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AQA GCSE Eng Lit Paper 1: The Merchant of Venice Sample Paper & Response

rlsmedia | Friday March 09, 2018


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  1. AQA GCSE Eng Lit Paper 1: The Merchant of Venice Lessons 1-7
  2. AQA GCSE Eng Lit Paper 1: The Merchant of Venice Lessons 8-14
  3. AQA GCSE Eng Lit Paper 1: The Merchant of Venice Sample Paper & Response
  4. AQA GCSE English Literature Paper 1: Shakespeare and the 19th Century Novel Assessment Pack

The sample paper can be used as a mock or as a summative assessment exercise.

Sample Paper and Exemplar Answer (AQA, 2014)

Pre-release: Act 1
Read the following extract from Act 1 Scene 3 of The Merchant of Venice and then answer the question that follows.

At this point in the play Shylock is speaking to Antonio. Antonio has asked Shylock to lend him some money.

Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my monies and my usances.
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug
For suff’rance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help.
Go to, then, you come to me, and you say,
‘Shylock, we would have monies’ – you say so,
You that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold: monies is your suit.
What should I say to you? Should I not say
‘Hath a dog money? Is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?’ Or
Shall I bend low, and in a bondman’s key,
With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness,
Say this: ‘Fair sir, you spit 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 monies.’

Starting with this speech, how does Shakespeare present Shylock’s feelings about the way he is treated?

Write about:

  • how Shakespeare presents Shylock in this speech
  • how Shakespeare presents Shylock in the play as a whole.

[30 marks]


Lower Band Response

In Shylock’s speech he makes it clear to Antonio that he is very angry. He tells Antonio that he has treated him terribly over the years as he ‘spits on his Jewish Gabardine’ but now Antonio thinks Shylock is good enough to talk to about a loan. Shylock is determined to make Antonio and Bassanio worry about whether he will lend them money or not. He asks questions like, ‘Hath a dog money?’ Clearly not –but in this story he is trying to say that Antonio treated him like a dog and disrespects him and that is why he is not keen to help them. But in the end Shylock does decide to help them even though he was very upset with them. He shows the audience that he has been unhappy for a long time but he is willing to help. Shylock is a clever man. He does not use language like an educated man, but he is not stupid. He knows that if he can get Antonio to agree to his bond then he – Shylock – has a chance for revenge. I can imagine that when Shylock’s daughter eloped and his servant ran away he must have been just as upset and angry. In the play in Act 3 Scene 1 Shylock talks about ‘revenge’ too and how he is determined to show Antonio and the other Christians that he means business. Shylock is someone who stands up for himself, and he wants his ‘bond’. He is not changing his mind. But in the court case scene Shylock is caught out by Portia. This must have upset him too as he did not manage to get his revenge, and to be fair, even though she was dressed like a man, he was caught out by a woman. In Shakespeare’s time being caught out by a woman would not be a good thing and it means that Shylock is being laughed at by everyone. He is now in a position where he has lost all his money and needs to become a Christian. He must have been even more upset and angry about what has happened. The audience does not see Shylock again after the court case but one can only imagine what happens.

Higher Band Response

In Shylock’s speech he starts off by pointing out to Antonio how he has mistreated him in the past by judging him on his transactions and his ‘usances’. The audience learns that, like all Elizabethans at the time, Antonio too disapproved of the way in which Jews were lending money and charging interest. In Shylock’s attempt to demonstrate that he has just cause to hate Antonio for his treatment of him, his reference to ‘usances’ impacts negatively on the audience as they can clearly see why Antonio behaved in this way within the context of the situation.

Shylock points out that he has ‘patiently’ accepted this treatment and endured it as a member of the Jewish community and he makes the point that the whole Jewish community suffers due to this treatment. Shylock continues to describe Antonio’s behaviour and mentions how he ‘spits’ on Shylock’s ‘Jewish gabardine’ in disapproval of this practices. However, Shylock feels that his practice is sound and that Antonio’s judgements and treatment of him is unfair. Shylock also points out that Antonio ‘foot him as you spurn a stranger cur’ and Shylock feels that it is ironic for Antonio to now approach him to lend money. He states that he should in fact ask, considering how Antonio treats him as a worthless dog, ‘Hath a dog money?’ Shylock’s bitterness is clear from how he responds to the request for help. However, he can also see the irony when he states, ‘Is it possible [a] cur can lend three thousand ducats?’ He is clearly being presented as an intelligent man who has been wronged in many ways.

