The sample paper on Sir Oracle In Merchant Of Venice familiarizes the reader with the topic-related facts, theories and approaches. Scroll down to read the entire paper.
1) The phrase ‘a want-wit’ means ‘he who wants knowledge’.
This would come back to the earlier phrase said by Antonio – ‘In sooth I know not why I am so sad’. He then says that what makes him sad he ‘is to learn’ and in that says that sadness makes him ‘he who wants knowledge’.
b) When answering the question above, I made sure that I found out what the original meaning of ‘wit’ was, as I happened to read this question, giving me a good suspicion that ‘wit’ did have a different meaning in the time of Shakepeare.
c) In the light of point (b), I looked through the meanings of ‘wit’ in an old dictionary, which lists the meanings of words in the order of the time that they had that particular meaning (oldest first).
I would rather have done that than let myself succumb to guesswork and get the answer wrong.
d) The quotation starts in elipses (…) because they mean that text precedes the text shown if looked at in its original source.
e) ‘That’ starts a new line because the preceding line has run out of its ten-syllable limit. Because the text is written in verse, each line is restricted to ten syllables, (as the play could then be rendered truly false in the eyes of the church), and because the bit of text before contains ten syllables, ‘that’ must appear on a new line.
f) ‘That’ receives a capital ‘T’, even though it is not the start of a new sentence, because the start of a new line when it is in verse means that the first word receives a capital first letter as it is seen as a different segment of text.
g) You have put the quotation in the middle of the page and surrounded it with a blank line above and below because it saves loosing the important quote in the midst of the text. Consequently, it also makes the reader want to read it and absorb it more because they can see it better.
h) The ‘meaning of the stuff in the brackets at the end of the quotation’ is that the quotation is lines 6 through to 7 in act one, scene one (although it doesn’t directly state the act and the scene as it is aforementioned at the top of the page).
2) I believe that Shakespeare has begun the play with the lament of Antonio because it gives the audience a way to know about the fact that Antonio has argosies bound for various destinations, which becomes important later in the play. It puts the audience in a direct position with the characters as the conversation starts in the middle, but it is also a good way to get the audience initially intrigued. It keeps the audience watching, a bit like those crazy Midsommer Murders sub-plots.
…Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,
Do overpeer the petty traffickers,
That curtsy to them, do them reverence,
As they fly by them with their woven wings.
b) I think that the purpose in Salarino using such an over-the-top image is to cheer Antonio up. He also says that the ships have ‘portly sails’, or as you so eloquently put it ‘fat bastard sails’, giving Antonio something to laugh about. (He has, after all, already stated that he is sad.)
c) When quoting the lines asked in (a) I purposely looked at how you had quoted the lines at the top of the page as imitation is a good way of learning. I wanted to be sure of getting the way of quoting right, I automatically presumed that you were right because you are the teacher, and so copied your way of doing things in hope to please. In terms of moral beliefs, I do not believe that morality exists, and that everything is based on the views of life. Morality is an elaboration on the ways to prevent a species from going extinct (in basic terms).
4) Antonio reacts to Salanio’s comment, ‘Why then, you are in love’, by saying ‘Fie, fie!’ as in ‘Good Lord No!’ He seems to try and change the subject in his saying. Maybe he is, but it is more likely a ‘what a silly statement’ statement.
5) In lines 82-83, Gratiano begins his ‘speech’, ‘Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come…’ From this, you can see that he is about to burst into useless speech when he has no need. His first statement would have, in reality, been plenty. He then goes on to say, ‘There are a sort of men whose visages Do cream and mantle like a standing pond, And do a wilful stillness entertain, With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit, As who should say ‘I am Sir Oracle, And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!’ This has no direct link to what he started off with, but in this Gratiano states that there are pompous arses, and starts to get philosophical, thus turning his original statement around. Maybe he isn’t as full of ‘an infinite deal of nothing’ as he seems. However, in saying all of that, he goes on and on, turning himself into a ‘pompous arse’. Afterwards he says, ‘I’ll tell thee more of this another time: But fish not, with this melancholy bait, For this fool gudgeon…’ He has now totally changed subject, not referring to anything he had previously. He has also changed the mood of the conversation by referring to ‘melancholy bait’. The subject at the start was happiness!
