The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1 ICSE Questions and Answers

Act 1 Scene 1 Questions and Answers

Question 1 : Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.

Your mind is tossing on the ocean;

There, where your argosies with portly sail,

Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood,

Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,

Do overpeer the petty traffickers,

That curtsy to them, do them reverence,

As they fly by them with their woven wings.

(i) What makes Salarino say these words?

Answer : Salarino and Antonio were talking to each other and Antonio was in a very depressed state. Antonio said that it was true that he was miserable and his friends knew that but he did not know the reason behind it. This made Salarino say that may be he was worried about his ships out at sea.

(ii) How can you say that Antonio was in a sad mood? How does he describe his sadness?

Answer : We can say that Antonio was in a depressed state because he himself confessed it. He says, “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me; you say it wearies you;”. However in reality, he himself was not aware of the reason for such a state of his mind. He was yet to learn what had made him so miserly.

(iii) Does Antonio agree to the explanation given by Salarino? Comment.

Answer : Salarino thought that perhaps Antonio was worried about his ships that were in the sea. May be business worries were making him weary.

However, Antonio denied it. He says that all his money was not dependent on ships and he might get through the year easily enough. Business was not making him sad.

(iv) In your own words, elaborate how Salarino has described the ships of Antonio.

Answer : Salarino described the ships as being like huge parade of floats on the sea. They were so big that they looked down on the smaller ships, which had to bow and then get out of their way. Moreover, Antonio’s ships sailed swiftly like birds past the smaller ships.

(v) What explanation is Salarino trying to give to Antonio for his pensive state? How does he try to lift his spirits up?

Answer : Salarino found Antonio in a despondent state. He asked him about the reason behind his sadness. Antonio replied that he was yet to learn about the reason which had made him so weary. Salarino then tried to figure it out. He thought that may be Antonio was worried about his ships that were bound for different ports. He says that Antonio had big and powerful ships and he must not worry about them.

Question 2 : Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.


Let me play the fool:

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,

And let my liver rather heat with wine

Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.

Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,

Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?

Sleep when he wakes? and creed into the jaundice

By being peevish?

(i) Why does Gratiano say “Let me play the fool”?

Answer : Antonio was sad and his friends were trying to get rid of his sadness. Gratiano here was also trying to say the same thing. Antonio says that the world was like a stage and people were like actors. Antonio’s role was to play a sad character and that was what he was doing. Gratiano replied that then his role would be that of a clown who would try to cheer him up.

(ii) What light does the above extract throw upon the character of the speaker?

Answer : From the above extract, we conclude that Gratiano was a caring friend. He wanted to make his friend happy even if he had to act as a clown for it. We can also infer that he was a fun loving character who did not believe in sitting idle and wasting life over trivial matters. He wanted to enjoy his life to the fullest.

(iii) How does Antonio react to these statements made by Gratiano?

Answer : Gratiano says that he cannot understand why men should be sad. He further says that he is so frankly saying these things to Antonio as he cares about him a lot and wants to make him happy. Hearing his advice, Antonio says that he must try to cheer up and become a bit more talkative.

(iv) What does Gratiano mean when he says ‘creep into the jaundice; By being peevish’?

Answer : In Elizabethan times, it was believed that jaundice was caused by being irritable and bad tempered i.e., peevish. Gratiano was trying to say that if Antonio was not becoming happy, he would surely contract jaundice. He meant to say that there was a direct connection between mind and body.

(v) Explain the extract in your own words.

Answer : Gratiano says that if Antonio’s role was a sad one, he would play the happy fool and get laugh lines on his face. He would rather overload his liver with wine and act foolish than starve his heart by denying himself some fun. He asked why any living man should sit still like a statue and why he should sleep when he’s awake. There was no use in getting jaundice by being irritable all the time.

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