This GCSE English Literature quiz looks at themes in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Any work of literature will deal with multiple themes. These can range from the obvious to the very subtle. Themes engage with and impact upon one another so that it can often be tricky to talk about a single theme in isolation. Setting, character, plot and dialogue all feed into the themes of a text. When you spot concepts and ideas arising in different parts of the texts, you are becoming aware of its themes. Different characters each make visible various aspects of a theme and comparing these is a useful method of analysis.
Pay attention to related ideas in order to follow the development of a theme over the course of a text.
When you write about themes, check whether your view at the beginning of a text matches the view you have at the end of a work. Have your ideas changed? If so, ask yourself exactly when and where in the text your views on a key theme began to change.
Authors communicate meaning to their readers through themes. Any ideas or issues raised can prompt the audience to reconsider beliefs or ways of looking at the world. If a text makes you think, the author has successfully encouraged you to engage with one or more of its themes. Your views might be similar to those of other readers or you might find that you disagree strongly with other readers (or even your teacher). Your response to a text will be deeply personal, which is inevitable when you bring your own thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration as you read.
Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice deals with themes of friendship, love, money, true wealth, exclusion and hatred, mercy, justice, and the differences between appearance and reality. These themes are interrelated and appear in different guises throughout the play. Although many of these themes seem obvious, try to be aware of the play’s subtext. This can be difficult in a play which deals with murder as a form of justice and payment in human flesh as a legitimate possibility. Perseverance is key!
Read the questions below and test your knowledge of the themes of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.