This is the second of two GCSE English Literature extract questions for The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. It takes place in the third act, almost at the centre of the play. In this passage, Bassanio achieves the goal for which he had borrowed 3000 ducats, the great sum for which Antonio has pledged a pound of flesh to Shylock. Bassanio, unlike Portia’s many other suitors from near and far, solves the puzzle set by Portia’s father. Read the passage through at least twice before tackling the questions. In answering the questions below, pay close attention to the text while also bearing in mind the wider issues of the play as a whole. Which details do you think are the most significant?
Can you account for the language choices? And remember, it’s a good idea to practice several extract questions, so be sure to try the Extract 1 quiz, as well!
When answering an extract question in an exam be sure to read the passage through more than once as you consider your response. On the first read through, you can aim for a broad understanding of the passage and how it relates to the question or questions which you will answer. As you read through a second time, you can begin noting details and making annotations. Ask yourself why the specific passage has been chosen. How does this passage relate to rest of the text? Pay attention to its place in the structure of the text. Are any significant characters or significant themes introduced? What happens afterwards? Are later events foreshadowed? How? What changes between the beginning and end of the passage? Why do you think the chosen extract ends where it does instead of somewhere else? What is significant about the final line?
Consider the question very carefully. You might be asked to write about the mood and atmosphere of the extract, or perhaps a particular character. Sometimes you will be asked to discuss dialogue, behaviour or feelings. You will probably be asked to relate these details to the themes of the text. Always explain the passage’s immediate context: what events precede the extract? Pay close attention to detail, to setting and characterisation. As you write, group related ideas together in your answer, but be sure to discuss the entire passage. Remember to pace yourself. Leave enough time to write about the whole passage rather than covering one section in detail while neglecting the remainder of the extract!
Read the passage from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice below carefully before answering the questions.