The Merchant Of Venice Act -2, Scene - 2 Questions Answers

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

Extract  No. 1


Launcelot

- well, my conscience says, " Launcelot, budge not."  "Budge!" says the
 fiend. "Budge not!" says my conscience. " Conscience," say I, "you counsel
 well;" " fiend," say I, you counsel well: to be ruled by my conscience, 
I should stay with the Jew my master, who- God bless the mark! - is a
kind of devil; and, to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the 
fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself.

(i) Who is Launcelot Gobbo? What inner struggle is going on in his conscience? What does his struggle show about the contemporary Christian practice?

Ans. Launcelot Gobbo is Shylock’s servant. Here, he is debating with his conscience whether to remain faithful to his master whom he considers a devil or to give into the temptation of taking up service with Bassanio. The contemporary Christian practice was to struggle with the temptation and see if one had the courage not to yield before it.

(ii) Why does Launcelot want to run away from the Jew? What does his conscience advice him to do?

Ans. Launcelot wants to run away from his callous, insensitive master Shylock who was a miserly man and he felt half starved in his service. He feels he was a devil in human form. His conscience tells him to be loyal and not to run away from his master. His conscience says that as he was the child of virtuous parents, he shouldn’t deceive his master.

(iii) Launcelot’s speech provides some comic relief in the play. Why was such a relief needed in the context of the play?

Ans. Launcelot Gobbo’s contributes to the mirth and gaiety by his speech. This humour provides the much needed comic relief because in the earlier story of the play, the readers are tense because of Antonio having signed a treacherous bond and also because of Portia’s anxiousness about the lottery devised by her father.

(iv) Enumerate the reasons given by Launcelot’s conscience to stay on with the master. 

Ans. His conscience urges him to remain loyal as he was the son of honest father and virtuous mother. The conscience counsels that fleeing is a contemptuous act and he should be careful not to commit this mistake.

(v) Finally, whom does Launcelot obey — the devil or his conscience? How is the theme of racial discrimination brought out in Launcelot’s decision to run away?

Ans. Finally Launcelot obeys the devil as it seems to give a more friendly counsel and so he decided to leave Shylock. The theme of racial discrimination is brought about by Launcelot’s comments. His prejudice against Jews is expressed when he refers to his master not as ‘Shylock’ but as ‘The Jew’ and ‘the very devil incarnal’. He prefers to run away from a jew and take service under a Christian.

(vi) How is the theme of conflict between the good and the evil shown in this scene?

Ans. The conflict and the battle between the good and evil is shown in the scene. Launcelot struggles between the friendly counsel of the ‘devil’ and the rigid and adamant conscience which advises him to remain loyal. Ultimately after great deliberation he follows the advise of the ‘devil’ which advises him to leave the house of Shylock who was devil in human form

Extract No. 2



Launcelot
(Aside) O heavens, this is my true-begotten father! who, being more than 
sand-blind, high-gravel-blind, knows me not: I will try confusions with him.

Gobbo
Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way to master Jew’s?

(i) Where are Launcelot and old Gobbo? What is meant by ‘true-begotten father’? Why cannot old Gobbo recognise his son?

Ans. Launcelot and his father old Gobbo are in a street of Venice. ‘True begotten father’ means the real man who had fathered him or brought him to this world. Old Gobbo couldn’t recognize as he was half blind and his blindness was in an advanced stage.

(ii)Why is old Gobbo looking for the way to Master Jew’s house? How does Launcelot confuse the old man while giving directions to him to reach the Jew’s house?

Ans. Old Gobbo was looking for the way to Master Jew’s house as he wanted to meet his son, Launcelot’ who worked there. He confuses his father by giving him complicated directions.

(iii) What was Gobbo’s reaction to the directions given to him by Launcelot?

Ans. Old Gobbo was totally perplexed and swore that it would be difficult for him to follow the directions.

(iv) What present has Gobbo brought to give to the Jew? What does Launcelot say to his father about it?

Ans. Gobbo had brought a dish of cooked doves to gift to the Jew, who was his son’s master. He tells his father to gift a rope to Shylock to hang himself as he had treated him callously and had half starved him.

