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The Merchant of Venice - Setting
What is the significance of the Rialto?

The Merchant of Venice - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The setting of any fictional work includes its location and the time in which its events take place. In addition to the events explicitly depicted by a play, there will be events occurring in the background to which characters might allude. A key component of a work’s setting, this wider fictional world is known as context (although it is important, of course, not to confuse the author’s real-life context with the fictional context associated with setting). Another important element of setting is atmosphere. In a play, atmosphere is very much a product of staging. Some playwrights explicitly describe the atmosphere they wish to be created onstage. Interestingly, The Merchant of Venice includes very few stage directions of this type, allowing directors free rein in the development of atmosphere.

Spending some time considering the setting of any text you study is an important step in its analysis. Think about how the world in which the characters live affects the decisions which they make over the course of the plot. The effect of political or social events on characters can usually be seen in their behaviour and dialogue. The plot of The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare depends entirely on its setting for the vital interaction between the Anti-Semitism of the Venetians and their attitude of pragmatic openness to other cultures for the purposes of trade.

Geographical setting can include country, region, or city; environment (perhaps this is urban or rural); the buildings or specific sites where events occur; and even the weather. Do all the events occur in the same place? Do characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? How are different settings contrasted with one another? Are certain characters associated with one setting while other characters are associated with another? Such contrasts are important in The Merchant of Venice.

For some texts, it can also be useful to compare the time it is set with when it was written. Do these times differ? Why might an author choose to set a text in the same time, but in an exotic place? Does this change our understanding of the story?

Answer the questions below on setting in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

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1.
What characterises Venice's relationship with the rest of the world?
Violence and coercion
Reluctant and suspicious diplomacy
Widespread trade with the far-flung corners of the world
Venice cuts itself off from the rest of the world
Venice relied entirely on trade and capitalised on its easy access to the Mediterranean to engage in trade with countries across the known world, becoming an important centre for trade between East and West
2.
What is the significance of the Rialto?
This is where justice is dealt
This is where news is exchanged
This is where marriages are agreed
None of the above
Shylock asks at two points in the play for the news from the Rialto, which is a bridge in Venice. This is also the site where Antonio shows great disrespect to Shylock by spitting on him in public
3.
Venice is a masculine environment of trade and law. How is Portia enabled to take part in this world?
Through disguise
Through persuasion
Through her great wealth
Through her beauty
The only way in which Portia can take part in this world is through disguising herself as a man. A learned doctor (in this case, an expert in law) of the time could only be a man. This means that in the original performances of the play, when women could not be actors, a boy actor would play Portia disguising himself as a man!
4.
Belmont is associated with which of the following?
Caskets of ducats and jewels
Sorrow
Darkness
Music
Music plays while Bassanio makes his decision and is playing once again in Act Five, when the characters return to Belmont. Belmont is a place of solace, grandeur and pleasure
5.
How does Jessica describe her home?
As grand
As dark
As hell
As quiet
Jessica's unhappiness is apparent in her desperation to leave home, to keep her plans secret from her father and especially in her description of home as a "hell". Shylock describes his home as "sober" in contrast to the foolishness of revellers in the streets
6.
As Shylock leaves his house, he instructs his daughter to lock up his house, saying, "Do as I bid you. Shut doors after you. / Fast bind, fast find —". What impression does this give of his house?
The rhyme of "bind" and "find" emphasises the cosiness and safety of the home
The binding of the house represents Shylock's wish to bind Antonio
The house is depicted as a place of wealth and generosity
The house resembles a casket of treasure
Jessica breaks Shylock's trust not only by abandoning their home, but also by leaving with jewels and gold. She thieves treacherously, in his eyes, from the inside, when he has entrusted her with the keys and safekeeping of the home
7.
What is the role of the sea in the play?
The sea brings both fortune and misfortune to the inhabitants of the city
The sea represents the love between Bassanio and Portia
The tides of the sea represent the rapid spread of news through the city
The sea is only relevant as the setting for the destruction of Antonio's ships
The sea is where Antonio and his merchant friends have made their fortunes, but it is also responsible for the devastating loss of his ships
8.
How might the Venice of the play be best described?
Wealthy, dominated by commerce, ruled by law
Wealthy, dominated by renegade traders, lawless
Poor, dominated by trade, suspicious of law
Poor, dominated by agriculture, law-abiding
The plot of The Merchant of Venice revolves around trade, money and exchange. These activities, which bring great wealth to the city, depend on strict adherence to the law
9.
When is the play set?
During the Roman Empire
During the 13th century
During the time the play was written
In an imagined future
The play is set in Renaissance Venice, the time of its setting is contemporary with Shakespeare's own
10.
The Merchant of Venice is set in the city of Venice and in which of the following?
Belmont
The Rialto
Florence
London
Belmont is Portia's home
Author:  Sheri Smith

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