Tags: Dulce et Decorum Est --Explanation
Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
Introduction .. At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Europe’s political map looked so much different from what is today. The attitude of the rulers towards their citizenry, economy and war was also starkly different. Stable borders, responsible governments, focus on economy, democracy, regard for democracy, and most importantly, aversion to wars etc. were alien to the rulers then. Smaller countries, despotic self-indulgent rulers, disregard for well-being of the subjects, and a ruinous penchant for long-drawn battles made blood-letting a ritual of living. Kings and dukes loved wars and glorified it as a necessary evil for a proud state. In winning battles, kings and commanders took little part themselves, but prodded thousands of young men to plunge in it as a sacred duty. Through rousing patriotic songs, people were enthused to go out and fight, no matter the suffering.
Conditions in the battle field were ghoulish. Soldiers died like rats as medical support for the wounded was scanty. Despite the grisly scenes of suffering, people came out to fight and die as their vainglorious commanders and monarchs conjured up dreams of valour and victory. As a result of this deadly cocktail of patriotism and self-aggrandizement, battles dragged on inexorably soiling blood on every square inch of the battle field.
This poem, set in the First World War, graphically portrays the horrors of the battlefield, and the author sighs in frustration and disbelief to reflect how empty, inculcated patriotism has led to so much suffering.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Meaning of Stanza 1 .. The battle had been savage and brutal. Under the weight of injuries, starvation, and an enemy fighting with extremely lethal weapons like poisonous gases, allied soldiers are down on their knees. Too demoralized and etiolated, they can barely stand erect, and walk steadily. They are escaping a murderous assault by the enemy soldiers. They barely hang on to their lives, hoping to flee to safety. Their feet are deep under the mud, and some of them cough intermittently to let their lungs eject the poisonous gases they have inhaled. The slow walk to safety is punctuated by blinding flares from enemy gas shells.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
Meaning of Stanza 2 .. Despite their drained body and mind, they try to make the best of a hopeless situation. They call out to one another about the gas shells bursting nearby, and ask their comrades to hasten their sagging feet. The author sights a fellow soldier struggling to stay afloat in the shallow waters of the nearby sea. He wants to swim, but can’t. He is too weak to do so. Right before the author’s ryes, he slowly drowns to death. It is a nerve-wracking sight, too horrendous to endure.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
Meaning of Stanza 3 .. He tries to reach out to the author for help, but neither he, nor the author is undone. He gulps down water, and breathes his last.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Meaning of Stanza 4 .. The sight of the soldier drowned to death is thrown into an army wagon that collects dead bodies of soldiers. Fear, pain, struggle and sorrow are writ large in his face. His eyes pop out as if to say something, but he is dead. He has suffered excruciating pain as his choked lungs tightened its grip around his throat. Seeing him in this state is a harrowing and ghastly sight.
After going through such ordeal, the author claims, no one would sing the praise of a fighting soldier’s life, nor would he say that dying for the motherland is so great glory.
Tags: Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Introduction .. As a civil rights activist, author and a feminist leader, Maya Angelou has made her mark in America. Maya, with her con-conformist outlook, fierce self-confidence and a great literary mind, has inspired hundreds and thousands of black and just ordinary women around the world to give up their inferiority complex and assert their place in the society. Born in 1928 in St Lois, Missouri, Maya is considered as a foremost public figure with multiple literary awards under her belt. She sang her famous song ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ in Bill Clinton’s inauguration to thunderous applause from the audience.
Explanation to Stanza 1 and 2… Maya Angelou wrote the poem in the first person. She is brimming with self confidence as she declares herself as a ‘phenomenal’ woman. In this male-dominated and sex-defined society, she is a rebel – an anti-hero. Bereft of impressive vital statistics, and white skin, she stomps her way in the society and the work place as men glance appreciatively towards her begging her love. Her gait, smile, body language and, most importantly, self-assurance gives her the aura of beauty, attractiveness, grace and sophistication. It is certain that she is a woman of substance–a ‘phenomenal’ woman. She has a radiant face and a radiant smile despite not being rated as a raving beauty in the stereotype sense. On such value system which rates women as their figure and skin colour as yardsticks, she pours scorn and disdain. She defies the age-old system of looking at women and authoritatively prives it wring through her own example.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Explanation Stanza 3 and Stanza 4 … The author, with an air of self-confidence, says how men are left clueless about her charm. She exudes grace and a cool attractive persona that the men folk find so intriguing. They try to delve into the secrets of her beauty, but fail to unravel anything. The author then proceeds to list them. It is the arch of her back, the optimism and brightness of her smile, her bust and her grace that make her so adorable to the opposite sex. She ends her stanza by reiterating that she is a ‘phenomenal’ woman.
She walks upright, with no inferiority or guilt. She has a cool composure, neither screams, nor raises her voice to make a point. She asserts that she is bodily as much beautiful as she is desirable for values hidden in her. People yearn for her attention, because a woman like her with beautiful hair pals and gait infects others with inspiration, joy and optimism. This is why she calls herself a ‘phenomenal’ woman.
Tags: If Thou Must Love Me
If Thou Must Love Me: Line by Line explanation
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote ‘If Thou Must Love Me’. It is the sonnet no.14 of her collection named ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’ that has 44 love poems. She was a very renowned woman poet of the Victorian era (1830-1890) of English literature. In the sonnets Elizabeth Barrett Browning pours out her heart for her love for her lover and future husband Robert Browning, a great Victorian poet, too.
The sonnet is in the Italian or Petrarchan form of sonnet with the rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA CD CD CD.
THE POEM …
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only.
Meaning … The poet lets her readers know her expectations from her lover. Quite candidly she says that her lover must have towards her only pure, undiluted love, un-tinged by any other sentiment. Quite unabashedly, she states that it is ‘love’ only that should bind her lover to her, nothing else.
Do not say
‘I love her for her smile – her look – her way
Of speaking gently, – for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’ –
Meaning …The poet wants that neither her beautiful body, sweet and suave demeanor, nor her mental disposition should be the bedrock of her alliance with her lover. She asks her lover not to love her because of her bewitching smile, and her genteel speaking. She also tells him that her qualities might be very appealing to him, and he could one day discover great convergence in their thoughts, but these traits must not beckon him to her. These transient attractions must be kept away from his love towards her, she implores.
For those things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, – and love so wrought,
May be unwrought so.
The poet has some mild and sane words of advice for her lover. Humans, both men and women, have bodies that age, wither, and fade with time. In the same vein, human traits, mannerisms, and mental attributes change. Even for the same man, his beloved’s sweetness of self may not last indefinitely. Therefore, pleads the author, her lover must discern between true love and love based on transitory fancy. For the bonds of love to endure, lovers must rise above outward signs of attractiveness, and decide if there is something more heavenly that draws them together. Lovers who fall prey to the visible lure in one another might come to grief as the strains of time tears their love apart making them to drift away. The author beseeches her lover to weigh these words in mind.
Love ‘wrought’ with worldly attractions is more likely to ‘unwrought’ than true love.
Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning doesn’t want her lover to love her out of feelings of pity or empathy. He may wipe her cheeks to comfort her, but such loving gestures may not come often. If she stops to weep in future, her lover would stop to show such effusive signs of caring and sharing. That would strike at the root of their bonding.
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.
In the last two lines of the sonnet If Thou Must Love Me, the poet spells out her own ideas of ‘true love’. She explains how a man should love a woman unconditionally for their mutual attraction to endure. Love driven by lust or desire will diminish, no matter how string the initial surge might be.
[To be continued with questions and answers]
Tags: Five ways to kill a man by Edwin Brock
Five ways to kill a man
by Edwin Brock
Introduction…. Edwin Brock is angry at the way humans turn on one another to kill. He feels helpless to witness the perpetuation of mayhem and homicide, as if there is no other recourse left for the society to correct a perceived wrong. He throws up his hands in despair and uses pun and satire to criticize the craze to kill. He mocks man’s ingenuity in devising elaborate ways to kill others – through ritualistic crucifixion, use of lethal gases and atom bombs.
Stanza 1 .. Here the author alludes to the story of murder of Jesus Christ by a gang of impetuous zealots, who inflicted pain, humiliation and death on the noblest of the noble human beings.
A band of fanatical Jews climbed a hill, virtually dragging and pushing the ‘condemned’ sinner – Jesus Christ! Earlier, St. Peter had thrice disclaimed any knowledge of or acquaintance with Christ. The cock crowed to remind Peter of Jesus’s prophecy that it would crow after three consecutive disavowals by Peter.
