a) Moiety, b) Huddled, c) Commiseration, d) Flint
a) Moiety – A portion of something
b) Huddled – Heaped, Gathered
c) Commiseration – Sympathy
d) Flint – Hard stone

(iii) Who are the Turks and Tartars? What is said about them in the extract?
Turks and Tartars were the tribes which were unmanageable, always enraged, cruel and uncivilized.
The Duke means to say that they are civilized people, merciful and gentle, not like the
Turks and Tartars. Therefore, the Jew should show mercy and generosity.

(iv) Why does Shylock refuse to have mercy on Antonio?
Shylock says that he has only hatred and grudge against Antonio. He is not going to
lose his forfeiture for such a weak and foolish person like Antonio.

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

    Why sweat they under burdens? Let their beds.
    Be made as soft as yours and let their palates
    Be seasoned with such viands? You will answer
    The slaves are ours : So do I answer you :
    The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
    Is dearly bought: ‘tis mine and I demand it,
    If you deny me, fie upon your law!
    There is no force in the decrees of Venice,
    I stand for judgment, answer, shall I have it,

(i) “Let their beds. Be made as soft as yours.” Who are they referred to in the first line of this extract? Whose beds are referred to?
‘They’ refers to slaves, which rich and prominent people used to have in their houses.
‘Beds’ refer to the beds of slaves and their masters.

(ii) What is meant by, “let their palates, Be seasoned with such viands”?
Slaves should be given the same food as their masters have, delicious and nutritious.

(iii) How is the pound of flesh dearly bought by Shylock?
Shylock had dearly bought the pound of flesh because he had the want for it for so long and he had to forsake thousands of ducats which he was offered in place of his principal amount.

(iv) Why does Shylock keenly say, I stand for judgment?
Shylock is asked to show mercy. That is why he says that he wants his bond, he wants justice, he wants judgment, because he knows that he is legally right.

(v) Do you think another trait or characteristics of Shylock is revealed here? explain.
Till now, we know he was shrewd, greedy, cruel and a jealous and bitter person but another trait unrevealed till now is that he is good at giving relevant examples and arguments to prove his point.

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

Good cheer Antonio! What man, courage yet!
The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.

    I am a tainted whether of the flock,
    Meetest for death: the weakest kind of fruit
    Drops earliest to the ground and so lot me,
    You cannot better be employed, Bassanio,
    Than to live still and write mine epitaph.

(i) How did Bassanio encourage Antonio assuring him of every help?
Antonio was resigned to his fate. He knew that no one can save him. So Bassanio tries to encourage him by saying that some help will surely come, specially the lawyer from Padua may be able to help him.

(ii) What is meant by ‘the tainted whether of the flock’. In what way is he ‘meetest for death’?
The tainted whether of the flock means a sick ram or castrated ram and so impotent.
Meetest for death means fittest for death. These words show that Antonio has no hope of survival, therefore he thinks that he deserves to die.

(iii) What is an epitaph? Why does Antonio talk about the epitaph at this time?
Words inscribed on a tombstone are called epitaph. Antonio knows that he cannot be saved from the clutches of Shylock and he is going to die. Dear ones erect an epitaph. No one in the world is dearer to him than Bassanio. So, he talks about his epitaph written by Bassanio.

(iv) State the generous offer made by Bassanio to save his friend just before the extract.
Just before this extract, Bassanio asks the Jew to take six thousand ducats in place of his three thousand ducats. This is the generous offer Bassanio made to save his dear friend

(v) Who comes to the scene immediately after Antonio’s speech? why does this person come?
Nerissa disguised as a clerk comes just after Antonio’s speech. She has brought some papers for the Duke.

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

    The quality of mercy is not strained
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath: It is twice blessed;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
    ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: It becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown;
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, the attribute to awe and majesty.
    Wherein doth set the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this ‘sceptred’ sway;

(i) What is the meaning of strained? Why is the quality of mercy not strained?
‘Strained’ means forced or constrained.
The quality of mercy is not strained because it is not forced, it comes from the heart of the giver.

(ii) In what way is mercy twice blessed and is the mightiest in the mightiest?
Mercy is twice blessed because it blesses the person who gets it and also blesses the person who gives it.
Those who are mightiest are most powerful. Their power lies in the power of their weapons, their wealth, their name and fame. If they have mercy also, people remember and honour them for their quality of mercy more than any other attributes that they have. That is why mercy is the mightiest in the mightiest.

(iii) What is a scepter? What does the scepter imply?
A scepter is a rod carried by a ruler as a symbol of his power.
The scepter implies or suggests the power of a king or Duke or anyone in the seat of power who carries it.

(iv) Give the meaning of ‘It becomes the throned monarch better than his crown’.
If a king has the quality of mercy in his heart, it suits him more than the crown which he wears as the symbol of power and monarchy.

(v) What does Shylock say in answer to Portia’s plea of mercy?
Shylock bluntly rejects Portia’s appeal to mercy. He says he wants the law, the penalty and fulfillment of his bond’s conditions.

(vi) Why does Portia say later, ‘We do pray for mercy’? What does this prayer teach us about mercy?
Portia means by her words that mercy is a godly virtue, therefore we pray for it.
This prayer teaches us about mercy that it is a heavenly attribute and it can be had only by prayer.

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

    Why, this bond is forfeit.
    And lawfully by this the Jew may claim
    A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
    Nearest the merchant’s heart. Be merciful:
    Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond.

