How Does Shakespeare make the Meeting of Antonio and Shylock Dramatic in Act 1, Scene 3?
From the beginning of the scene right through to the end of the scene, there is evidence of friction between Antonio (a young merchant of Venice) and Bassanio (the closest friend of Antonio and a noble Venetian), and Shylock; the abuse itself is verbal throughout the scene. Shylock, the Jew, who lived in Venice, is the victim of much abuse from Antonio and Bassanio. Shakespeare harnesses the fact that there was a lot of tension between the Christians and the Jews at the time of writing the play and uses this to dramatise the scene. A threat of physical violence is made near the end of the scene where Shylock threatens to have Antonio's 'fair flesh to be cut off and taken in what part of your Antonio body pleaseth me Shylock'. The purpose of this threat is revenge, and this shall be discussed later in the essay.
The majority of the verbal abuse is directed at Shylock by Antonio and, but not with the same intensity, Bassanio; the form of verbal abuse is almost entirely anti-Semitic. The grudges held between the Christians and the Jews create a tense atmosphere. It is not only Antonio and Bassanio's language that suggests anti-Semitism, but also the way that they act towards Shylock. Bassanio, once Antonio enters, says little and allows Antonio to take over. Once this happens, Antonio makes it known to Shylock that he does not like the idea of borrowing money with interest at all, and at every mention of interest, Antonio cuts in and says something aimed at offending Shylock. His reason is that the Christians did not believe in lending money with interest, as they thought that this was an unjust action; instead they lent money and expected to be paid back the exact amount that they lent. Jews, on the other hand, lent money with interest. The clash of interests between the two religions is one of the building blocks for the tension created in this scene. Shylock does react to Antonio's and Bassanio's hostile behaviour; he behaves in such a way that Antonio and Bassanio feel even more uncomfortable than they originally were, borrowing money from a Jew. Shylock takes as long as it is possible to say what he has to say, for instance, the use of the word 'well' is most noticeable at the beginning of the scene, and so is his repetition of what the person says to him beforehand. A good example of these behaviours are lines 1 to 9, where Shylock literally repeats what Bassanio says to him, and repeats the word 'well' three times, at the end of the individual sentences. This repetition of various phrases and the word 'well' has the effect of drawing out the conversation; successfully lengthening the time that the two Christians have to spend with Shylock. The longer the Christians need to spend with Shylock, the more tension builds up and hence the more dramatic the scene. Shylock's purpose for this uncomfortable behaviour may be an attempt to make Bassanio suffer, as the friction between religions caused great hatred between them which may have lead to Shylock's apparent pleasure in the two Christians' uneasiness.
Shylock is portrayed as a stereotypical Jew throughout the play; on line 13, he begins his explanation to Bassanio with "Ho no, no, no, no" which is what Jews were stereotyped of saying often. There are also a couple of mentions of his 'gaberdine' later in the play, which strengthens this 'stereotypical Jew' stance, as Jews in Venice at the time had to wear compulsory gaberdines (coats that discriminated the Jews from the rest).
Bassanio's attitude is slightly different to Antonio's in the way that he becomes overly kin to Shylock when Shylock offers the money, for instance, calling Shylock 'Sir', which is a rather unusual thing for a Christian to do to a Jew; it represents the Jew as an authority. Not only does this create further tension as Bassanio appears to be nervous, or slightly afraid of the Jew, but it also shows that Bassanio is only being kind to Shylock in order to obtain his money. Shylock does not take Bassanio's pretentious kindness too well when he takes it a little to far on line 26, by asking Shylock if he would like to dine with him. Shylock's dramatic reaction on lines 27 to 30 is rather unexpected for Bassanio, but understandable to the audience.
Line 27: 'Yes to smell pork'. Pork is considered unclean by Jews; hence being served pork in a Christian man's house may be taken very badly by Shylock.
Lines 27-8: 'to eat of the habitation which you prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into.' Not only does Shylock mention the devil here, he also uses 'your prophet the Nazarite' in a way that purposefully segregates Shylock's religion from Bassanio and Antonio's religion.
Lines 28-9: 'I will buy with you … walk with you, and so following:' He makes a list of four things that he would do with Bassanio in order to put great emphasis on what he says next.
Line 30: 'I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.' He uses a tricolon (a list of three things) in order to emphasise the fact that he would not dine with a Christian family.
Nevertheless, Shylock has his hatred returned to him by Antonio in lines 90 to 94 where he effectively compares Shylock to a criminal.
'The devil can cite Scripture' he says this soon after Shylock quotes a religious text, in effect comparing Shylock to the Devil. This is a hard-hitting insult to a man who had great faith in God.
'An evil soul producing holy witness / Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,' Antonio calls Shylock an 'evil soul' who incessantly quotes scriptures ('producing holy witness'). He also calls Shylock a criminal, or a murderer, in this way as a 'villain with a smiling cheek' is a metaphor for a criminal or a murderer.
'A goodly apple rotten at the heart / O what a goodly outside falsehood hath!' he states that Shylock acts well on the outside, but on the inside he is cruel and cold-blooded.
Shylock, having been interrupted many times throughout the play, is fed up of putting on a kind act to Antonio and Bassanio, and releases his anger about Antonio and the way that Christians in general treat him. His speech gives a sudden burst of energy and drama to the scene.