Jesus was nailed to the cross. To exhibit the ‘punishment’, the perpetrators made the cross stand erect. Later on, Christ was made to bare his body by removing his cloak. This meant Jesus forfeited his right for a proper burial. His partly covered corpse was to be left on top of the hill. The sadistic zealots ensured that maximum torture was inflicted on the hapless, crucified person. When Christ asked for water, they shoved a vinegar-dipped cloth into his mouth to cause excruciating pain. Jesus died as the people around him rejoiced with their feelings of ‘accomplishment’.
Edmund Brock wonders what the need was to adopt such a ‘cumbersome’ method to kill a single human being.
Stanza 2 … A long-drawn (1455-1485) fratricidal war was fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York for no great reason except a desire to dominate and grab the English throne. It caused much blood-letting and mayhem. Use of hook axes and hammers as weapons added to the brutality of the fighting. Groans of the impelled victims filled the air. The game of ‘jousting’ gladdened the hearts of the victors, while his victims perished in excruciating pain.
During those days, fighting was for chivalry, honour, and pride, but little concrete game. Soldiers got killed for the vanity of the vainglorious knights.
The speaker is deeply pained to recall these events.
Stanza 3 .. In this portion, the speaker laments the way in which deadly poisonous gases manufactured by scientists were used to kill unsuspecting soldiers of the rival sides. Remorselessly, the Germans deployed canisters of lethal gases to unleash the gas that would get carried to the enemy side by air. At times, the poisoned air returned to ravage the Germans when the wind direction unexpectedly changed.
The poet bemoans the brutality of use of the WMDs.
Stanza 4 … In this portion, the poet turns to the dying days of WW2 when America dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs developed in the most advanced labs by the best scientific brains of the world incinerated thousands in minutes. The dance of death continued long after the war drew to a close.
The author grieves over the death of so many civilian human beings in so cruel a way.
Stanza 5 … The author, almost resignedly thinks of simpler ways to kill a man. In a voice punctuated with despair, grief, and anger, he thinks living in the post WW2 world was akin to living in hell, embracing death. Here he has in mind the destitution, want, hunger, and hopelessness that bedeviled most parts of the world then. Life was extremely difficult, almost unbearably hard. Surviving the daily grinding of poverty was so very daunting. Many perished under the hardship.
Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953
Introduction to the poet … Born on October 27, 1914, in Swansea, South Wales to a father who taught English Literature, Dylan Marlais Thomas had his initiation to Shakespeare very early in his life, even before he learned to read. His father read aloud portions of Shakespeare to him. Dylan was enchanted by nursery rhymes. Later, he began to passionately read ballads of W. B. Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Thomas was a jumpy, oversensitive, sickly child who loathed going to school, choosing to study on his own. D. H. Lawrence‘s poetry, interspersed with scenes of the natural world, fascinated him greatly. He passed his English test with flying colours, but the success came at the expense of other subjects. By this time, the lunatic streak in his mind was unravelling fast. At sixteen, he decided he had enough of the ‘formal’ school, and dropped out. He began his career as a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post.
Soon, he left the job and plunged into literature as a soul possessed, churning out scores of poems.
In 1934, Thomas won the Poet’s Corner book prize, and published his first book, 18 Poems (The Fortune press). The book received rave reviews. The success, sadly, pushed Thomas to alcohol abuse.
Thomas’s writings had intense lyricism and highly charged emotion as their hallmark.
Two years after the publication of 18 Poems, in a Lodon pub, Thomas met the dancer Caitlin Macnamara. He married her in 1837. The marriage was marred by frequent discords as both seemed to have clandestine affairs.
Thomas was an volatile and erratic personality, given to violent swings of mood. It rocked his family life, career and finances. He moved from job to job, crippling his peace of mind and his finances. Alcohol ravaged his life. The love for the bottle pushed this great genius to penury quite often.
Thomas toured America four times on literary assignments. He made his appearance at the City College of New York. A few days later, after splurging on drink, he collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel. He breathed his last on November 9, 1953, at the relatively young age of 39. He is much talked about for the quality of his work, and for the way he consumed himself with alcohol and a disruptive life style.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Meaning .. The poem calls upon humans not to meekly succumb to the inevitability of death. Instead, a mortal, as he walks the last few steps to his grave must resist, fight, and confront death with renewed vigour, grit and stoicism. Not allowing the spectre of death to benumb us is the boldest and cleverest thing to do, implores the author. The nearer one is close to death, the stronger should be his will power to defy it. Old age should be the age to reach new heights of gallantry and resoluteness to stare death in its eye valiantly.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Meaning .. Men in the sunset days of their lives tend to be passive, sagacious and resigned to the prospects of departure from this world. Some gifted people rue that they have not accomplished anything spectacular that they could have, using their intellect. Such people become restless as their final day draws near. With a pensive mood and so many unfulfilled desires gnawing at their dying soul, they depart.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Meaning .. Men and women of calibre and creativity are filled with turbulence and trauma as they near their death. They feel they could have achieved something more, if they had some more time on earth. The world is a theatre of action, striving and success. So, for a creative mind, departing from it is painful. These men and women, therefore, must resist death with all their might and resource.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Meaning … Daring, dare-devil, risk-taking geniuses celebrate as they live out the short spans of their lives on earth, but they become despondent to see that the world didn’t keep pace with them and fell behind. So, the author prods all humans with zeal burning inside them to rage against death with all the force in their command.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Meaning .. Like in the earlier lines, the speaker describes how some gritty people refuse to capitulate before impending death, using a combination of will power and heroics. They, despite being on the throes of death, manage to develop a vision that is piercing and incisive. The imminent arrival of death accompanied by darkness and gloom fails to enfeeble their vision. Even in the eleventh hour of their existence on earth, they can dispel the gloom and doom and develop extraordinary eyesight. Hence, says the speaker, refuse to be cowed down by death, stand your ground, and do not flinch at all. Take death head on.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Meaning … Finally, the speaker clarifies who his target was when he spoke those inspiring, death-defying words. It is his father who is on the brink of death. The son (the author) implores his dying father to shower his fondness on him, as if life goes on as usual. He wants his father to ignore the approaching death and confront the calamity with sangfroid and chivalry.
Tags: The Merchant of Venice explanation
The Merchant of Venice
Act 1, Scene 1
Antonio, a wealthy merchant of Venice, made his riches through marine trade. On one occasion, he stands with his two friends, Salarino and Solanio. Antonio feels gloomy and somewhat dejected. He does not know why. This intrigues him and his two friends.
Salanrino suggests that his merchant friend could possibly be worried about his overdue ships, still at sea. To calm his nerves, Salarino says some comforting words. He says that the large ships must be safe and smoothly sailing back home. They are too big to be sunk by the wickedness of the sea. The flotilla of the giant ships tower over the smaller cargo boats around them, and would complete their voyage smoothly.
Solanio empathises with Antonio with more plausible words. He says any merchant facing similar uncertainties would brood endlessly, trying to figure out the direction of the wind with a blade of grass, and delving into the marine maps to guess how the vessels could be, and the ports and waterways en route. Nonetheless, Solanio opined that any delay in return of ships would rob the owner of his peace of mind.
Salarino became serious. Leaving his carefree attitude, he began to understand why Antonio had become so filled with angst. He narrated how blowing his cup of hot soup reminded him of the ferocity of a raging storm. He also told how the heap of sand at the bottom of his hour glass brought him scenes of his own wrecked ships lying in ruins in the sea beach. Even the stone building of the church sank his heart in fear as it brought him memories of treacherous rocks that imperil floating crafts. A ship wreck instantly reduces its owner to penury when the precious cargo such as that of spices and silk are devoured by the tall angry waves, giving no chance of salvage. He now understands why Antonio is so pensive and perplexed.
Antanio begs to differ. He says the risk of the vessels does not worry him as he has other assets to pre-empt a sudden descent to bankruptcy.
Solanio butts in with his theory. He says his friend is sad because he pines for love. Antanio promptly rebuts Solanio’s contention, and pleads to be left alone.
Solanio can’t remain mum. He urges Antonio to cheer up so as to dispel the gloom from his mind. He asks Antonio to revel and make merry.
Perhaps, to vent his disappointment with Antanio’s continuing sulkiness, Solanio remarked that some people are innately jovial where as a few others (meaning Antanio) are, by nature, grumpy.
Three of Antanio’s other friends, Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratanio arrive in the scene. Solanio hails the trio in and leaves. Salarino stays back to take part in the discussion.
Salarino prepares to leave, but is held back. Antanio is ready to let him leave to attend to his business.
Bassanio is in upbeat mood. He asks both Salarino and Solanio to fix a time so that they all can have some good time.
Salarino offers to join the party.
Lorenzo invites all for dinner that night, as he too starts to leave.
Gratiano too finds Antonio unusually reserved and de-spirited. He advises Antonio to take things easy and pull himself up. Antonio’s reticence confounds him. He pleads with Antonio not to let his brooding tell upon his health and wellbeing.