His language is made to be repetitive and he keeps referring to ‘dog’ or ‘cur’ and this metaphor use aims to emphasise how difficult his life was and how inappropriate Antonio’s behaviour was. The Elizabethan audience will again pick up on the reference to ‘dog’ as Antonio implying that Jewish people were perceived to be on the same level as animals which reflected contemporary views of Jews at the time and would be a reminder of the Elizabethan ‘Chain of Being’ and where Jews are placed in terms of their social hierarchy. Shylock is therefore even more insulted by this reference as he is clearly aware of what Antonio implies when he makes such comments.

Shakespeare has Shylock use questions and rhetorical devices such as repetition to stress how he is evaluating the situation; in addition, he uses a questioning technique to ensure that he keeps Antonio in suspense and to try to ensure that the audience is becoming aware of how he was treated, how ironic the situation is (and he is of course getting mileage out of the situation by allowing Antonio and Bassanio to hand in the dark until he is finished with his moment where he is now able to level with them and share his views). He is clearly amused by the fact that he is approached to help, but also wants to make it clear that he is now in the powerful position to either help or let them struggle. He also sees this as an opportunity to execute his revenge which again shapes the audience’s view of him negatively, as the Elizabethan view on revenge was that private revenge was perceived as a sin. However, what is interesting is that later on in the play Shylock states ‘cursed be my tribe if I forgive him’ which suggest that in Shylock’s mind this might not be private revenge as he is doing this on behalf of his ‘tribe’.

Shylock’s use of the pronoun ‘you’ addresses Antonio directly and in an accusative tone, as he wants Antonio to be aware of how he has personally insulted and wronged him, he also aims to ensure that Antonio takes responsibility for his actions, which he does do, but also points out that he will repeat his actions as he stands for his own values and his actions reflect that. However, as said, Shylock agreed by saying ‘I’ll lend you thus much monies’ but his underlying message has a dangerous undertone, and the audience will sense that he has agreed to this transaction as it is a rare opportunity to get his own back.

When considering the rest of the play Shylock’s servant Lancelot is planning to leave and his daughter is planning to elope with her Christian boyfriend. Jessica states that ‘if my fortune be not crost, I have a father, you a daughter, lost.’ By looking at Shylock’s relationships with others it is clear that they struggle to get on with him overall and that they are not happy. This might explain why characters like Antonio do respond to him in the way that he does. However, Shylock is extremely hurt and angry by this treatment and the loss of his daughter in particular sparks his drive to execute his revenge more than ever.

In Act 3 Scene one Shylock again reminds the audience of how badly he was treated by Antonio by listing all the wrongs he had to face, ‘He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.’ The lists of wrongs again reminds the audience of why he feels the way he does and a modern audience will be far more sympathetic towards him than a contemporary audience s they clearly understood that Antonio acted within the boundaries of the contextual views at the time that Jews were perceived to be acting out of sync with expectations regarding money lending and also regarding their impact on Christ and the crucifixion of Chris. Elizabethan views of Jews were therefore very low. However, Shylock’s anger drives him to demand his bond, and in turn Antonio’s life; however, due to an interesting turn of events he is not able to execute this and claim his bond as he will be found guilty of murder. His pain and anger were therefore aggravated even further through his punishment as he had to adopt the Christian faith and lose his wealth to the state and his daughter, and ironically her financial situation is to be managed by Antonio. All in all this will make the situation even worse of Shylock and he will continue to feel mistreated and angry as he had first demonstrated in the extract from Act 1 Scene 3.

Examination Practice

There should be additional opportunities for timed examination practice and feedback to ensure that students are thoroughly prepared. Further sample exam questions can be found in our Assessment Pack in Guide Navigation.

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