    When it is paid according to the tenor
    It doth appear you are a worthy judge;
    You know the law, your exposition
    Hath been most sound; I charge you by the law,
    Where of you are a well-deserving pillar,
    Proceed to judgment, by my soul I swear
    There is no power in the tongue of man
    To alter me; I stay here on my bond,

(i) What is meant by ‘this bond is forfeit’? How is the bond now forfeit.
‘This bond is forfeit’ means the person who signed the bond promising to return the money within a given period is unable to keep his promise.
Antonio had taken money from Shylock and signed a bond promising to return three thousand ducats within the allotted time. Now due to the loss of his ships he is unable to pay back, Therefore, in this way, the bond is now forfeit.

(ii) Give the meaning of – When it is paid according to the tenor.
Shylock says that he will tear the bond only when it is paid precisely as specified therein.

(iii) Why does Shylock call Portia a worthy judge? Why was she compared to Daniel earlier?
Shylock calls Portia a worthy judge because she has said that the bond is forfeit and lawfully the Jew can claim a pound of flesh.
Earlier she was compared to Daniel by Shylock because Daniel’s judgments used to be full of wisdom, in the same way according to him, Portia is like Daniel and accepts that the Jew is legible to take a pound of flesh.

(iv) What was Shylock’s reaction when Portia offered him thrice the amount for the first time?
When Portia offers him thrice the amount for the first time, Shylock reacts by saying that he has taken an oath regarding the bond. He cannot commit perjury by cancelling or tearing the bond.

(v) State why Shylock was confident that no one could take away his right to forfeiture?
Shylock was confident of his stand regarding his right to forfeiture because according to Venetian Law and Justice every citizen whether alien or Venetian had equal rights as far as law was concerned.

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

    Is that the law?
    Thyself shall see the Act;
    For, as thou urgest justice be assured
    thou shalt have justice more than
    thou desirest

    O, learned judge-Mark, Jew, a learned judge!

    I take this offer, then; pay the bond thrice,
    And let the Christian go

    Here is the money:

(i) What is the law as interpreted by Portia just before this extract?
Portia has interpreted the law just before this extract that as per law according to the forfeiture of the bond, the Jew can take a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body nearer his heart but there is no reference to anything else. While cutting a pound of flesh, no drop of blood should be shed, and the flesh should be no less or no more than exact

one pound. If any drop of blood is shed or the pound of flesh is more or less even a milligram, the Jew will be punished, his lands and goods will be confiscated by the State of Venice.

(ii) ‘Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.’ What kind of justice Shylock is going to have?
After many pleas of mercy, the Jew does not listen to anyone and insists on having justice. Portia turns the tables by clarifying that he will have justice more than he will wish to have, because he will lose his wealth and also have to beg for mercy for his life, unless he is able to cut the flesh in the exact amount of one pound, no less, no more and without shedding a single drop of blood and both things are impossible.

(iii) Why does Gratiano rejoice by repeating the words, ‘O learned judge?
Gratiano is not a sober and quiet person like Antonio. Therefore, as soon as the tables are turned, he rejoices in the same way as Shylock had done. Moreover, it is a release from tension which all of them had, fearing Antonio’s death.

(iv) When the money has been offered by Bassanio what does Portia say declaiming the offer?
When Bassanio offers money, Portia declines the offer saying that the Jew will not get the money. He will have only justice which he was craving for.

(v) After the extract, what loophole in the bond is highlighted by Portia?
Portia highlights two loopholes in the bond. One is, there is no inclusion of blood, and second, apart from a pound of flesh, there is nothing about a little more or little less quantity of flesh, because if something is cut from a body or any other big mass, it is impossible to cut the exact portion. These two loopholes along with Portia’s sharp
intelligence save Antonio’s life.

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

    You press me far, and therefore I will yield. (To Antonio) give me your gloves, I will wear them for your sake (To
    Bassanio) and for your love, I will take this ring from you do not draw back your hand; I’ll take no more and you
    in love shall not deny me this.

    This ring good sir? Alas it’s a trifle! I will not shame myself to give you this.

    I will have nothing else but only this
    And now methinks I have a mind to it.

(i) What does Portia say about the payment for her services? How does Bassanio insist that Portia should take something as a token of gratitude?
Portia says about the payment for her services that she did this to satisfy herself and she is satisfied to deliver Antonio from the clutches of the Jew and she considers herself well-paid. Moreover, she has never been more money minded than that.
Bassanio insists that they want to give her something, not as payment, but as a symbol of their gratitude for saving his friend’s life.

(ii) What does Portia ask Bassanio to give her as a token?
Portia after Bassanio’s insistence asks him to give her the ring, which was a present from her to Bassanio.

(iii) Why does Bassanio say that it is a shame to give Portia what she has asked?
Bassanio, at her demand for that particular ring, is greatly embarrassed and hesitant. He cannot refuse her and does not want to give the ring gifted by his wife and he had promised never to part with it. Therefore, he tries to divert Portia’s mind from taking that ring by saying that for such a great task performed by her she does not deserve such, insignificant token.

(iv) How does Portia react to his hesitation even after Bassanio tells her of his promise made to his wife?
Portia reacts to Bassanio’s hesitation to give her the ring by saying that he is liberal in
making promises and making others ask for something and when he is asked to give
something he starts making pretexts so that he may not have to fulfill his promise.

(v) What makes Bassanio change his mind and part with the ring?
Bassanio changes his mind to part with the ring when Antonio asks him to give away the ring because whatever she was asking should be given to her for the great feat she has accomplished.

(vi) What effect does the ring episode have on the audience?
The audience can guess why the ring has been asked. It brings humour and relief from the tension of the trial scene.

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