Antonio becomes philosophical. He says that perhaps, melancholy is written into his role in this world, where he, like others, plays an assigned role.
Gratiano erupts into a bout of boisterous boast. He says, given a choice, he would indulge in anything joyful, and splurge in wines imperilling his liver, rather than burn away like a lamp in a dark remote corner. He beseeches his dear friend Antonio to reclaim his jovial airs, and waste away like a lifeless statue. A sullen, dry demeanour does no good, pleads Antonio. His love and concern for Antonio are apparent from the way he begs him to come out of the morass. Gratiano pours his scorn over the stern and vainglorious persons who think they only have all the wisdom in the world. When these dour persons begin to speak, they demand everyone’s, even a nearby dog’s undivided attention. Gratiano asserts that these tight-lipped persons are in fact ignorant. If ever, they speak, their shallow words attracts derision and mocking. Before leaving with Lorenzo, Gratiano makes a final plea to his dear friend Antanio to cast aside his gloom and regain his jest for a cheerful life.
Lerenzo leaves too promising to be there for the dinner. Light-heartedly, he adds that he would choose to be silent like the ‘wise men’ of Gratiano. He jokes that in earlier occasions Gratiano had seldom allowed him to talk as he wished.
Gratiano was ready with his riposte. He said that if Lorenzo lives with him for two years, he would lose his power of speech.
Antonio bids his friends goodbye assuring them that he would be more forthcoming from now on.
Gratiano adds to the humour saying that cooked ox tongues and those of the old maids need to be silent, not of any humans present.
Gratiano and Lorenzo exit.
Antonio is plunged in self doubt. He asks Bassanio if Gratiano is right in his contention.
Bassanio is going through a bad patch financially, chiefly because he spends more than he earns. Yet his dire financial straits do not affect his exterior. Bassanio intends make his own case for Antonio to emulate. Bassanio concedes that he does not disown his debts, but wants to redeem them and restore his standing in society. Bassanio reiterates his desire to liquidate the loan he has taken from Antonio. He hints that he has some plan to carry out.
Antanio, as always, lends a sympathetic ear to Bassanio’s desires. He says that he will assist in catty it to fruition anyhow. In his good-natured way, Antonio demands to know what help Bassanio wants.
Bassanio speaks about the beautiful wealthy lady of Belmont he is enamoured of. She has got huge property as inheritance, and has captivated him. She is Portia. Bassanio has met her before and assumes that she loves him too. Portia is a paragon of beauty. No wonder, she has no dearth of suitors who hail from far and wide. To match these wealthy men, Bassanio has to flaunt his wealth, but he has little to show.
Antonio rues that all his wealth is tied up in his ships that are not yet ashore. Nevertheless, he offers to use his creditworthiness to avail loan for use by Bassanio.
——————–End of Scene 1————————
Act 1, Scene 2 …
Portia, the most cherished woman from Belmont, feels bored and insipid. She confides to her maid Nerissa about it.
Nerissa has little to offer to help her mistress Nerissa’s spirits. Rather vaguely, she tells Nerissa that people with too little or too much wealth suffer too. She advises a middle path. In practice, the advice means nothing.
Portia complements her rather casually.
Portia moans saying that it is not easy to do good deeds as people flounder while attempting it. She candidly says that it’s easier to pontificate about righteous living to twenty people than to be the one person out of twenty who actually practices what one preaches. The mind must listen to the conscience. Hot-headedness makes doing good things difficult. She is tired of seeking out her husband. How would she ‘choose’ her husband, Portia wonders. She laments that she can’t choose whom she likes, or refuse others. She is bound by her father’s wishes. She expresses her despair at her predicament. Nerissa listens.
Quite a few royal suitors have descended on Belmont to see if they could win Portia’s hand. She is confused and a bit wary. Nerissa breaks a secret about Portia’s father’s intentions. While in his death bed, he had see a vision about the choosing of a husband for his daughter.
He had desired that there would be three boxes – of gold, silver and red. The would-be husband should choose the right box that holds the message of Portia’s choice.
After divulging this, Nerissa wanted to know if any of the princely figures indeed measured up to Portia’s expectationPortia asks Nerissa to go through the list of sitors. She would then narrate her impression about each of them. From this, Nerissa could surmise who meets Portia’s approval.
Nerissa takes the name of the prince from Naples.
Portia ridicules him saying that this man is a horse enthusiast. He boasts about his ability to nail a horse alone. Portia discards the case calling the prince a ‘blacksmith’.
Nerissa then goes to Count Palatine.
Portia sees him as a self-centered, ego-filled man. He is so dour that a funny story can not make him smile. So humourless young man would become a moron in old age, fears Portia. Portia turns down the case vehemently.
Nerissa then proceeds to the French lord, Monsieur le Bon.
Portia is no kinder to him than she was to others. She disapproves of his infatuation of his own horse, and thinks the man is self-cantered and disgustingly pretentious in nature. His flamboyance is repelling. With a chuckle, Portia says that marrying the French is equal to marrying 20 persons as he shows of the skills of almost 20 others. Portia pours scorn on him and draws the curtain on his bid to win her hands.
Nerissa then proceeds to Falconbridge, that young English baron?
Portia reacts nonchalantly, showing no excitement. The Baron does not speak Latin and Portia does not speak English. This means a huge lifelong language barrier between the two. So, the proposal is still-born. This apart, the Baron’s sartorial taste was not to her liking. He wore an Italian tie, German hat and French trousers!
Nerissa then broached the case of the Frenchman’s neighbor, the Scottish lord.
Portia assumed that he was very forgiving, since he didn’t recoil in vengeance when the Englishman slapped him on the ear. Rather than defending himself aggressively on the spot, he just walked away giving a threat that he intended to avenge the insult later. threatened to pay the Englishman back later. Quite interestingly, the Frenchman promised to help the Scot pay the Englishman back, and added a slap of his own. It was a double whammy that sealed the Scot’s fate.
Nerissa then turned to the young German, the duke of Saxony’s nephew.
Portia was dismissive about him from the start. He is an alcoholic, who can be likened to an animal. She would be happier as his widow than as his wife, said Portia disparagingly.
Nerissa reminds Portia about her father’s desire to marry the man who won the box riddle. She can’t possibly disregard her father’s desires.
Portia is circumspect. She asks Nerissa to put a nice big glass of white wine on the wrong box. It could lure him to choose the wrong one. Portia averred that she would never marry a drunk. I’ll do anything rather than marry a drunk, Nerissa.
Nerissa firmly brought the curtain down on all these contestants. She knew that they all would confine her to the home, and rob her of her freedom. She began to think of ways to pre-empt the possibility of any of the unworthy persons from winning the box contest.
Portia bemoans her fate saying she would die an old maid unless she can be won according to the rules set by her father’s will. She feels relieved thinking these suitors are sensible enough to stay away. She wants to see their back.
Nerissa asks Portia if she remembered a Venetian scholar-cum- soldier who accompanied the marquess of Montferrat there once when her father was still alive.
Portia promptly recalled that it was Bassanio.
Nerissa spoke flatteringly about him.
Portia seems to adore him too.
At this point, a servant makes his appearance. Portia eagerly asks him if she has brought any news.
The servant announces the arrival of the four suitors. They have come to say goodbye. But, there is one more man. He is the messenger of the prince of Morocco – the fifth suitor. The prince will arrive the same night.
Portia is not the least amused. In fact, she feels he is un-welcome. Mockingly, she says that if he’s as good as a saint but is black like a devil, she’d rather want him to hear her confession than marry her. Portia lets the servant leave and hastens to go and see off the messenger.
—————————-END OF SCENE 2————
Bassanio has reached Shylock’s house to negotiate the loan of 3000 ducats that he needs for his rendezvous with Portia.
Shylock puts on the air of a reticent lender, miser with his words, and cunning in his questions.
Bassanio will take the loan for three months with Antonio as the underwriter.
Shylock engages in some frivolous self-talk, perhaps cooking up some nasty thoughts to push Antonio to a corner. He does not deny that Antonio is an honourable man, but, typical of a stern lender, casts doubt on Antonio’s assets (cargo-laden ships) still locked. It is amazing how he has managed to keep track of Antonio’s ships in far-off seas – in England, Mexico, the Indies, and Tripoli. Perhaps to undermine Antonio’s standing, he says that ships are tangible assets that can vanish quickly if things go awry. There are many imponderables in the high seas that make marine trade fraught and risky, mentions Shylock.
Feigning some reluctance Shylock offers to give 3000 ducats as loan under Antonio’s guarantee.
Shylock still holds back, saying he has to have iron-clad guarantee built into the loan paper. For this, he desires to speak to Antonio.
Antonio enters the scene. Bassanio respectfully announces his coming.
Bassanio suggests that the trio has dinner together to thrash out the terms.
