This GCSE English Literature quiz challenges you on dialogue in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Almost without exception, any work of drama consists primarily of dialogue. In some ways this can make it more difficult to read and understand a play because you are missing the other elements essential to the text and only possible to convey through performance. That is, it can be much easier to understand a play when it is being performed on stage. Of course, reading a play gives you the chance to go slowly, to re-read and to think carefully about the dialogue.
Dialogue conveys meaning not only through its content, but also through specific details such as language choice, use of dialect and even interruptions and pauses.
Ask yourself the following questions as you read The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare or any work of fiction: How do different characters speak? How does vocabulary vary between different characters? Does the way in which a character speaks change over time, or in different situations? Does it matter to whom the character is speaking? Since this is Shakespeare, you might even like to compare dialogue that is written in poetry with dialogue that is written in prose. What are the differences between the characters who speak in one but not the other?
Dialogue conveys much more than the individual beliefs and preferences of any character. Dialogue also gives you practical information, such as which events led to the point at which the play began or how characters are related and have engaged with one another in the past. In The Merchant of Venice it is valuable to pay close attention to how each character discusses money and love or friendship. What can this tell us about the relationship between two key themes of the play?
Memorising Shakespearean dialogue is not only a good way to impress your teacher, but also a useful method of preparing to write about the play. Create a list of the most significant examples of dialogue for each character, especially noting those that illustrate their characteristics or occur at a turning point in the text.
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