home contact

Examination Questions on The Merchant of Venice

Question: Is the fifth act necessary dramatically or not, and what is its relation to the rest of the play?

Answer: Dramatic interest reaches its highest pitch in the trial-scene, but the fifth act is nevertheless a dramatic necessity. As has been often observed, to preserve the nature of a comedy, the tragic element had been carried to its utmost extreme in the preceding act; and after the pomp and stir and excitement of the trial-scene, the calm moonlight scene in Portia's garden, the lyric sweetness of the lovers' dialogue, and the final restoration of harmony among the home-comers, are needed to reduce the mind to the state of gentle interest and pleasure which it is the object of the comedy to excite. Then, too, without it the plot is left with numerous unfinished ends. Those of us who have not such a strong predilection for artistic effect as to wish that Shakespeare had stopped short when he completed the masterly picture contained in IV. i., think it only natural and proper that we should witness the reunion of Bassanio and Portia, the meeting between Antonio and Bassanio's wife, and the effect produced upon all parties by the announcement that it was Portia who had acted so successfully the part of judge.

It is not without pleasure, too, that we have a parting glimpse of Lorenzo and Jessica, safely harbored in the peaceful domain of Belmont, and of Gratiano and Nerissa, with their half-comical, wholly serious imitation of their lord and lady. Few things could be more exquisite than is this fifth act, in its way; and without it one of the great charms of The Merchant of Venice would, to me, be lost.

Back to the The Merchant of Venice Examination Questions main page.

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) < >.

Related Articles

 Setting, Atmosphere and the Unsympathetic Venetians in The Merchant of Venice
 Themes in The Merchant of Venice
 A Merry Devil: Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice
 Three Interpretations of Shylock

 Introduction to Shylock
 Shakespeare Sisterhood: Exploring the Character of Portia
 Exploring the Nature of Shakespearean Comedy
 How to Pronounce the Names in The Merchant of Venice

 The Character of Antonio
 The Merchant of Venice: Q & A
 Conflicts of Law and Equity in The Merchant of Venice
 Shakespeare's Second Period: Exploring The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet

 The Merchant of Venice: Plot Summary
 Famous Quotations from The Merchant of Venice
 Shakespeare Quotations (by Play and Theme)
 Quotations About William Shakespeare

 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels

 Shakespeare Timeline: Part 1 (1558-1599)
 A Shakespeare Timeline: Part 2 (1600-1604)
 A Shakespeare Timeline: Part 3 (1605-1616)