Shylock, most impolitely, utters hurtful words aimed at Antonio. His pent-up rage against the prospective borrower is alight. Antonio hates usury, Shylock practises it. This lies at the root of Shylock’s chagrin against Antonio. Shylock makes no effort to hide his utter disapproval of Antonio’s attitude towards the Jews and his interest-free lending.
Shylock continues to drag his feet with regard to the loan. First he says he does not have the entire amount ready in hand. He will borrow the shortfall from Tubal, a fellow Jew. Antonio comes into the chamber.
He makes his formal request to Shylock for the loan conceding that he agrees to pay interest on the borrowed amount (contrary to his principles).
Shylock drags the discussion towards the repayment terms and the consequences of possible default.
To drive home his justification of charging interest, he cites the story of Jacob & Laban from the Bible. Quite interestingly, Antonio, in his goodness, draws a totally opposite conclusion from the episode.
In Genesis, Jacob is a shepherd who keeps an eye on his uncle Laban’s sheep as they graze. For this service rendered, he was to marry Laban’s daughter. Jacob and his uncle Laban come to an agreement that Jacob would, in due course, get all the striped and spotted animals. Cunningly, Jacob placed striped branches in front of the sheep when they mated, as a result the sheep gave birth to striped lambs. Jacob enriched himself by doing this trick.
Shylock invoked the story to press home the point that one should make some extra income when the opportunity comes. Antonio, a Christian, interprets the story in starkly different way. He feels that God was kind on Jacob to get the additional number of lambs.
A Christian and a Jew thus argue on the ethics of usury. Antonio loathes it, but Shylock finds it as a legitimate practice.
Shylock persists in his justification of charging of interest on loans, where as Antonio seethes in anger at the stance of Shylock which he finds as morally reprehensible. He virtually explodes in utter indignation at the Jew.
Antonio’s outrage has little effect on Shylock. He returns to the matter of loan negotiation.
Shylock dithers, and procrastinates, apparently to tease Antonio.
Antonio is restless. He demands to know if Shylock would indeed give the loan.
Shylock makes use of Antonio’s urgent need of funds that make him look so vulnerable. Shylock has the upper hand. As the lender, he acidly reminds Antonio of the scorn and humiliation poured on him at Rialto, by the man who stands before him as the borrower. He reiterates vehemently that charging interest is neither undesirable, nor abominable. Not charging interest was foolish.
Shylock boils in anger as he recalls how Antonio called him names, spat on him, and excoriated him mercilessly on the principle of usury. Quite tauntingly, he asks Antonio if he would still advance the loan, with all the insults fresh in his mind.
Antonio refuses to be browbeaten by Shylock’s rant. He expresses no remorse and asserts that he would continue to bitterly oppose Shylock’s charging of interest on his loans.
Like a valiant upholder of ethical lending practices, seeks no mercy or leniency from Shylock. He urges the Jew to perceive him as an enemy and impose such default terms as an enemy.
The wily Shylock softens his stand. Quite intriguingly, he agrees to give the loan interest-free.
Bassanio is pleasantly surprised.
Shylock has hideous motives. Putting up a benign appearance, he offers to execute the loan bond adding that it is better if it is done before a notary. Quite light-heartedly, he proposes to incorporate a very dangerous clause for default. In case he failed to repay the amount on the due date, he (Antonio) would give a pound of his flesh carved out if his heart. Antonio is told that it is a joke, but the ulterior intent does not sink into the borrower’s or his friend’s mind at that point of time.
Antonio, unaware of this innocuous clause, accepts it readily.
Bassanio is hesitant. He urges his friend Antonio to steo back.
Antonio shrugs off the fears. He feels the occasion of default does not arise as his ships would be home in two months time, and he would have enough money to pay back the loan.
Shylock feigns innocence claiming that the flesh extraction clause is nothing but non-sense. In case of default, what he needs is his money, not some human flesh. He outs up the air of a very friendly lender.
Antomio volunteers to sign the loan deed with that flesh clause.
Shylock asks the two borrowers to proceed to the notary to prepare the loan document. He said he will go to fetch the money in the meanwhile.
Antonio assures Bassanio that nothing untoward is going to happen.
—————————-END OF ACT1—————-
Act 2, Scene 1
The eminent visitor from Morocco comes in first. He is black, but chivalrous too. His dark skin could put Portia off, he fears. So, in all manners, he pleads with the lady not to be prejudiced against him for skin colour. He says, his blood is red as that of all humans – black or white, he has many military exploits to his credit.
Portia intercedes to assure the prince from Morocco that she takes a more holistic view of a man’s worth than his colour. She, however, laments that she has hardly any leeway in the matter, as she has to abide by what comes out of the ‘box’ test.
The royal Morocco thanks Portia for her assurances. Then he reels off the many victories he has own using his sword, and it is the same sword he would use today to summon the might, intuition, and wisdom needed to win the casket test. He exudes confidence in his own luck which brings unexpected bonanza at times. He cites how Hercules was defeated by Lychas, his servant in the game of dice simply because his servant’s luck sided with him on that occasion. He says that it would break his heart if someone less deserving won the casket test by dint of his luck.
Portia has some stern words to convey. Either the Moroccan wins the casket test and so her hand, or forsakes conjugal happiness throughout his life.
The Moroccan royal picks up the gauntlet, and agrees to remain a celibate in the event of his defeat.
Portia suggests that they visit the temple, and then have dinner before the visitor tries his luck.
The Moroccan agrees, brimming with confidence.
Launcelot, the servant of Shylock, enters the scene. He knows the many crooked ways of his master and abhors him as a person. He is caught in a dilemma. His mind says that he should run away from the service under Shylock, but his conscience says it would be unethical and immoral. His conscience implores him to continue to serve his master, Shylock despite his many devilish traits.
Torn between his instinct and his inner voice, Launcelot is caught in a quandary.
Gobbo, the half-blind father of Launcelot enters the scene. Because of his poor vision, he can’t recognize his own son. Gobbo asks Launcelot to show him the way to Shylock’s home.
Launcelot gives him the direction through some left-right-left turn advice.
Gobbo, with his impaired sight finds the direction confusing. He asks Launcelot if he knew a young man called Launcelot working in the Shylock home.
In a hushed voice, Launcelot wants to know if Gobbo (his father) refers to a man named Master Launcelot.
Gobbo is humble to say that Launcelot is a young man born to a poor man, pointing to himself. The fate has been unkind to him as he is going to face the hardships of a long life.
Launcelot, no admirer of his father for his past deeds, does not want to be associated with his legacy.
Gobbo still insists that ‘Master Launcelot’ must not be undermined by calling him plain Launcelot.
Launcelot is clearly uncomfortable with his father’s presence. He wants to end the unpleasant encounter. To do this, he says, though falsely, that ‘Master’ Launcelot is dead.
Gobbo is gripped by despair, as he finds that there would be no heir to support him in his old age.
Launcelot virtually recoils with indignation. He identifies himself and gives vent to his displeasure of his father’s expectations of him.
Gobbo says he is half-blind and can’t recognize Launcelot.
Launcelot seethes in anger at his father who has led an immoral life. Clearly, Launcelot and his father are poles apart.
Gobbo refuses to admit that the young man before him is indeed Launcelot, his son.
Gobbo is shaken to the core. Perplexed and downcast with grief, he beseeches Launcelot to tell him for certain if his son is indeed dead.
With searching eyes, Launelot asks Gobbo if he really can’t recognize his son (Launcelot).
Gobbo reiterates that he can’t recognize him as his vision is too poor.
Launcelot pours out his venom at his father for whom he has no love or respect. Launcelot seeks Gobbo’s blessing, but acidly reminds him that a murder is a hard act to hide. Truth will unravel sooner than later.
Gobbo asks Launcelot to stand erect, and says that he is indeed the lost son.
Launcelot identifies himself correctly, and affirms that he was, is, and will be his dear son in future. Launcelot is gracious.
Launcelot’s candid admission leaves Gobbo flabbergasted.
Launcelot reminds his father that he is now a Jew’s servant, and is the son of Margery, the rightful wife of Gobbo.
Gobbo acts as if his heart overflows with affection. He caresses Laucelot’s head and face and says he has more hair than his horse, Dobblin.
Launcelot alludes to his long absence from home saying that Dobbin’s tail must be growing backward as the pony had more hair on his tail than he has on his face when he last saw him.
Gobbo is surprised to see how much Launcelot has changed in the period he has been away. Gobbo says that he has brought a present for Shylock.
Launcelot says he is all right. Then he drops a bombshell saying that he has decided to run away, and he needs to do it fast. Quite irritably he says that his master’s a total Jew. He does not deserve to be given a present. Quite disparagingly, he says that the Jew deserves a noose to hang himself. Launcelot then says how his master keeps him half-fed. Due to lack of food, he is famished and his ribs are visible.
