The Merchant of Venice - Extract 1

This GCSE English Literature quiz is the first of two extract questions for The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. It takes place around the middle of the play, towards the beginning of the third act, after Jessica has eloped with Lorenzo and Antonio’s ships begin to run into misfortune. This passage presents Tubal and Shylock in dialogue about the news from Genoa, where Tubal has just been. Shylock has just delivered his famous speech on the humanity of Jews in the face of Christians who refer to them as dogs and devils. Read the passage through at least twice before tackling the questions. In answering the questions below, pay close attention to the text while also bearing in mind the wider issues of the play as a whole.

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How to answer an extract question in an exam:

When answering an extract question in an exam be sure to read the passage through more than once as you consider your response. On the first read through, you can aim for a broad understanding of the passage and how it relates to the question or questions which you will answer. As you read through a second time, you can begin noting details and making annotations. Ask yourself why the specific passage has been chosen. How does this passage relate to rest of the text? Pay attention to its place in the structure of the text. Are any significant characters or significant themes introduced? What happens afterwards? Are later events foreshadowed? How? What changes between the beginning and end of the passage? Why do you think the chosen extract ends where it does instead of somewhere else? What is significant about the final line?

Consider the question very carefully. You might be asked to write about the mood and atmosphere of the extract, or perhaps a particular character. Sometimes you will be asked to discuss dialogue, behaviour or feelings. You will probably be asked to relate these details to the themes of the text. Always explain the passage’s immediate context: what events precede the extract? Pay close attention to detail, to setting and characterisation. As you write, group related ideas together in your answer, but be sure to discuss the entire passage. Remember to pace yourself. Leave enough time to write about the whole passage rather than covering one section in detail while neglecting the remainder of the extract!

Read the passage from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice below carefully before answering the questions.

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SHYLOCK: How now, Tubal? What news from Genoa? Hast thou found my daughter?

TUBAL: I often came where I did hear of her, but cannot find her.

SHYLOCK: Why, there, there, there, there. A diamond gone cost me two thousand ducats in Frankfurt. The curse never fell upon our nation till now — I never felt it till now. Two thousand ducats in that and other precious, precious jewels. I would my daughter were dead at my foot and the jewels in her ear! Would she were hearsed at my foot and the ducats in her coffin! No news of them? Why, so. And I know not what’s spent in the search. Why thou, loss upon loss: the thief gone with so much, and so much to find the thief, and no satisfaction, no revenge, nor no ill luck stirring but what lights o’my shoulders, no sighs, but o’my breathing, no tears but o’my shedding.

TUBAL: Yes, other men have ill luck too. Antonio, as I heard in Genoa —

SHYLOCK: What, what, what? Ill luck, ill luck?

TUBAL: Hath an argosy cast away coming from Tripolis.

SHYLOCK: I thank God, I thank God! Is it true, is it true?

TUBAL: I spoke with some of the sailors that escaped the wreck.

SHYLOCK: I thank thee, good Tubal. Good news, good news! Ha, ha — heard in Genoa?

TUBAL: Your daughter spent in Genoa, as I heard, one night fourscore ducats.

SHYLOCK: Thou stick’st a dagger in me. I shall never see my gold again. Fourscore ducats at a sitting? Fourscore ducats?

TUBAL: There came divers of Antonio’s creditors in my company to Venice that swear he cannot choose but break.

SHYLOCK: I am very glad of it. I’ll plague him, I’ll torture him. I am glad of it.

TUBAL: One of them showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey.

SHYLOCK: Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal. It was my turquoise. I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.

TUBAL: But Antonio is certainly undone.

SHYLOCK: Nay, that’s true, that’s very true. Go, Tubal, fee me an officer. Bespeak him a fortnight before. I will have the heart of him if he forfeit, for were he out of Venice I can make what merchandise I will. Go, Tubal, and meet me at our synagogue. Go, good Tubal; at our synagogue, Tubal.

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice Act Three, Scene One (Norton, 2008)
  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    Salanio and Salerio taunt Shylock for the loss of his daughter and exit the scene referring to him and his friend Tubal as devils
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    The scene shift emphasises the success of Bassanio's gamble with the loan Antonio took from Shylock. Bassanio's success will be at Antonio's cost. While he is still at Belmont, he learns of his friend's losses at sea
  3. Which of the following emotions does Shylock NOT express in this passage?
    Shylock experiences an onslaught of shifting emotions in this passage
  4. "But Antonio is certainly undone." What effect does Tubal's statement produce in Shylock?
    Tubal skillfully distracts Shylock when he nearly becomes overwhelmed with grief
  5. What is Shylock's most explicit condemnation of his daughter?
    Jessica is being profligate in Genoa. In his view, she is throwing around money that he has worked hard over a lifetime to save
  6. What is the most striking characteristic of Shylock's speech in this passage?
    Shylock's frequent repetitions give the impression that he is a man in a state of shock
  7. What value does Shylock place on the turquoise ring?
    The ring, which Jessica gave away for a monkey, holds emotional value for Shylock. It had been given him by Leah (presumably his wife) and his hyperbolic statement emphasises his emotional attachment to the ring
  8. Which of the following is true of the news from Genoa?
    The tragedy of the wrecked ship makes Shylock laugh. His request for more news results in Tubal's painful news about his daughter's behaviour. Hearing both sets of news at once strengthens Shylock's determination on vengeance
  9. "Thou stick'st a dagger in me." What is the significance of this line?
    When Shylock refers to having Antonio's heart, he does not use "heart" as a metaphor
  10. Which of the following words links Shylock's pain to his desire for vengeance?
    Shylock says of Antonio, "I'll torture him" and complains when Tubal gives him more bad news about Jessica, "Thou torturest me"

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