Lines 99-100: 'In the Rialto you have rated me / About my monies and my usances.' Shylock complains about how Antonio has delivered verbal abuse towards him on the basis that he (Shylock) borrows money with interest. Antonio believes that this is morally wrong and that money should be lent 'for free', as in the borrower does not need to pay the lender any more than he borrowed.
Lines 101-2: 'Still have I borne it with a patient shrug / For suff'rance is the badge of all our tribe.' This is Shylock's reason for not reacting earlier on; he had taken the abuse without reaction for a while, however the anger within him was too great, hence his dramatic speech.
Line 103: 'You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,' these two phrases are powerfully insulting to Shylock and increase the dramatic aspect of the scene. Not only is Shylock a strong believer in his religion, he also found dogs unclean as this was a belief in the Jewish religion. Being called 'cut-throat dog' suggested that Shylock was a murderer and unclean.
Line 104: 'And spit upon my Jewish gabardine.' Spitting was another thing that was considered unclean by Jews, hence another example of anti-Semitism.
Line 109: 'You that did void your rheum upon my beard,' is a similar example of an act of anti-Semitism being performed on Shylock as 'void your rheum' was another way of describing the action of spitting.
Line 110: 'And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur' is anti-Semitism at work again; 'stranger cur' was another way of saying 'stray dog'. To Shylock this would be understood in a derogatory manner, as if saying "you are unclean and not wanted".
Line 113: 'Hath a dog money?' Shylock is stressing that if he is such a terrible person, then why do they come to him for money?
Line 115-7: 'Shall I bend low, and in a bondman's key, / With bated breath and whisp'ring humbleness, / Say this:' Shylock asks if he should lower himself and in a slave's voice, ask 'Fair sir … lend you thus such monies.' 'A bondman's key' was another term for 'a slave's voice', which is a derogatory term, and 'bated breath' and 'whisp'ring humbleness' both describe lowering oneself in presence of authority. This shows how Jews were treated as slaves, or servants, and had much less authority than Christians.
Even after Shylock pours his heart out in that speech, Antonio seems to show little repentance for his actions, as in lines 122 to 129, he mentions spitting on Shylock and spurning him again on line 123. Antonio appears to be quite an arrogant man who does not care if Shylock is offended as a person; he is just trying to show off and give himself the air of being a strong and powerful man. Another part of his arrogance is how he regularly makes a joke out of Shylock, as in line 67, where he makes a joke out of Shylock's usage of interest, as if Shylock only cared about interest and nothing else. This particular sentence also happens to be the beginning of an interruption, which gives a small shock to the audience, hence adding drama to the scene. Such interruptions occur quite frequently, for example in lines 67 and 89, where Shylock's speaking parts end with a dash and Antonio's first line was indented so that it begins after the end of Shylock's line. This 'line-sharing' was used often by Shakespeare to represent discord between characters.
The way that Antonio and Bassanio treat money is different to the way that Shylock treats money; this causes, perhaps, a clash of interests, and as a result increased conflict. Antonio and Bassanio were frivolous with their money, spending it with ease, as their rich dress (in a performance of this play, Antonio and Bassanio would be dressed richly) would suggest. Shylock, however, has a very miserly attitude to money, and spends little; he lives in a small, functional house and dresses simply. All three men receive roughly the same income. These attitudes considerably affect the way that they comprehend the word 'good' in line 11. To Bassanio (Antonio is not present at the scene at the time, but if he was, he would have roughly the same mindset as Bassanio), 'good' would carry the meaning 'morally good' or 'well-intentioned' where a person is concerned, hence the sharp reply on line 12: 'Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?'; Antonio and Bassanio were good friends. For Shylock, the word 'good' means 'financially sound' (he is much more concerned with money than morals and compassion); hence his explanation to Bassanio in lines 13 to 14. Shylock's miserly attitude is a stereotype, and such people were also deemed to be rather laconic, which can be used as a mysterious or strange aspect in a play. This is partially true with Shylock, but in order to make the scene more dramatic, Shylock bursts into energy, rambling about injustice, or quoting scriptures with much vivacity. This is all due to his pent-up anger at Christians; misers were said to keep things to themselves. Shylock's strong dislike of all Christians, whether they are kind to him or not, stems from the fact that Christians in general persecuted Jews during that period.
Perhaps the most dramatic lines in the play are lines 140 to 144 where Shylock demands that if Antonio does not repay what he borrowed by the deadline, Shylock will take a pound of flesh from wherever he (Shylock) pleases. This displays great antipathy and competition between Antonio and Bassanio, and Shylock. Although Bassanio makes an attempt at stopping Antonio from sealing 'to such a bond' (line 147) for him, Antonio is too proud of himself and ignores Bassanio's plea. This leaves almost a cliff-hanger effect at the end of the scene as one does not know whether Antonio will pay the money back within the deadline's bounds or not. Antonio, however, is not the only one who is portrayed as being in a bad position, as Shylock's actions are quite shocking, especially to an audience at the time of writing. This depicts Shylock as a 'bloodthirsty Jew', which is a popular anti-Semitic aspect of life at the time and this play.