Saying these words, Launcelot says that the right deserving person is Bassanio, not the despicable Jew. I’m glad you’ve come, father. Give me your present to give to Master Bassanio. He is so generous that he gives his servants beautiful new uniforms.
Launcelot says he is looking forward to work under the caring Bassanio. Just around this time, Bassanio appears in the scene with Leonardo and one or two attendants.
He asks one of the attendants to go and arrange for the supper, order the uniforms, deliver the letters and ask Gratiano to come and visit him at the earliest.
Launcelot, embarrassed to approach Bassanio for a servant’s job. He asks his father to plead on his behalf.
Gobbo says that his son is fed up of his employer, the Jew Shylock. He comes forward to narrate the harrowing time he has under the Jew. He wants to work under Bassanio.
With so much of prompting and indirect talking, Bassanio is confused. He wants either G obbo or Launcelot to clear the air.
Launcelot finally says what he needs – a job under Bassanio.
Things ease up surprisingly for Launcelot and Gobbo. Bassanio says he has already spoken to Shylock in the matter. In fact, it was Shylock who proffered the name of Launcelot as servant for Bassanio. He was humble enough to say that the choice was Launceot’s – a rich Jew as master or a poor merchant.
Launcelot cites the old proverb “The grace of God is enough.” He says that it could be divided between Bassanio and Shylock, with Bassanio getting “the grace of God,” and the Jew “enough.”
Bassanio appreciates Launcelot’s wit and grace.
He advises the father-son duo to and formally take leave of Shylock before joining him. He asks his attendant to give the new recruit a nice pair of uniform.
Launcelot is immensely happy and greatly relieved. He points to his father Gobbo that he has one of the most wretched fates. His palm lines show he will have umpteen wives to support, and he would almost drown to death on a few occasions. He would be caught red-handed in the act of cuckolding and face the wrath of the husband. Despite all these ominous omens, he would escape calamity because his palm-lines have a escape route. He vows that he would never again work under a Jew.
Then he urges his father to hurry up for the Jew’s wife, so that the formality of bidding good-bye to Shylock could be complete without delay.
Launcelot and his father leave.
Bassanio has made his purchases. These are the items he needs to carry to Portia. He hands over the list to
Leonardo. Bassanio appears to be in joyful mood. He says he is going for dinner that night, apparently with Antonio.
Leonardo says he would do his best.
Gratiano enters and looks around for Bassanio. Spotting him, he pleads with him to accompany him to Belmont.
Bassanio accedes to Gratiano’s request readily, but advises him to be restrained, calm, and
Decent in Belmont, and not allow his boorish ways to show up.
Gratiano submits to Bassanio’s wishes and promises to rein in his boisterous instincts while in Belmont.
Bassanio good-humouredly agrees and says he will keep an eye on his ebullient friend.
Gratiano jokes that the restrictions do not apply for that night’s supper.
Bassanio says he must be his usual jovial self during the supper.
Gratiano hurries to join Lorenzo and the others, promising to be back for supper.
Act 2, Scene 3
Jessica is Shylock’s daughter. As the only other member of the family, she suffers miserably at the hands of her phlegmatic father uninterested in anything other than money-lending. She is sorry at Launcelot’s leaving the household whom she looked forward to for some pleasant diversion from the humdrum of the Jre’s house. She is in love with Lorenzo, a Bassanio confidant. She gives a ducat to Launcelot as parting gift and secretly gives a letter to him to be given to Lorenzo. She does not want her father to see the two talking like this.
Launcelot becomes emotional as tears roll do9wn his eyes. Citing some curses against the Jew, he departs.
Jessica is plunged in thoughts. She resents being the daughter of a thoroughly reprehensible character like Shylock, and seeks deliverance from the disgrace by marrying her lover Lorenzo.
Lorenzo too is restless for the marriage, and perceives Shylock to be an insurmountable hurdle. Shylock would never reconcile to his only daughter marrying a Christian, he knows. So, he thinks of ways to somehow do a clandestine operation so that Jessica could slip out of the house.
He thinks of a way for this secret mission. He thinks that Jessica could somehow sneak out of her house during supper time, hide in Lorenzo’s house where they both could wear some masks to hide their identities. After that, they can escape to get married secretly, away from Shylock’s clutches.
Gratiano is incredulous about the plan, since it has niot even been discussed.
Salarino thinks the same way too.
Sloanio has some sane advice. He fears that the plan to evade the Jew’s prying eyes could fizzle out leading to a major embarrassment and catastrophe for the lovers.
It is 4 O’clock and Lorenzo thinks he has to do everything in the next two hours.
Launcelot enters with a letter.
Lorenzo and Gratiano and he engage in some friendly banter about the contents of the letter from Jessica.
Launcelot wants to leave to invite his former employer, Shylock, to come for the evening supper with Bassanio and his friends.
Salarino, Solanio and Lorenzo decide to congregate in Shylock’s house.
Gratiano still wonders if the letter is indeed from Jessica.
Lorenzo now discloses the elopement plan hatched by Jessica and him. She would come disguised.
Lorenzo is confident the escape operation will be fruitful. And never be punished for her intention is noble. He hands over the letter to Gratiano to read for himself.
He says Jessica would lead him for the deliverance.
Act 2, Scene 5
Shylock says his final words to Launcelot. He calls out to Jessica to get up and get dressed.Jessica is slow in her response.
Launcelot calls out Jessica, which Shylock does not like.
Jessica enters. Shylock says that he is going to the supper quite hesitantly as he knows he is not very much liked by others there.
Saying this, he asks Jessica to keep the house key and keep an watch over everything. Shylock is in apprehensive mood as he has seen money bags in his dreams the previous night.
Launcelot urges his earlier master, Shylock to hurry up for the supper.
As expected, Shylock replies sarcastically. He knows his hosts have no love for him.
Launcelot drops hints that there could be a masquerade party organized by the hosts.
Seeing a bad omen, Shylock asks Jessica to be vigilant inside the house, and not even peep through the widow out of curiosity on seeing the people in the streets with masks.
He sets out to go for the supper.
Launcelot cryptically tells Jessica to be alert to come out on seeing him in the streets.
Shylock is uncomfortable at Launcelot’s message to his daughter.
Jessica makes light of Launcelot’s parting advice.
Shylock can’t make sense of the plot well under way. Even after Launcelot’s leaving his service, he blisters at him, calling him slow and a glutton. He quips that Launcelot’s leaving him is good riddance.
While leaving for the supper, he reiterates his instructions to Jessica to guard the house sincerely.
Jessia murmurs that if luck sides with her she would escape leaving her father behind.
Act 2 Scene 6
Gratiano reaches the appointed spot.
There is no trace of Jessica and Launcelot. That worries Gratiano and Salarino.
They engage in some light banter about the jest and zeal of new lovers.
Gratiano cites many examples to show how excitement peters out after a person accomplishes something, like a man after a hearty meal, or a horse striding, or a ship returning from voyage.
Lorenzo arrives. They stop talking.
Lorenzo begins to describe why he is late.
Just then Jessica arrives disguised as a boy, taking everyone by surprise.
Jessica and Lorenzo identify one another quickly and aver their mutual love and commitment.
Lorenzo has made plans for a masquerade, and wants Jessica to head the procession as the torch bearer.
Jessica declines the role, saying that the candle would expose her face more. Jessica feels guilty for eloping like this, and feels she must not do the noble role of the torch bearer who brings light and love. She feels she deserves to be hidden in the dark.
Lorenzo reassures her saying she is in disguise, and not recognizable by others.
Jessica hurries up to get in to her house to pick up some more ducats and lock it up before escaping.
Gratiano appreciates her forthrightness, adding that such a good person can not be a Jew.
Lorenzo adds to Gratiano’s adulation saying that Jessica is an embodiment of beauty, honesty and nobility.
They all, including Jessica, leave to join the masquerade.
Antonio and Gratiano meet each other.
It is 9, and Antonio is worried. He says all his friends are all waiting for Gratiano. There’s no masquerade tonight, he fumes. The wind is blowing right, so Bassanio’s going onboard immediately. Antonio says how worried he is for him.
Gratiano’s mood is upbeat.
Act 2, Scene 7
Portia asks her servant to show the caskets to the prince aspiring for her hand. The caskets become visible as the curtains are drawn apart.
It is time for the prince from Morocco to prove his mettle. He contemplates.
The first one, the gold one, has an inscription that says, “He who chooses me will get what many men want.” The second one, the silver one, says, “He who chooses me will get what he deserves.” And this third one is made of dull lead. It has a blunt warning that says, “He who chooses me must give and risk all he has.”
The Moroccan prince is lost in thought. He is baffled by the challenge. How would he know which casket is the right one to choose?
