Duke: You hear the learn’d Bellario, what he writes

Merchant of Venice (10)

Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

Duke: You hear the learn’d Bellario, what he writes:
And here, I take it, is the doctor come.

[Enter Portia, dressed like a Doctor of Laws]

Give me your hand. Come you from old Bellario?

Portia: I did, my lord.

Duke: You are welcome: take your place.
Are you acquainted with the difference
That holds this present question in the court?

Answer

(i) Where is this scene set?

A court (of justice) / in Venice

Why was Portia there?

To assist at Antonio’s trial / to save Antonio from Shylock / from the bond he had signed with Shylock / to act as a lawyer / to help her husband save Antonio

(ii) What reason had Bellario given for his absence?

he was very sick / ill

Whom had he sent in his stead?

Balthazar / a young doctor of Rome / Portia in disguise

(iii) Bellario’s letter stated that he had taken some measures to prepare the ‘young and learned doctor’ to deal with the case. What were they?

  • Explained the details of the ‘controversy’ between Antonio and Shylock
  • They had studied many law books together
  • Bellario had given Balthazar his opinion / advice

(iv) What was the ‘difference’ between Shylock the Jew and Antonio the merchant that the Duke was unable to resolve?

  • Antonio had borrowed three thousand ducats from Shylock for a period of three months.
  • Antonio’s ships had been lost at sea - he was bankrupt and unable to repay the debt.
  • Shylock was adamant in demanding his pound of flesh - refusing all offers of money.

(v) How does Portia succeed in saving Antonio?

  • Portia grants Shylock his bond but says that not one drop of Antonio’s blood must be shed - if it were then all his land and goods would be confiscated by the laws of Venice
  • Shylock had to cut out exactly one pound of flesh - if he cut even the smallest bit in excess of pound Shylock would be put to death.

What does this reveal of her character?

Portia proves that she is clever / quick-witted.