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Examination Questions on The Merchant of Venice

Question: Does the fifth act show the working out of the principles of good and evil? Why does Antonio appear in it and Shylock not?

Answer: It is to the fifth act that we naturally look for the harvest, both of good and of evil, to result from the sowing done in the preceding scenes. With regard to Jessica, I suppose it may be said that justice is finally done her, though through rather a doubtful medium, by placing her in a position where the beneficial influences of which she stands so sadly in need will at last be thrown around her. Lorenzo, too, meets with his reward after a fashion, in the fact that the virtue of his deed in removing Jessica from a baneful to a healthful atmosphere at least serves to cancel its unlawfulness. Portia has restored to her her husband, who has, as she herself can testify, passed victoriously through the trials brought upon him by his youthful imprudence, and who, largely through her own endeavors, returns to her, purified and ennobled.

Antonio, who, through his harshness in one direction and his unhesitating generosity in all others, has unsuspectingly jeopardized his life, has that life restored to him, and receives the news that his property is safe, by the hand of Portia, who, as he had before thought, had deprived him of his place in the affections of his dearest friend, Bassanio. Antonio, as the person most sinned against in consequence of the least sin, deserves a prominent place in the closing act, and a fair share of the blessings held in the right hand of Justice. But Shylock, whose sin was woven into the very fibre of his being, had received his fitting reward, and had voluntarily taken his departure. Justice had already done her work there, and there was no need for the further introduction of the disturbing element.

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How to cite this article:
Miller, Bessie Porter. Shakespeare Examinations. Ed. William Taylor Thom, M. A. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1888. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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