(v) Launcelot plays a comic role in this scene. Give two examples of comedy provided by him

Ans. Comedy builds when Launcelot’s father, Old Gobbo arrives. He is sand blind and can just see a dim image of a man. Launcelot takes advantage of this and playfully confuses the old man with much clowning and double talk. He first conceals his identity and then gives perplexing directions. He torments his father about his own death and later it is hilarious when he kneels down to receive his blessings

Extract No.3

Launcelot
Ergo, Master Launcelot. Talk not of Master Launcelot, father; for the
young gentleman, according to Gates and Destinies, and such odd sayings,
the Sisters Three and such branches of learning, is, indeed, deceased; 
or, as you would say in plain terms, gone to heaven.

Gobbo
Marry, God forbid! the boy was the very staff of my age, my very prop.

Launcelot
[Aside] Do I look like a cudgel or a hovel-post, a staff or a prop?- Do
you know me, father?!

(i) Why does Launcelot use high-sounding words in his conversation with Gobbo? What does Shakespeare want to convey to the audience in this context about the habit of some people in his time?

Ans. Launcelot uses high sounding words to confuse his father and disguise his own identity. He pretends to possess great classical learning and knowledge and he exhibits such learning to impress a simple folk like his father. Moreover, this is also done to provide comedy. Shakespeare wanted to convey that well to do people adopted unnatural manners of speaking so as to distinguish themselves from others. 

(ii) Why does Launcelot call old Gobbo ‘father’ in the first line of the extract? Give the meaning of:
according to Fates and Destinies, and such odd sayings, the Sisters Three and such branches of learning,

Ans. Launcelot addresses old Gobbo as ‘father’ just to show respect considering his age. He also hints that he is Gobbo’s son. The three sisters and Greek mythology were the personifications of destiny. They were commonly known as Fate or Destiny. They were supposed to determine the course of a child’s life. So, Launcelot swears by them that he was old Gobbo’s son.

(iii) How does Gobbo react to the news of the apparent loss of his son?

Ans. Gobbo is appaled and so tormented that he reacts in a very disheartence manner. He says that his son was his only support in life.

(iv) How does Launcelot show dramatically that he is Gobbo’s son? Why does the former refer to his mother’s name in the context?

Ans. After playing a cruel trick on old Gobbo, by telling him that his son was dead, he finally confesses dramatically that he was his son. Then he gets frustrated when his father doesn’t recognize him. So, he mentions the name of his mother ‘Margery’ as a proof to convince his father.

(v) How does Gobbo show by words and actions that he is fond of his son?

Ans. Gobbo shows his affection by first being anxious about his son’s health and whereabouts. He laments on hearing about his death. When Launcelot reveals his identity, Gobbo feels his face to ascertain whether he was really Launcelot.

(vi) Give any two humorous situations from this scene.

Ans. Launcelot gives round about and confusing directions in a pseudo schollarly manner which seems very hilarious. The scene when he kneels down to ask for his father’s blessings. His father feels his head and mistakes it to be his beard. His comment that he had more hair on his chin than what his horse has on his tail is very humorous.

Extract No. 4

Gobbo
 Lord, how are thou changed! How dost thou and thy master
 agree? I have brought him a present. How 'gree you now?

 Launcelot
 well, well: but, for mine own part,  as I have set up my rest 
to run away, so I will not rest till I have run some ground.
my Master's a very Jew: give him a present! give him a
 halter: I am famished in his service; you may tell every finger
 I have with my ribs. Father, I am glad you are come: give
 me your present to one Master Bassanio,  who, indeed, gives
 rare new liveries:  if I serve not him, I will run as far as God 
has any ground. O rare fortune! here comes the man: to 
him, father; for I am a Jew, if I serve the Jew any longer.

(i) What has just happened that makes Gobbo say that Launcelot has changed? What present did Gobbo bring? To whom does he want to give it?

Ans. Old Gobbo had met his son after several years. So, when he feels his beard, he realizes that he was a grown up man that made him exclaim that Launcelot had changed a lot Gobbo had brought a dish of cooked doves to present it to Shylock.

(ii) Give the meaning of:
(a) My master’s a very Jew:
(b) give him a halter:

Ans. (a) It means that he was selfish, callous and greedy just like all Jews were considered to be.

(b) It means that shylock being a cruel master deserved a rope to hang himself to death.

(iii) How can you conclude from the extract the Launcelot has been suffering in the Jew’s service?