a) In scene 1, Antonio’s objectives are to play on his sadness, find out what ails him and to try and cheer himself up. He also must play on his deeds to Bassanio. He does not appear in scene 2.
b) In scene 1, Bassanio’s objective is to try and squeeze money out of Antonio. I think it should be important that Bassanio should always seem to be trying to squeeze money out of people as it is part of his character. Bassanio does not appear in scene 2.
c) In scene 2, Portia’s objective should be to try and find a suitor, even though she knows it is hopeless to find a decent one. She should always have a feeling of necessity about her when playing the scene, but also a clear sense of hopefulness. She does not appear in scene 1.
7) You can tell that Bassanio is a ‘sleaze’ by this section when he is trying to get money out of Antonio: ‘In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft, I shot his fellow of the self-same flight The self-same way with more advised watch, To find the other forth, and by adventuring both I oft found both:…’ He tries to use elaborate stories to get his money, which he calls a ‘proof’. He also, when speaking of her to Antonio, veers off the path of compliment towards her beauty and goes towards her financial state, saying that she is ‘richly left’, and then having to cover up for it by saying to Antonio that she is ‘fair’, but even that word is ambiguous, showing us Antonio’s two-faced nature. His last comparison, that Portia is like the golden fleece, compares her to treasure, and further implies that he only wants her for her money.
8) The important plot point established at lines 176-179 is that Antonio does not have the money to pay Bassanio as all his money is invested in his ships, and hints that he will have to go somewhere else for it. ‘Thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea; Neither have I money nor commodity To raise a present sum: therefore go forth; Try what my credit can in Venice do:…’ Hmmm…
9) Scene 2 is written, for the first part, in prose, which means that it is written in speech form, which is how someone from this time period would construct a play script normally. Scene 1 is written in verse, which is how play scripts had to be written to prove that they were false to the church, although it doesn’t rhyme.
10) The marriage conditions laid down in Portia’s father’s will were that she must get a husband or lose the inheritance, and that she cannot chose her husband herself – she must rely on three caskets of gold, silver, and lead as a form of lottery. Whoever picks the right casket gets to marry Portia.
11) Portia has a friendly relationship with Nerissa, even though Portia is of a grater status than her. Their friendship and trust is clearly noticeable when Portia asks Nerissa to put ‘a deep glass of rhenish wine on the contrary casket’, to make sure that the German suitor choses the wrong one and does not marry her. This also gives Nerissa tremendous power that clearly contradicts her status. The way the two characters talk to each other, Portia does not look down upon Nerissa, they are very realistic, and the fact that the text is written in prose further emphasizes the realism, yet at the very end, to switch status/society back to its original place, Nerissa comments that her eyes are ‘foolish’. The use of this word sets the truth that she is a servant and Nerissa is the mistress.
12) In terms of stereotypes, there is the Frenchman who has all the good stuff but has too many characteristics (and is too noble for his own good), an Englishman who is ignorant to foreign languages and who is a slave of fashion, picking up designs from around the world, a Scotsman who does nothing but fight, and a drunk German. This shows that the characteristics of people from different countries have changed very little, if at all, from Shakespeare’s time, and shows that Shakespeare has much relevance in the modern world. As for the fact that it is a long question, I think that it is not. It only appears long as the individual statements are not separated by punctuation, making the eye group them, making it seem longer.
14) In terms of separating Jaffa Cakes and Hob-Nobs as ‘races’ of biscuits and cakes, and asking me to judge which one is better, I am certainly not above being racist, but so I don’t offend any do-gooders I do not think I should judge. However, in terms of biscuits, I certainly think that Jaffa Cakes should win as they are much more refreshing. Also, If they were struck, only the chocolate coating would crack as they are in themselves quite spongy. A Hob-Nob would just crumble. (But in a war, could they throw dead Hob-Nob at the enemy?)