SIX
The Merchant of Venice

BY THIS TIME WE HAVE SOME IDEA OF WHAT TO look for in observing the way music is used in The Merchant of Venice. While the fairy element, so prominent in A Midsummer Night's Dream, is missing, we may yet look for music to emphasize critical points in the action and to augment lyrical passages. In considering this latter function of music in the play the Belmont garden scene immediately comes to mind. We will turn to it in time, and a rich store it is for our purpose, but there are several matters of equal interest which first deserve our attention.

For the purpose of our study, we again need to have in mind the date and sources of the play. Its date may be placed, by general agreement, during the period 1596-1597.1 Modern texts of the play are derived from those of the Quarto of 1600 and the Folio of 1623. There is no comprehensive source; the play appears to be an interweaving of several folk-tale motifs of which two, the casket motif and the bond motif, are the principal ones. Analogues of the play have been found in Ser Giovanni Il Pecorone ( 1558) and the Gesta Romanorum, a miscellaneous collection of forty- three anonymous stories translated into English in 1577 by Robinson. The play was revived for a court performance in the winter of 1604-1605.2

There are two strands in the plot of the play: one based on the casket motif, which involves Portia and Bassanio, and the other built on the bond motif, which involves Antonio and Shylock. The two strands are connected by the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio, and by Portia's solution of the legal problem raised by Shylock's demand for the pound of flesh. The Lorenzo-Jessica and Gratiano-Nerissa pairings may have been the result of Shakespeare's early delight in multiple love affairs. The

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Shakespeare's Use of Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Plates viii
  • Introduction ix
  • One - The Songs in Elizabethan Drama 1
  • Two - Instrumental Music in Elizabethan Drama 16
  • Three - The Two Gentlemen of Verona 51
  • Four - Love's Labour's Lost 65
  • Five - A Midsummer Night's Dream 82
  • Six - The Merchant of Venice 105
  • Seven - Much Ado About Nothing 120
  • Eight - As You like It 139
  • Nine - Twelfth Night 164
  • Ten - Conclusion 187
  • Index 211
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