Essay, Pages 4 (829 words)
The extract in context is a part of Act 1 Scene 1 of the novel ‘Merchant of Venice’ written by William Shakespeare in the 16th century. Written as a Romantic Comedy, it is set in Venice and in the first few paragraphs Shakespeare portrays the elements of male friendship, wealth and trade. He begins the play by introducing the characters of Antonio and his friends Solanio and Salarino. The scene opens with a sense of uncertainty. The uncertainty is depicted by the line ‘In sooth…I am so sad’, Antonio is shown to be depressed and melancholic but the reason for the same is not known.
His friends Solanio and Salarino try consoling him and finding a possible reason for his sadness.
Salarino and Solanio, hint at his trade as being a possible reason for his sadness. He was ‘The Merchant of Venice’. They try to make Antonio understand that every trader worries about his goods and vessels. Salarino talks about the magnificence and might of Antonio’s ships in order to pacify him.
He refers to them as ‘signor’s’, ‘rich burghers’ and ‘pageants of the sea’. How the ‘petty traffickers’ look up to his ships with reverence. Solanio tries comforting Antonio by telling him that if he was in his place, he would have similar feelings. ‘Believe me…abroad’, in these lines Solanio puts forth that if he had such a business, his mind would constantly be thinking of his ships. Lines such as ‘Plucking…sits the wind’ and ‘Piring… and roads;’ illustrate his feelings for his fleet and how he would make constant attempts to see that his ships are sailing smooth and fast.
On the other hand, Salarino tries cheering Antonio by indicating how he thinks about his vessels every moment. How he derives a connection between his actions and what it might do his ships on a larger scale. Shakespeare constantly makes simple comparisons. For instance, ‘My wind…might do’, in these lines Salarino talks about his breath cooling his broth. Using a simple metaphor, his wind is compared to a gush of wind at sea that may wreck his fleet. Instances of visual imagery are abundant throughout the speech. For instance ‘And…docked in sand’, here one can imagine the shipwrecked and docked in sand. Throughout the speech, one can imagine the scenes and understand what value the ships hold in his life. Salarino’s feelings for his ships are shown by words such as ‘wealthy’ and ‘gentle’. William Shakespeare has made use of descriptive language throughout Salarino’s speech. The movement of the ship is described as ‘Vailing…her burial’, ‘And not…on the stream’ and ‘Enrobe the roaring…my silks’. At instances, Shakespeare has made use of personification. He personifies the ships and his garments. He terms the ship to be ‘kissing’ its burial whereas the garments ‘enrobe’ the waters. Personification adds humane qualities to his ship and garments as his ship is kissing its death whereas the garments are dressing up the sea. Personification of the same implies that for the merchants their ships and garments were one of the most precious things. They were their companions. For a merchant, its fleet is its livelihood and shipwrecks turn their lives upside down, their livelihood is lost.
As the extract moves on, Salarino’s and Solanio’s attempt at understanding why Antonio is sad fails. ‘Believe me, no…’ and ‘My ventures are…make me not sad’. In these lines Antonio dismisses the idea that he is sad because of his trade. He has planned his trade and his fortunes lie not in one ship or in one place. His economical situation is not dependent on this voyage. Having their first claim refuted, Salarino and Solanio try hinting at LOVE as a possible reason to Antonio’s sadness. Antonio rubbishes the same by saying ‘Fie, fie’ and their second attempt also goes in vain.
Having their second attempt refuted, Solanio tries to work out an answer. He feels Antonio is sad just because he is not happy. In Solanio’s speech, Shakespeare again makes a comparison. Shakespeare makes an implied comparison between the two headed Roman God Janus and the different sides of humans. How humans are not the same. How few are cheerful and happy at all instances whereas few are quiet and keep to themselves. This can be inferred from the lines ‘Some that will….in way of smile’. In these lines, using a simile Shakespeare has compared the laughs of the jovial people to that of a parrot. Following this he uses an implied metaphor to compare the others to vinegar. In these lines, olfactory and animal imagery can be seen. The readers can understand and distinguish between the two types of people. Parrots are all the time chirpy and happy whereas vinegar is sour.
To conclude, written in blank verse, the opening scene of the play is a foreshadowing of what is to follow in the play. The morose tone and doubt hint that the instances to follow may not be happy and may be ominous.