Portia drops a hint.
One of the caskets contains her picture. If he chooses that one, she will be his, along with the picture.
The prince from Morocco is caught in a quandary. He seeks divine help. He decides to read the inscription again. What does the lead box say? “He who chooses me must give and risk all he has.” He is totally confused by the riddle. He wonders if a worthless thing like lead can deserve all he has. He decides to skip the lead casket.
He proceeds to weigh the option of the silver casket.
It reads, “He who chooses me will get as much as he deserves.” Again the prince is plunged in confusion. He delves deeper into the description’s hidden meaning. He thinks, if his reputation is trustworthy, he deserves a lot. A feeling of self doubt grips him. He asserts, “He deserves Portia”. In terms of wealth, talents, and upbringing, and especially love, he deserves her, he assures himself.
He thinks he must weigh the gold casket option before he took his call. The inscription on the gold casket reads, “He who chooses me will get what many men want.” He jumps in excitement as he feels it is time for the most momentous decision of his life. He reckons, “That’s Portia! Quite madly he sings her glory. The whole world wants her. They come from the four corners of the earth to kiss this shrine and see this living, breathing saint. Princes travel across deserts and the vast wilderness of Arabia to come see the beautiful Portia. The wide ocean doesn’t prevent them from coming to see her—they travel across it as if it were a little stream. One of these three boxes contains her lovely picture.”
He wonders if the lead one contains the picture? No, the lowly lead can’t have it, he reasons. He asks himself, “Is she enclosed in silver, which is ten times less valuable than gold?” Again he fumbles. Nobody ever set a gem like her in a worse setting than gold. They have a coin in England stamped with the figure of an angel, but that’s just engraved on the surface.
The prince of Morocco is caught in a whirlpool of desire, love, confusion, self-doubt and romance. Portia’s beauty has overwhelmed him.
He decides to go for the gold casket.
Portia offers him the key and says that if the picture is there, she belongs to him.
The prince opens the gold casket.
Instead of the picture, the prince finds a skull. He recoils in horror.
He finds these lines written on the skull.
“All that glitters is not gold—
You’ve often heard that said.
Many men have sold their souls
Just to view my shiny surface.
But gilded tombs contain worms.
If you’d been as wise as you were bold,
With an old man’s mature judgment,
You wouldn’t have had to read this scroll.
So goodbye—you lost your chance.”
The Moroccan prince is devastated. Heart-broken, he retreats from the scene gracefully and quickly.
The prince from Morocco exits with his entourage.
Portia is immensely relieved. She wishes that other contenders make the same mistake as the Prince of Morocco.
Act 2, Scene 8 ….
It seems Lorenzo and his beloved Jessica have fled in a gondola. The Jew is wild with fury. He has gone and complained to the duke about the deceit of Lorenzo and Jessica’s involvement in the plot.
The duke sets out in the sea to apprehend the duo, but he chases the wrong ship, that of Bassanio and Gratiano. Antonio assures the duke that the lover duo is not in Bassanio’s ship. Bassanio and Gratiano head towards Belmont to meet Portia.
Salarino and Solanio discuss the matter. Solanio describes how the Jew spewed fire at Lorenzo for the loss of his daughter and his money. That his daughter Jessica chose a Christian was like rubbing salt on his wound.
Salarino adds that the Jew is being jeered in the streets.
Solanio fears that the Jew, wounded and humiliated, might turn on Antonio if the later defaults.
Salarino has heard from a Frenchman that a Venetian ship has sunk with its cargo in the English Channel. He said he hopes that it is not Antonio’s ship.
Solanio suggests that his friend Salarino apprise Antonio about the accident, exercising due caution.
Salarino has seen how warmly Antonio wished good luck to Bassanio on his mission, advising him to be intelligent and wise in his race for Portia. Such a gesture speaks volumes about Antonio’s noble self.
Solanio and Salarino agree that Antonio has a heart of gold.
Act 2, Scene 9 ..
The prince of Arragon has arrived. He has taken his oath, and is coming forward to try his luck. Nerissa has the curtains quickly drawn.
Trumpets play. The Prince of Arragon, his entourage, and Portia enter.
Portia shows him the boxes. As usual, she says that he must choose the box having her picture inside to win her hand. If he failed in doing so, he must leave immediately.
Arragon promises to do three things. He wouldn’t tell anyone the box he chooses. If he chooses the wrong box, he will shun conjugal happiness all his life. Lastly, in case of failure, he would depart immediately.
Arragon is ready to try his luck. He is optimistic. He reads the writings on the boxes carefully.
Like the earlier contenders, he examines the sense of the writings incisively. After a lot of very careful evaluation, he chooses the casket that has this writing. “He who chooses me will get what he deserves.”
Alas! It is the wrong box.
Arragon finds the picture of an idiot holding a scroll up for him to read! He reads it. It is a bitter anti-climax for him. He wonders how his reasoning and choice could go wrong.
Quite quickly and gracefully, he makes his exit.
Portia castigates the unsuccessful contenders, calling them ‘moths’ lured by candles that would devour them.
Nerissa says it is all written in destiny.
A messenger arrives in the scene to announce the coming of his master. The messenger has brought nice gifts sent by his master. He sings the praise of his master. Quite humbly he says that this servant (meaning himself) has arrived before his master the way a sweet spring day hints about a lush summer. He says it is a great auspicious day.
Portia stops the messenger from further eulogizing his master. She goes with Nerissa to see the contender.
—————————End of Act 2———————-
[To be continued with questions and answers]
Tags: Creative writing CBSE and ICSE
Write a short story with the following beginnings. [Don’t spend more than 20 minutes on each.]
a. A few miles down a rutted dirt road, and many more miles from the nearest town, a small farmhouse stands surrounded by dense green bush. … Continue
b. There was a boom, and suddenly, all hell broke loose. … Continue
A few miles down a rutted dirt road, and many more miles from the nearest town, a small farmhouse stands surrounded by dense green bush.
Gomti sits there all alone within the green hedge of the cottage. The shades of the tall papal tree caused by the setting Sun are extending longer and longer. It is getting late. Her father, Radheshyam, a wood cutter, has not returned from the forest. Her mother Gurubari, has not returned too. She has gone to the village landlord’s paddy fields to sow paddy saplings. It has rained the whole day. Poor Gurubari has to stand bent 90 degrees to the front in the mud and the rain for 10 hours to earn her daily wage – a paltry Rs.50.
She will buy some rice and a few potatoes on her way back for the night’s dinner, but Radheshyam must return by then with the firewood, so that the frugal meal can be cooked.
Gomti is 16 – old enough to have been married, but paucity of money has stood on the way. Radheshyam has to face a lot of derision from his clan for having kept a ‘grown-up’ daughter at home.
Gomti sits with her head wedged between her knees. How long will she be here to face the taunts?
Gurbari returns, virtually running and panting for breath! The Zamindar wants to see Gomti the next day. He is adamant. ‘Why’, worries Gurubari. Lust! A chill runs through her spine. But, she is powerless. Her husband owes the Zanindar Rs.500 still.
Radheshyam returns with his load of firewood. Gomti pulls him to a corner for consultation. Within earshot, Gomti overhears it, and concludes she must prepare for a life of a concubine. Tears roll down her eyes.
Next morning, the trio sets out to meet the Zanmindar. Radheshyam has made up his mind. Gurbari has no inkling of what her husband thinks. He carries his billhook. Gomti and Gurbari wonder what can be its need, but dare not ask him. All three speak not a word.
They reach the Zamindar’s haveli. The Zamindar’s wife comes in and whispers something to Gurbari’s ears. Radheshyam can’t understand what transpired between the two. His nerves are taut. He gently moves his hand over his tool, and grips its handle hard. He is ready. He is his daughter’s saviour.
He is flummoxed to see Gurbari wilfully touching the Zamindar’s wife’s feet. Quite surprisingly, Gyrbari appears very happy. Has she capitulated, he wonders.
A young man dressed as a groom emerges. Radheshyam identifies him to be one of his very distant relation. The Zamindar comes out and makes an announcement. He is doing kanyadan by arranging Gomti’s marriage. An astrologer had told him that his own unmarried daughter would get a groom if he does a kanyadan. With grace and gratitude, he announces the waiver of the Rs.500 loan of Radheshyam.
Gomti does not return home. She leaves for her new home.
[Answers will be posted after a week.]
Tags: Of Revenge by Bacon
by Francis Bacon
Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.
Meaning .. The urge to avenge the humiliations, injustices and wrongs heaped on us by others gives us some pleasure, relief and satisfaction. Such tendency to pay back our tormentors in their own coins is so pervasive and universal. However, such a toxic and in-born tendency must be curbed through legal means.
For as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong putteth the law out of office.
