Merchant of Venice

comment on the repetition of the words friend/friendship in lines 128-129 and 134

act 1 scene 3

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Act I, Scene Three

Bassanio in engaged in conversation with Shylock, a Jew who makes his living as a moneylender. Bassanio has asked him for a loan of three thousand ducats, a very large sum at the time, for a period of three months. He further tells Shylock that Antonio is to "be bound," meaning that Antonio will be responsible for repaying the loan.

Shylock knows Antonio's reputation well, and agrees to consider the contract. He asks Bassanio if he may speak with Antonio first, and Bassanio invites Shylock to dinner. Shylock responds that he will never eat with a Christian.

Antonio arrives at that moment and Bassanio takes him aside. Shylock addresses the audience and informs them that he despises Antonio. He bears an old grudge against Antonio which is not explained, but Shylock is further upset that Antonio lends out money without charging interest, thereby lowering the amount he is able to charge for lending out his own money. Shylock turns to Antonio and tells him why interest is allowed in the Hebrew faith by quoting a biblical passage in which Jacob receives all the striped lambs from his father-in-law. Antonio asks him if the passage was inserted into the bible to defend interest charges. He states, "Was this inserted to make interest good, / Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?" (1.3.90-91). Shylock replies that, "I cannot tell. I make it breed as fast" (1.3.92).

Antonio is upset that Shylock is considering charging him interest on the loan, and asks Shylock to loan the money without any interest. Shylock tells him that, "I would be friends with you, and have your love" (1.3.133). He offers to seal the bond, "in a merry sport" (1.3.141) without charging interest, but as collateral for the loan demands a pound of Antonio's flesh. Antonio thinks Shylock is only joking about the pound of flesh, and is happy to seal the contract. He remarks that, "The Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind" (1.3.174).


I have the lines marked below; the word friend/ friendships is only usede twice in this passage, and it's used to describe how friends do NOT exact interest, and therefore the moneylender is more apt to lend to an enemy because punishment is easier when given to someone who is not a friend.

“Fair sir, you spet on me on Wednesday last;

You spurned me such a day; another time

You called me ’dog'—and for these courtesies

I’ll lend you thus much moneys?”

I am as like to call thee so again, (128)

To spet on thee again, to spurn thee too. (129)

If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not

As to thy friends, for when did friendship take

A breed for barren metal of his friend?

But lend it rather to thine enemy,

Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face (134)

Exact the penalty.