The Merchant Of Venice Assignment

The Merchant Of Venice

Final Graded Paper

In a paper of a minimum of 750 words (3 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font), respond to one of the following prompts. Do not waste time with a general introduction, instead start with your argument or main idea. For example, you could say something like this: “In this paper I will discuss how Shakespeare’s Portia is a model of integrity in a play about the mercenary motivations of Venetian noblemen”, then respond to the prompt in a series of paragraphs focusing on details from speeches which are significant for the points you want to make. Be sure to use short quotations in each of your paragraphs (except your introduction) to support your points (2-4 lines is probably enough in most cases).  However, in a paper of this length, long quotations are not a good idea. An explanation of how to quote is below. Remember, 750 words is a minimum word requirement. You may go over this number if you feel you have more to say than can fit in 3 pages.

This paper is due to Canvas by 11:59pm on Friday May 1.

Anyone who would like a chance to revise their papers must hand in their essay to Canvas no later than 11:59pm Monday April 27. Paula and I will do our best to grade any papers handed in by this date in time for you to do revisions should they be needed.  If you do not want to take advantage of the option to revise, please wait to hand in your paper until after April 27 or let us know in a note that you are not interested in revising so that we can wait to read your paper until after we’ve read the papers submitted for the revision option.

Essays handed in after April 27 will not be eligible for revisions. Please email me if you have any questions about this.

Choose one of the following prompts to write on:

  1. The Merchant of Venice interweaves emotional and financial relationships in multiple and interesting ways. For example, the friendship between Bassanio and Antonio is expressed and supported via the loans Antonio makes to Bassanio and through Bassanio’s commitment to pay Antonio back. This friendship is also tested when Antonio does not have the money to pay Shylock back on the day the loan comes due. Antonio is forced to appear in court to allow Shylock to cut off the pound of flesh he pledged as collateral on the loan. Though Portia comes to the rescue, saving Antonio from death and providing the money for Bassanio to pay him back, does Antonio sustain a different kind of loss? One that can never be paid back? Analyze the “worth” of this friendship in emotional and financial terms, using quoted lines from the play to support your assertions
  2. Though Antonio and Shylock don’t have much in common at first glance, both men are the only two characters in the play who have jobs and the financial know-how that comes with them. Antonio is a merchant and Shylock is a moneylender who makes loans for interest. Though Antonio eventually is saved and restored financially, it could be argued that both men lose what is most important to them by the end of the play. Write a paper in which you analyze how the loan agreement between Antonio and Shylock (in which a pound of Antonio’s flesh is collateral for the loan of 3 thousand ducats) functions to show what these two characters value the most. Keep in mind that if you want to argue Shylock only cares about money, you have to explain why he refuses take money instead of the pound of flesh in the trial scene in Act 4. One final question: though Antonio comes out financially ahead at the end of the play, does he, like Shylock, also lose what is most important to him?
  3. Many of you wrote on the Wife of Bath as an astute business woman who profits from her marriages and also learns to change her business model in order to accommodate a poor husband whom she loves. How does Portia prove herself similarly smart about her marriage to Bassanio? How does she treat her marriage as an investment and how does she protect the assets she already has as well as the one she has just acquired? Analyze the text and make a case for Portia’s particular business savvy. Refer to Act 3, Scene 2,  lines 1-24, 149-174; Act 3, Scene 3, 299-314, and to what happens in Act 5. Use plentiful quotations from the play to defend your point of view.

Quoting from Shakespeare:

When you’re quoting from Shakespeare, give the act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods, in parentheses after the quoted passage. Do not include page numbers

“This house, these servants, and this same myself

Are yours, my lord’s. I give them with this ring,

Which, when you part from, lose, or give away,

Let it presage the ruin of your love” (3. 2. 170-173)

Quotations shorter than 4 lines long can be typed into your paragraph with slashes to separate lines written in poetic form: “Nay but hear me/ Pardon this fault, and by my soul I swear/ I never more will break an oath with thee” (5.1. 246-248). Remember that lines of poetry always start with a capital letter. When characters speak in prose this doesn’t happen and their lines look like a normal paragraph in a book. Quoted speeches in prose do not need the slashes or capital letters, but you should still include the act, scene, and line numbers at the end of the quotation. To see an example of lines written in prose look at Act 1, scene 2 where Portia and Nerissa speak entirely in prose. However, most of the play is written in poetic lines most of which do not rhyme. Look at Act 5, scene 1 for a scene which is written entirely in poetry. The lines of poetry are shorter than prose lines (they are almost always 10 syllables long), and you can generally see this by the way the lines are printed on the page.

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