Meaning .. When the tormentor inflicts harm on his subject, he breaks the law, as no member of the civilized society is permitted to take law into his hand and cause physical or mental harm to a fellow human. In the same vein, the person who has been wronged, can’t hit back at his adversary. Logically, he should seek legal recourse to the injustice meted out to him, but if he impulsively harms the enemy, he breaks the law himself. Such acts of instant retribution is not permitted under law.
Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince’s part to pardon.
Meaning …. Avenging a wrong, or a defeat or a humiliation lets the wronged person to draw level with his foe, and derive satisfaction. However, he chooses to forgive and forget, and does not allow the perpetrator’s evil act besmirch his self, he emerges as the true victor. Pardoning the evil-doer is not a sign of weakness or timidity. It takes great courage, moral strength, and magnanimity of mind to pardon the sinner. Such ability to ignore the scars left by the wrong-doer needs a big heart and a sagacious soul. Ordinary humans can not bring themselves to rise to the occasion and let the quality of pardon come to the fore.
It is, therefore, seen that a person in exalted position such as a prince is given the authority to grant royal pardons to sinners. A prince, because of his status and clout is seldom harmed or belittled. So, he is not generally gripped by anger against commoners. This allows him to pardon the evil-doers.
And Solomon, I am sure, saith, “It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence.” That which is past is gone, and irrevocable; and wise men have enough to do with things present and to come; therefore they do but trifle with themselves, that labor in past matters.
Meaning … Prophet Solomon had proclaimed, “It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence.”. This means that a person who ignores the hurt and humiliation caused to him by others can lay claim to great glory and adulation.
An evil, once done, becomes history. It can not be reversed. There is little prudency in grumbling and burning in the bitterness left behind. Wise and conscientious people choose to think of works at hand and the tasks in the future. They realize the folly of crying over spilt milk. No doubt, they discern that whining over past injustices is futile, and unproductive. Worrying over the unpleasant past is an unnecessary and ruinous exercise.
There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong’s sake; but thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honor, or the like. Therefore why should I be angry with a man for loving himself better than me? And if any man should do wrong merely out of ill-nature, why, yet it is but like the thorn or briar, which prick and scratch, because they can do no other.
Meaning … Seldom does a man indulge in a wicked or immoral act just for the heck of it. What motivates him to do an abominable act can be just anything – the lure of profit, getting some pleasure, get some un-deserved honour, or any such urge. In the process, he stands to gain some material benefit or some mental pleasure.
With great equanimity, and rare sense of accommodation, Bacon asks himself why he should be annoyed if someone does something to amuse himself. In instances where a person does something that is really very upsetting, we must pause and reali8ze that he has been cursed to have a mind that loves sadistic pleasure. Such people are condemned to miserable existence. In a way they deserve to be pitied and forgiven, because, like a thorn, they can’t do anything other than pricking others and inflicting pain. An ill-natured man is like a thorn condemned to live like a mischief-maker and a nuisance in society. This is enough punishment for him.
The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law to remedy; but then let a man take heed the revenge be such as there is no law to punish; else a man’s enemy is still before hand, and it is two for one. Some, when they take revenge, are desirous the party should know whence it cometh. This is the more generous.
Meaning … Bacon now proceeds to make certain concessions for the revenge seeker. He feels, there are can be certain loathsome and irritable acts for which there is no legal remedy. As a result, the perpetrator can not be brought to book, and so, get away with his crime. In such circumstances, taking revenge can be an acceptable recourse. Bacon, however, adds a caveat here. The act of revenge must be carefully chosen. It should be outside the purview of the prevailing law, so that the victim (wrong-doer, earlier) can’t sue the avenger.
In some cases, the avenger sets up his act such that the victim (wrong-doer, earlier) gets to know the source of his trouble. This gives the avenger some satisfaction. Such a move could not be as evil as the leaving the victim to wonder who harmed him. Bacon seems to approve of this as it limits the chance of the person turning on other innocent people.
For the delight seemeth to be not so much in doing the hurt as in making the party repent. But base and crafty cowards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark. Cosmus, duke of Florence, had a desperate saying against perfidious or neglecting friends, as if those wrongs were unpardonable; “You shall read (saith he) that we are commanded to forgive our enemies; but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends.
Meaning …. When the perpetrator gets to know that the person he wronged has come back to him with vengeance, he will be deterred from repeating his earlier mischief. He may feel some remorse thinking that he should not have, in the first place, indulged in the evil act. However, vile and crooked persons do not have the moral strength to admit that they did the wrong thing. This complicates the situation.
Cosmus, the Duke of Florence, had some friends who were either deceitful or insincere in their friendship. Their nature used to annoy Cosmus a lot. He admonished their supercilious and favour-seeking attitude rather strongly. He warned them that he would never pardon them, although he was fully empowered to pardon offenders.
” But yet the spirit of Job was in a better tune: “Shall we (saith he) take good at God’s hands, and not be content to take evil also?” And so of friends in a proportion. This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well. Public revenges are for the most part fortunate; as that for the death of Caesar; for the death of Pertinax; for the death of Henry the Third of France; and many more. But in private revenges it is not so. Nay rather, vindictive persons live the life of witches; who, as they are mischievous, so end they infortunate.
Meaning … Job, the Biblical character, gave some sound advice in the matter. He wondered if we gratefully accept from the hands of God only those things that we like, and refuse those, not to our liking. This is also true in friendship. Both good and not so good friends are to be adored. A vengeful person never allows the scars left by other’s misdeeds to heal. Had he not been so vindictive, memories of hurt and humiliation would fade off with the passage of time.
Acts of revenge, committed in full view of the public, can often have some salutary effect at times. The events such as the death of Caesar, the death of Pertinax, the death of Henry the Third of France were generally considered desirable, although these events were driven by revenge.
On the other hand, urge for revenge lying deep in one’s mind can be really toxic. Surely, but slowly, this devilish passion consumes the bearer. These people live miserably and die miserably.
Tags: Nazism and the Rise of Hitler
Nazism and the rise of Hitler
The Second World War started in September, 1939 and continued till September 1945 for six years. The Allies and the Axis powers were locked in a deadly combat that ended with the surrender of Germany and the death of Hitler. The Allies side was lead by the United States. Other important members in the Allies side were Great Britain, France, Poland, the Commonwealth nations under Britain, China and later joined by the Soviet Union. The Axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan.
The Germans and the Japanese had meted out extremely barbaric treatment to their enemies. The Jews came in for particular harsh treatment at the hand of Hitler. In Asia, the Japanese revelled in torturing and slaying their enemies, particularly the Chinese. Horrendous tales of torture and mass extermination of Jews by Hitler’s Nazi followers were routinely surfacing, but few in Germany raised their voice against it. Either they were numbed by Hitler’s mesmeric leadership to find fault with his persecution of the Jews, or were too afraid to vent their feelings for fear of reprisal by the Nazi hoodlums.
When the curtains came down finally on the war, and the guns fell silent, it was time to look back and introspect. Some did it out of moral compulsion; others did it out of fear of a revenge attack by the victorious Allied forces. Particularly for those Germans who had perpetrated the worst human rights abuses, the fear of being brought to book by Allied administrators appeared very real.
One such German was a doctor who lived with his wife and son in the vicinity of a forest. He knew the Allied would soon haunt him down and mercilessly punish him, and possibly his whole family. One day, he was discussing this imminent threat with his wife. He felt, he would either kill himself alone, or the whole family would commit mass suicide en masse. The twelve-year-old lying on his bed within the earshot heard this and was shocked. Next day, the whole family went to the nearby forest, sang and made merry. On returning home, the doctor shot himself in his head. The wife lost no time in burning out the clothes of her husband, apparently to hide the suicide act. For the young son, the gruesome killing of his father by his own hand was too devastating a scene to bear. He was shaken to the core. He feared that his mother would kill him too soon. So afraid was he that he stopped eating in his home for nine long years after that. This was in the Spring of 1945, and the boy’s name was Helmuth.
Helmuth must have realized later that his father had been a fanatic Nazi who idolized Hitler. As a true ‘patriot’, he must have committed atrocities of the worst kind against the hapless Jews. The moral revulsion and the fear of the Allies must have driven him to take his own life.
Hitler had one single goal. He had dreamed of making his fatherland the greatest and mightiest nation on earth. As the first step, he wanted to conquer the whole of Europe. Along the way, he perceived the Jews of Germany to be one of the main reasons for the misery and ignominy of his father land. So, he decided to annihilate that race. What seeded such a grotesque idea in his brain? Why did the Nazis follow him so blindly and perpetrated the worst genocide in human history? What was the motivation and the political motivation that triggered such a monstrous campaign of mass slaughter? It is essential to dissect this vulgar, jingoistic eruption of xenophobia.
