QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON MERCHANT OF VENICE

go site ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS (No 1 & 2) OF ACT II SC II OF MERCHANT OF VENICE
Question 1
1. Launcelot
– well, my conscience says ”Launcelot, budge not.” “Budge!” says the fiend. “Budge not!” says my conscience. “Conscience,” say I, “you counsel well,” “fiend” say I, you counsel well: to be ruled by my conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master, who- God bless the mark! – is a kind of devil; and to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the fiend, who saving your reverence, is the devil himself.
(i) Who is Launcelot Gobbo? What inner struggle is going on in his conscience? What does the struggle show about the contemporary Christian practice?
Ans Launcelot Gobbo, the comic relief in the play “Merchant of Venice” is the servant of Shylock. A conflict in his mind between his conscience advising him to be faithful servant and the devil in his mind tempting to leave the Jew’s service, is going on in his conscience. The struggle shows the inner debate common to contemporary Christian practice, in a temptation in which a man debates within himself about the right path to be followed.
(ii) Why does Launcelot want to run away from the Jew? What does his conscience advise him to do?
Launcelot wants to run away from the Jew on racial grounds. He fears that he would become a Jew, if he served the Jew any longer. Launcelot is a lover of comfort. He feels that he is famished in the Jew’s house and thus wants to take up service with Bassanio having false expectations of the latter’s wealth. His conscience advises him to be loyal to his master, the Jew and not to deceive him.
(iii) Launcelot’s speech provides some comic relief in the play. Why was such a relief needed in the context of the play? What was happening in the previous scene?
After the pompous speech by Prince of Morocco and the intense conversation between him and Portia, a relief from seriousness was needed for the audience. Launcelot’s speech provided such comic relief through his mimicry and facial expressions. In the previous scene, the Prince of Morocco was boasting about his own qualities. He was urging Portia not to dislike him because of his complexion as he was proud of it and was not ready to change it on any ground except to gain the attention of Portia.
(iv) Enumerate the reasons given by Launcelot’s conscience to stay on with the master.
The reasons given by Launcelot’s conscience are as follows:
a) First of all Launcelot should act as a loyal servant and it would be a part of dishonesty if he runs away from his master. He should not deceive his master on any6 condition.
b) Secondly, being the son of an honest man and moreover a son of an honest woman, ‘My honest friend Lancelot, being an honest man’s son…’ – an honest woman’s son”, it would be extremely dishonest for him to desert his master.
(v) How is the theme of the conflict between good and the evil shown in the scene?
The theme of conflict between the good and the evil has been shown through the soliloquy of Launcelot in which he is found debating with his conscience whether he should leave Shylock’s household and take up service with Bassanio. Here Shakespeare uses parody to represent the debate between the conscience and the fiend, that is the good and the evil. While the good advises Launcelot not top deceive his master, the fiend advises just the opposite. This is quite in keeping with the contemporary Christian practice.
(vi) Finally, whom does Launcelot obey- the devil or his conscience? How is the theme of racial discrimination brought out in Launcelot’s decision?
Finally, Launcelot listens to the devil and decides to run away. Launcelot’s hatred for the Jew is quitew evident from his opinion against Shylock where he compares Shylock with the Devil himself- “Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation.”. He feels famished in Shylock’s service. He, being a Christian, fears that he would become a Jew if he served the Jew any longer. Thus the theme of racial discrimination is clearly brought through Launcelot’s act in running away from his master Shylock.
Question 2
Launcelot
To be ruled by my
conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master, who (God bless the mark!) is a kind of devil: and, to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the fiend, who (saving your reverence) is the devil himself. Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation; and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of hard conscience, the offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew. The fiend gives the more friendly counsel: I will run, fiend, my heels are at your commandment; I will run.
(i) Where is the speaker now? Who is he? Who is the ‘Jew, my master’?
The speaker is on a street in Venice. Here ‘he’ is Launcelot the servant of the Jew, a typical country clown whom the Elizabethans loved watching in plays. The Jew is Shylock, under whom Launcelot is employed.
(ii) Why is the Jew called a “Devil’s incarnation”?
According to Launcelot, the very devil has taken the form of Shylock who is a Jew, a miser and a bad master. This marks the racial discrimination the Christians had for the Jews. They considered them as monsters of cruelty.
(iii) Give the meanings of,
a) “I should be ruled by the fiend”
This means that I should obey the advice of the fiend to run away from my master.
b) ‘my conscience is but a kind of hard conscience, the offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew’
This means that my conscience is acting cruelly as it advi9ses me to stay with the Jew.
c) ‘my heels are at your commandment’
This means that my legs will obey your command, that is I am going to run away from my master and take up the service under Bassanio.
(iv) What is the importance of this scene in the context of the play.
This scene offers comic relief after the pompous talks of Prince of Morocco. The scene also makes us think about conscience, loyalty of a servant to master, false expectations, prejudice and relationship of children with their parents. Apart from these, thus scene also shed light on Shylock’s character, his miserliness and household.

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