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Free Study Guide-The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare-Study Guide
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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

ACT II, SCENE 5

Summary

Launcelot gives Shylock Bassanio's invitation and tells him about his new service with Bassanio. Shylock warns Launcelot that he will no longer be able to while away his time by not working as he had done while in Shylock's service.

Shylock calls for Jessica, who finally appears. He tells her that he fears some misfortune may befall his home. Jessica is to be in charge of keeping the house closed and locked. Hearing about the masked parade, Shylock warns Jessica to stay in the house and keep away from the revelry. Launcelot manages to pass on Lorenzo's message to Jessica. As Launcelot leaves, Shylock says that he is glad to see Launcelot go since he is a poor worker. Then Shylock leaves.


Notes

Launcelot has already begun to change due to his employment with Bassanio. He is becoming more serious and concerned. In Elizabethan time, it was the opinion that servants, fools, and morally weak people followed the examples set by their masters or mentors; therefore, the servant of an evil man became a negative person, while one of a righteous man learned goodness.

Shylock is not eager to attend the dinner at Bassanio's house, but he accepts the invitation out of malice, saying that "I'll go in hate, to feed upon the Prodigal Christian." It is strange that Shylock should even contemplate the invitation, considering his earlier vehemence that he would not eat, drink, or pray with Christians. Shylock is so full of hatred that it is almost believable that he is ready to literally to feed on Bassanio.

Shylock is reluctant to leave the house since he has had a dream about moneybags the previous night. Now he is worried about his property. He warns Jessica to stay inside and keep the doors locked. He also warns her not to "gaze on Christians with varnish'd faces," a reference to the painted masks that the participants of the processions use for disguise.

It is apparent that Jessica leads a cloistered life. She is forbidden by her father to join in any merry-making and must not even look out into the street at a procession passing by. Shylock's hatred for any form of revelry makes him a further outsider to the merry life of Venice.

Shylock asks Jessica to guard the house securely and leaves. Since Jessica has made her plans to elope with Lorenzo this same night, she is delighted that her father is going out. It will make it easier for her to take with her a large portion of Shylock's wealth. It is also ironic that Shylock has such faith in Jessica, who is planning on betraying and deserting her father.

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