How Is Dramatic Tension Created in the Trial Scene of 'the Merchant of Venice'?

Topics: The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, Portia Pages: 5 (2059 words) Published: September 5, 2005
How does Shakespeare create dramatic interest for the audience in the trial scene, Act 4 scene 1 in ‘The Merchant of Venice'?

In the trial scene (act 4 scene 1), Shakespeare uses many different dramatic techniques to make the tension in the court room rise and build. He also uses dramatic irony and many other techniques to engage an audience in this particular scene in the play. These techniques would work have worked on an Elizabethan audience or a modern day audience. Although, these two eras do not share the same views on some of the things Shakespeare wrote about, the same mood and ideas are given across through Shakespeare's use of dramatic techniques. The previous knowledge which the audience holds about the previous acts and scenes makes the tension build because the audience knows of the bond which is held between Antonio and Shylock. This fear of the bond is even stronger when we enter the trial scene because the audience can see just how determined Shylock is to receive his pound of carrion flesh. Shylock is persistent to get his bond from Antonio. Shylock's determination to get his flesh from Antonio makes him seem even more villainous and evil than the audience previously though. Another thing which the audience previously knows is the fact that Antonio has called out Bassanio to tell him his final words; this indicates to the audience that Antonio is expecting himself to be killed by Shylock. This builds the tension because the audience is unsure when Shylock will kill Antonio, or if he will have mercy on him and spare his life. We already know from our precious knowledge that Venice's legal system is strong and cannot be altered. Shylock uses this as an advantage to himself because he understands that he will be allowed to take his bond. If they do not let him, then others will see a flaw in Venice's legal system and they too will try to find ways of escaping their punishments. The trial scene is set in a court in Venice, a male dominated society where the law is strongly upheld. Venice has a very strong legal system and although they find the situation which Antonio in very difficult and would spare his life, they could not because of how their legal system is run. It is very strict and is just, they would not let a man free of any crime, because it would make their law seem weak or to have a ‘dent' in it. The law has to be strict because Venice is a male dominated society where the main trade is money lending and the selling of goods. The first character that we meet in the trial scene is The Duke, and he plays an important role in the scene because he tries to make Shylock understand the severity of his deeds. The Duke, as head of the court is meant to be impartial to the decision, but because of the deed which has been made, and the fact that Shylock is a Jew, he is biased towards Antonio, as would an Edwardian, Christian audience. They would obviously have anti-Semitic feelings towards Shylock because he is a Jew. The Duke is an important character and is against Shylock in the trial and tries to make Shylock spare Antonio's life, yet when he tries to persuade Shylock into sparing Antonio's life, Shylock will not listen and insists on receiving his bond. This makes the tension build because the audience soon begins to understand just how severely determined Shylock is to receive his bond from Antonio. 6000 Ducats is offered to Shylock, yet he still will not take the money. Shylock is exceedingly determined to get his flesh off Antonio. Money is an extremely important part of Shylock's life, yet still does not take the money from Bassanio and Gratiano, which shows that he is deadly serious and will receive his bond. He makes a very clear fact that he will not have the money, but he will have his bond. The audience would soon begin to wonder when Antonio's death will occur, because it is starting to look like a certainty. Shylock says that the amount is meaningless. If he were offered thirty-six...
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