Money lent, an enemy made: The Merchant of Venice


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With a partner discuss the following:

  • Have you ever lent money to anyone? Did they return it?
  • How do you understand the saying : “Money lent, an enemy made”?
  • Do you agree with it? Why?


You are going to read a short extract about one of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Merchant of Venice. Ignoring the gaps please answer the questions.

  1. When was the play written and what is it remembered for?
  2. Who is Bassanio and why does he need money?
  3. Who is Antonio and why cannot he lend money to Bassanio himself?
  4. Do Shylock and Antonio know each other from before? If so what is their relationship like?
  5. On what condition does Shylock agree to lend money to Antonio?
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The Merchant of Venice is a comedy believed to have been written by Shakespeare in 1598. It is set in Venice, Italy, and is probably best remembered for its central character, a Jewish moneylender, Shylock. His “pound of flesh” speech from Act 1 scene III is one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces and the most prominent part of the play.

Antonio, a Venetian merchant, complains to his friends of a melancholy that he cannot explain. His friend Bassanio is 1. ___________ in need of money to court Portia, a wealthy   2. _________ who lives in the city of Belmont. Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan in order to travel in style to Portia’s estate. Antonio agrees, but is 3. _________ to make the loan himself because his own money is all invested in a number of trade ships that are still at sea. Antonio suggests that Bassanio secure the loan from one of the city’s moneylenders and name Antonio as the loan’s 4. _________.

In Venice, Antonio and Bassanio approach Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, for a loan. Shylock 5. ___________ a long-standing grudge against Antonio, who has made a habit of berating Shylock and other Jews for their usury, the practice of loaning money at 6. ________ rates of interest, and who 7. __________ their business by offering interest-free loans. Although Antonio refuses to apologise for his behaviour, Shylock acts 8. ___________ and offers to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats with no interest. Shylock adds, however, that should the loan go unpaid, Shylock will be 9. ________ to a pound of Antonio’s own flesh. 10. _________ Bassanio’s warnings, Antonio agrees.

Now complete the gaps 1–10 with the words below in their appropriate form.

  1. desperate 2. inherit 3. able 4. guarantee 5. nurse 6. orbit 7. mine 8. agree 9. title 10. spite
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Task 1

You are going to watch the first part of The Merchant of Venice film from 1974. Who are the characters you see and why did they meet? Play the video below from 6:25 to the end.

Task 2

Watch the video again. Mark the below sentences T for true and F for False.

  1. Bassanio wants to borrow three thousands ducats for four months.
  2. It will be Bassanio’s friend, Antonio, who will be bound to pay the money back to Shylock.
  3. Shylock does not think Antonio is a good man.
  4. Shylock is worried that a misfortune might happen to Antonio’s ships, as a result of which he wouldn’t be able to get his money back.
  5. Shylock refuses to have dinner with Antonio and Bassanio as he does not eat meat at all.

Task 3 (part 3, 0:00 – 4:05)

Watch the next part playing the video below from the beginning to 4:05.

  • How would you describe the mood of the scene and the relationship between the three characters? How does it change during the scene?

Watch the video again and choose the correct option a), b), c) or d)

  1. Shylock appears not to have heard Bassanio as: a) Bassanio speaks very quietly b) Shylock is thinking whether he will have enough money to lend c) Shylock wants to show his superiority and control d) he is calculating the interest rate
  2. Antonio: a) is not willing to borrow money from Shylock with interest b) normally borrows money with interest c) will borrow money from Shylock with interest, even though it is not his custom d) thinks the interest rate is too high
  3. Shylock uses the story of Jacob: a) in order to defend his practice of charging interest b) to show that being a shepherd is a lucrative business c) to give a moral lesson d) to show that he is well–read and educated
  4. In the video we can see that: a) Shylock and Antonio are good friends b) Antonio has never insulted Shylock c) Antonio promises never to insult Shylock again d) Shylock mocks Antonio who insulted him and now needs his help
  5. Antonio: a) says that it is better to lend money to your enemies b)thinks that it is better to lend money to your friends c) is certain that it is not wise to lend money at all d) apologizes for having insulted Shylock

Task 4 (part 3, 4:05 – 6:16)

Your teacher will now give you the text of the last part of Act 1, Scene III in which Shylock and Antonio finally come to an agreement. The text, however, is jumbled. In groups/pairs try to put it in order. Then watch the video below from 4: 05 to 6:16 and check if your answers were correct.

Click here for the jumbled script.


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Sometimes Shakespeare’s language can be a little bit difficult to understand. Here are some phrases from Task 3 of the Listening. In pairs/groups try to translate them into modern English. Then compare your answers with other groups. Are your translations similar?

a) [I would] Forget the shames that you have stain’d me with, Supply your present wants and take no doit Of usance for my moneys

b) let the forfeit Be nominated for an equal pound Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken In what part of your body pleaseth me.

c)You shall not seal to such a bond for me: I’ll rather dwell in my necessity

d) A pound of man’s flesh taken from a man Is not so estimable, profitable neither, As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats.

e) And I will go and purse the ducats straight, See to my house, left in the fearful guard
Of an unthrifty knave, and presently I will be with you.

Discussion/Writing (Homework)

  1. “Shylock is a malevolent character only interested in profit and money.” To what extent do you (dis)agree with this statement? How could you defend/condemn his behaviour?
  2. Examine Shylock’s rhetoric. Pay special attention to the quality of his language—his use of metaphor and repetition, for instance. How do his speeches reflect his character as a whole?
  3. To what extent is Shylock defined by his Jewishness? To what extent is he defined by his profession?

For more free lesson plans click here.


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