Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 5
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.
This scene gives us briefly the relation of Shylock and Jessica; his faith in her, shown in his intrusting to her his keys; but his
mistrust of her levity in his injunction concerning the masquers, and his premonition of coming evil. The scene also completes,
by means of Launcelot's hint concerning the masque, Jessica's plan to run away with Lorenzo.
3. What, Jessica!What, like why and when, was used as an
exclamation of impatience. Compare below, v. 1. 151: "What
talk you of the posy."
3. gormandize, the thrifty Shylock and the indolent, careless
Launcelot would have very different ideas on this subject. See
above, ii. 2. 113, Launcelot's complaint that he was famished.
5. rend apparel out, tear out, burst.
11. bid forth, invited out.
14. to feed upon The prodigal Christian. This change in Shylock's earlier determination not to eat with a Christian is due to
his purpose of revenge.
18. money-bags. Dreams go by contraries.
18. to-night, here last night, although sometimes used in the
modern sense, as below, line 37 of this scene.
21. So do I his [reproach], Shylock takes Launcelot's word
reproach, intended for approach, in its actual sense.
22. An, if.
25. a-bleeding. Bleeding at the nose was formerly regarded as
an indication of coming misfortune.
25. Black-Monday. Easter Monday, so called because of a
violent winter storm, April 14, 1360, in which many of the soldiers
of King Edward III, then besieging Paris, perished of cold.
30. wry-neck'd fife, variously explained as a fife with a wry or crooked neck, or as applying to the fife player, "awry-necked
musician, for he always looks away from his instrument."
33. varnish'd faces. In allusion to the varnished and painted
masques worn by masqueraders.
36. Jacob's staff. Though popularly used of a pilgrim's staff in
general, the word here has reference to Genesis, xxxii. 10 and
Hebrews, xi. 21.
37. forth, from home.
37. no mind of feasting forth, no inclination to feast from home.
See below, iv. I. 402: "I humbly do desire your grace of pardon."
Observe the use of forth as an adverb; and compare The Merry
Wives of Windsor, ii. 2. 276: "Her husband will he forth."
44. Hagar's offspring, i.e. son of a bondswoman. Genesis, xvi.
46. patch, used as a nickname for a jester, is probably derived
from the motley or patched coat of the professional fool. Notice
the touch of kindliness in Shylock's allusion to Launcelot, and that
at the very moment when Jessica is deceiving him with a deliberate
48. the wild-cat, which prowls by night and sleeps all day.
52. Perhaps I will, in modern English shall. Shylock did not
feel perfect confidence in Jessica.
56. Note the rhyming couplet which marks the conclusion of a
scene, although here the stage setting remains the same, and the
action proceeds at once to Jessica's elopement.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co., 1903. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/merchant_2_5.html >.