Ans. Launcelot portrays Shylock as a cruel master, the one who doesn’t feed him well, so much so that he was starved in his service. He says that he had grown so lean that his ribs could be counted. This shows that he had been suffering in the Jew’s service.

(iv) What do you find strange in the expression: You may tell every finger I have with my ribs?

Ans. To describe starvation Launcelot had to say that one could feel his ribs with his fingers but for comic effect he uses a mixed up expression by saying that one could use the ribs to feel every finger he had.

(v) What special privilege would Launcelot have if he serves Bassanio? What would happen if Launcelot were to serve the Jew ‘any longer’?

Ans. Launcelot would get rare new clothing from Bassanio and if he was forced to serve Shylock, he would run as far as God had any ground. he felt that he would consider himself a Jew if he served the Jew any longer.

(vi) What kind of attitude against the Jews is shown in this scene?

Ans. In this scene Jews are depicted as miserly and insensitive and uncaring. Launcelot feels famished in Shylock’s service as he is not given enough food so much so that his bones and ribs stood out prominently and could be easily counted.

Extract No. 5

Launcelot
(Aside) O heavens, this is my true-begotten father! who, being more than 
sand-blind, high-gravel-blind, knows me not: I will try confusions with him.
Gobbo
Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way to master Jew’s?
Launcelot
Turn up on your right hand at the next turning, but, at the next turning 
of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house.

(i) How has Launcelot shown that he could speak for himself to be employed by Bassanio? 

Ans. Initially Launcelot asks Old Gobbo to persuade Bassanio to take him in his service. When Old Gobbo delays in asking, Launcelot cuts him short and himself asks Bassanio to take him in his service.

(ii) What impact is the palm-reading by Launcelot likely to make on the audience?

Ans. It provides humour and some comic relief. The way he pretends to possess classical learning and knowledge of palmistry amuses the audience. It also foretells the good fortune awaiting Launcelot in near future.

(iii) What does Launcelot predict about his wives and his escape from dangers to his life?

 Ans. Launcelot predicts that he would marry a large number of women which would include eleven widows and nine maids. He would thrice escape from drowning and also from nasty fall from a feather bed.

(iv) What instructions did Bassanio give to the Gobbos and to his servants after employing Launcelot?

Ans. After employing Launcelot Bassanio instructs Gobbo’s to go and take leave from Shylock. He also instructs his servants to arrange for Launcelot a new uniform with more decorations and stripes than uniform of other servants. 

(v) Before this extract Launcelot referred to a proverb which is applicable both to Shylock and to Bassanio. What was the proverb and how is it applicable to both of them?

Ans. The proverb, ‘The grace of God is wealth enough’ was referred to by Launcelot. Whereas Shylock had ‘wealth enough’, Bassanio being a noble gentleman full of generosity had ‘the grace of God’.

Extract No. 6

Bassanio
Why, then you must. But hear three, Gratiano;
Thou art too wild, too rude, and bold of voice;
Part that become thee happily enough;
And in such eyes as ours appear not fault;

(i) Give the context in which Bassanio speaks these words.

Ans. These words were spoken when Gratiano requests Bassanio to take him along with him to Belmont.

(ii) Give the meaning of:
To allay with some cold drops of modesty Thy skipping spirit,

Ans. This means that Gratiano needed to weaken or abate his over bold spirits and his unruly disposition if he desired to accompany Bassanio to Belmont.

(iii) Briefly summarise the advice given by Bassanio to Gratiano in the extract.

Ans. Bassanio urges Gratiano to curb his wild spirits and have control on his tongue and observe gentlemanly mannerisms and civility. He did not want his lack of sophistication to hinder his prospects of wooing Portia.

(iv) Why does Bassanio ask Gratiano to behave properly in Belmont?

Ans. Bassanio asks Gratiano to behave properly in Belmont because his rude, bold and loud behavior might be misunderstood and this could spoil his chances of marrying Portia.

(v) What assurance does Gratiano give to Bassanio about the latter’s advice?

Ans. Gratiano promises to observe proper manners and give the impression that he was a modest, devout and a well groomed, civil man. He asks Bassanio to trust him as he would keep his words.

(vi) What exception to Gratiano’s behaviour is accepted for the particular night? Why?

 Ans. For that particular night he was permitted to celebrate and revel in the company of friends. This was because all friends were collecting to have merriment at the dinner party which Bassanio had arranged for them.