This GCSE English Literature quiz will test you on language in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice contains a mixture of poetry and prose. Its language is charged with the wealth of Venice, the flowery imagery of courtly love, the ugliness of social exclusion, and the brutality hidden beneath financial transactions.
The language choices in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice tell us how characters regard one another, how they are feeling and why they choose to follow a particular course of action. The themes of the play are evident not only through the plot and actions of characters, but often more subtly through the slow build-up of related language. It can be a useful revision technique to collect examples of vocabulary related to each of the themes of the play. Consider which character uses each of these collected examples and what the implications might be.
While performance, including an actor’s pace, tone and gesture, affects the audience’s understanding and interpretation of a play, language is the foundation and substance through which its meaning is conveyed. Like other texts, plays depend on the very words with which they are written.
Authors choose the language that they use with precision. Lying beyond the literal meaning of each word is a weight of symbolic meaning and other associations. The use of imagery, such as metaphor, simile and personification, adds shades and layers of meaning, sometimes subtly and at other times, not so subtly.
Paying close attention to language choices in a text is always worthwhile; deeper understanding will be the reward for your effort. Look beyond the surface meaning. Take time to consider what else is going on besides the obvious. Analyse the language that the author has put such care into choosing. This practice will help you to decipher the text’s deeper meanings.
Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect our interpretation of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.