Merchant of Venice

Act 2, Scene 2

what purpose does launcelot serve in the play at this point?

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Lancelot is Shylock's servant--referred to as the "clown" in the play. His problem is that he perceives Shylock to be vicious and "devil"-ish, but he cannot just leave him out of a sense of duty to his master. When his father offers a gift to Shylock, however, Lancelot tells him to offer it to Bassanio instead. It is Bassanio whom Lancelot would rather serve.