BB: Merchant of Venice, The Speeches

This week, we present the first of our new series of ‘Speeches’ podcasts!

Daniel and I have picked out a handful of our favourite moments from The Merchant of Venice and we’ve gathered them together into one awesome show. Then poured ourselves some drinks and had a chat about our selections. Feel free to do the same as you listen in!

Daniel and Eric go through some of their favourite speeches in the Merchant of Venice

Listen to the podcast here.

Download the podcast.

So you can follow along with the text if you’d like, here are the passages we’re discussing in this episode.

“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano…”Act 1, Scene 1 lns 79-107
Speakers: Antonio and Gratiano
Gratiano offers up this speech to Antonio who he accuses of playing the role of the melancholic older man to make himself seem more wise and dignified than he really is. His basic point: forget what anybody else thinks and lighten up! Is Antonio’s sadness just an act, though?

“When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban’s sheep…” Act 1, Scene 3 lns 68-93
Speakers: Shylock and Antonio
In this passage, Shylock and Antonio confront each other about their differing business philosophies: Shylock argues in favour of thrift and cleverness, Antonio in favour of risk-taking and faith. Which is the better ‘Merchant of Venice’?

“Why, I am sure if he forfeit thou wilt not take his flesh.” Act 3, Scene 1 lns 42-60
Speakers: Salerio and Shylock
Probably the most famous speech in this play, Shylock makes it clear that he’s serious about getting revenge on Antonio if he doesn’t get his money on time. He certainly has plenty of reasons to be pissed off. Is it possible to listen to this speak and not be moved to sympathy for Shylock?

A song, the whilst BASSANIO comments on the caskets to himself.Act 3, Scene 2 lns. 64-116
Speakers: Portia (singing) and Bassanio
This the scene where Bassanio finally tries his luck at picking from the three caskets. He offers his justification for his choice: one shouldn’t judge by appearance but by the weight of one’s feelings. Portia’s not supposed to cheat but she clearly wants Bassanio to make the right choice. She’s seen the other two – Morocco and Aragon – mess up, so she knows which choice is correct. Does she slip him any hints or does his reasoning just make sense?

“Now, Balthazar…” Act 3, Scene 4 lns. 46-80
Speakers: Portia, Balthazar and Nerissa
The mandatory Shakespearean comedy’s gender-reversal scene. Portia sends a letter to the lawyer Bellario for some legal advice and a cover story. She and Nerissa then dress up as a lawyer and clerk to play dress-up at court and brag about women with the boys. I was never clear on how she knew to contact the same guy the Duke of Venice had consulted with or how she convinced Bellario to go along with her plan.

“What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong?” Act 4, Scene 1 lns. 90-104
Speaker: Shylock
We picked this scene instead of the equally famous “The quality of mercy” speech which comes a little later in the scene (lns. 188-209). Shylock delivers his speech about property rights. He argues that just as the nobles in attendance are free to do what they wish with their slaves, he should be free to use his own legally obtained property as he sees fit. Aren’t we inclined and encouraged to agree with his point?
For the full effect, you really should go back and listen to the (in studio!) recording of act iv.

“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.” Act 5, Scene 1 lns. 61-76
Speakers: Lorenzo and Jessica
Daniel selected this passage because it contains Jessica’s last line of the play. Lorenzo is waxing poetic about the power of poetry and music but Jessica calls bullshit. Totally oblivious, Lorenzo then gives her a patronizing speech about why she doesn’t get it. Are Lorenzo and Jessica living in a dream world or is this a nightmare waiting to happen?

Hope you enjoy the show!

Feel free to download and listen to any of the previous recordings of The Merchant of Venice.

(Podcast recorded and edited by Daniel J. Rowe, Show notes by Eric Jean)

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