After Hitler and his propaganda chief Goebbels committed suicide in the underground bunker to escape being taken to custody by the Allied commander, the War came to a formal end. Now came the time to retrospect and take remedial action. To bring to book the perpetrators of the many heinous crimes during the War, an International Court of Justice was constituted. It was to be based in Nuremberg in Germany. The Court was mandated to look into cases relating to War against Peace, War crimes and War against humanity.
Apart from starting a war, Hitler’s Germany stood accused of committing unthinkably cruel acts of punishment of specific ethnic groups. As the graphic details of the torture and mass murder of Jewish men, women and children emerged, the world seemed to be gripped with revulsion and horror. The situation cried for swift justice. The main actors of the genocide –the political leaders, the military officers and the remnants of the Nazi set-up had to be tried, and punished. With remarkable alacrity, the preparations for the trial got going. Some six million Jews, 200,000 Gypsies, one million Poles (citizens of Poland), and 70,000 Germans had been killed in the mad rush by the Nazi machinery to ‘cleanse’ the world of ‘unwanted’ people, and establish the supremacy of the German state. Even German citizens perceived to be physically and mentally unfit and those having different political views were sent to gallows. Nazi scientists and military men devised new methods to kill people ‘efficiently’ with the minimum hassles. Ruthlessness was aplenty: humanism had vanished from the German land. Killing centers like Auschwitz sprang up across Europe to cope with the flow of prisoners condemned to death.
After the trial, just about 11 top Nazi leaders were sentenced to death. Scores of other offenders were sent to jail for the rest of their lives. In hindsight, only a miniscule of the perpetrators could be called to account. The punishment, though symbolic, was tiny compared to the monumental genocidal crime committed by the Nazis.
The question arises what made Hitler to launch such a strident and ultra-nationalistic military adventure? Did he have any compulsion to turn on his own Jewish and even German citizens with such savage anger?
Some historians ascribe Hitler’s urge for revenge to the ignominy heaped on Germany in the aftermath of the First World War. Perhaps, there is some truth in it.
Birth of the Weimar Republic –
The First World War (1914-18) had two feuding sides –Germany and the Austrian Empire in one side and England, France and Russia in the other. The latter group was known as the Allies. Germany entered the War as a mighty thriving nation.
Both sides had hoped for a quick victory over its enemy. However, such optimism was misplaced. Victory eluded the warring sides for a very long time. The war dragged on and on, causing untold misery through destruction of life and property in a massive scale.
In the early stages of the War, Germany virtually ran through the defences of France and Belgium giving them a false sense of invincibility. Germany’s victory march came to a grinding halt when America entered the War in 1917 to bolster the side of the Allies (England, France and Russia). The balance in the battlefield tilted decisively in favour of the Allies. By 1918, Germany and Austria were down on their knees, ready to give up with a plea for end of fighting.
Germany’s defeat caused great changes in the country’s political structure. The Emperor, who had ruled the country thus far and led it to the ruinous war, had to abdicate, and leave the scene for good. It fell on the shoulders of the parliamentary parties to pick up the pieces and create a structure to fill the political vacuum created by the Emperor’s exit. They convened the National Assembly. Its first meeting was held in Weimer. A democratic constitution was put in place. As per the terms of the Constitution, Germany became a federal structure. The Parliament, known as the Reichstag, had to have Deputies who had to be directly elected by the people. Every adult German including women had voting rights.
The Armistice Agreement & the Treaty of Versailles ..
Faced with the prospects of imminent defeat, Germany asked for an immediate cessation all combat operations. The Americans, then leading the Allied side, agreed. Accordingly, an Armistice agreement was signed on November 11, 1918. On the same day guns fell silent on both sides. This Armistice Agreement later caused a lot of heartburn in Germany. The negotiator who signed the agreement on behalf of the Germans was later assassinated. This Agreement was followed by the Treaty of Versailles was the main peace treaty to formalize the end of World War I. It was signed on June 28, 1919.
The backlash.. Sadly for the new-born democratic government, the beginning was not quite good. Post-war negotiations with the victorious Allies had to be conducted and terms of peace finalized. Both sides met in Versailles to conclude a formal treaty. As a defeated nation, Germany had little bargaining power vis-a-vis the victorious Allies side. The latter imposed strict and virtually punitive conditions in the peace treaty. There were unworkable conditions relating to payment of compensation and surrender of land by Germany. The Allied negotiators rammed the humiliating conditions down the throats of German negotiators. The Deputies were coerced to give the peace treaty the vital parliamentary approval.
For the battle-scarred, impoverished and defeated Germany, the ignominy was simply intolerable. The people frowned on the Deputies for having ceded so much to the Allies in the Versailles negotiations. Soon, the initial good will of the new parliament vanished. People seethed in anger against the parliament, calling the Armistice negotiators as ‘November criminals’, a derogatory term later exploited by Hitler’s propaganda machine.
It is worth noting what Germany lost trying to comply with the Versailles Treaty.
1. Germany lost most of its overseas colonies.
2. With this went 10% of its population.
3. Germany’s land mass got reduced by 15%.
4. It lost 75% of its crucial iron ore reserves, and 26% of its coal deposits.
5. These war-time reparations enriched France, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania at a tremendous cost to Germany.
6. Germany was demilitarized to pre-empt any future military adventure.
7. The War-Guilt clause pinned the ‘sinner’ tag on Germany, making it the offender and destroyer of peace. The onus fell on Germany to make good all the war-time losses suffered by the Allies. In monetary terms, it worked out to a staggering 6 billion pound sterling.
8. The Allied armies exercised their control on Rhineland – the region that was so resource-rich and important for German economy. This occupation continued for much of the 1920s.
Most Germans perceived the Versailles Treaty’s terms too suffocating to bear. They vented their anger on the nascent Weimer Republic.
The Effects of the War …
The WW2 drained Europe of its life and soul. By the time the War ended, the continent was in ruins, devoid of its life, vitality and soul. The Weimer Republic (Germany in its new Avatar) bore the brunt of the War’s aftershocks. It had a huge bill to pay to the Allies. There was no escape from the crippling reparation payments. Germany was down on its knees having to meet the dues. For the folly of the erstwhile Emperor, the new Republic had to pay through the nose. The financial load was back-breaking.
Germany’s internal politics was divided. Catholics, Socialists and Democrats stood by the new Republic, where as conservative nationalists had no patience with their young government. The wise peacemakers who had signed the Armistice were publicly derided as ‘November Criminals’. The chauvinistic mindset fuelled by the exploitative terms of the Versailles Treaty shaped the political mindset in Germany. Indignation and an urge to avenge the humiliation at the hands of the Allies were rife among the common people.
The legacy of the First World War..
The First World War had inflicted severe pain, suffering and frustration to the soldiers of both sides. They spent hours and days in the muddy trenches of the battlefields, suffered casualties, saw rats feeding on friends’ corpses, with no visible end their agony. The battle had drawn on for months and years remorselessly. While the soldiers endured such severe suffering, the society became increasingly militarized. Common folks saw wars as necessary for national pride. In the media, fighting for the country was glorified and laying one’s lives in war was considered a very honourable sacrifice. Such collective fascination for army fuelled military adventurism. People seemed to prefer to be ruled by strong dictators. Democracy appeared to be a soft, slow and ineffective form of government. Clearly, love for iron-hand rule under a dictator grew with the fanatical glorification of the life in trenches. Europe was sliding, dangerously.
Political Radicalism and Economic Crises..
Just when Weimer Republic was coming into existence, two separate political movements of momentous importance were gripping Germany and Russia. These movements were
a. Sparticist League in Germany
b. Bolshevik Revolution in Russia
Spartacist League is an American name that drew inspiration from the Spartacus League of Weimar Republic in Germany. The Spartacus League was a communist movement that came into existence in Germany during World War I. The League was named after Spartacus, the legendary leader campaigner who masterminded the largest slave rebellion of the Roman Republic. The idea of slavery is anathema to Marxists, who abhor this repressive practice for its shameful disregard for human dignity and freedom. Spartacus League (Sparticist League) was the brainchild of social activists like Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and a few others. In a nutshell, Sparticist League spearheaded Communist political philosophy in Germany.
Russia had reeled under the repressive Tsarist rule for centuries. Poverty, and general backwardness made the Russians lag behind their European counterparts. The entry of Russia in the First World War cost the country huge loss of money, men and material. People’s faith in the Tsar began to falter. They failed to appreciate why Russians had to make so much sacrifice simply because the Tsar wanted it. Shortage of food items made life miserable for the common people. Discontent and resentment against the ruler soared. Tsar no longer commanded reverence historically enjoyed by the dynasty. A violent political upheaval was in the offing.
Otherwise known as The October Revolution, or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a seizure of state power by a group of armed revolutionaries called Bolsheviks. It happened on October 25, 1917. It laid the foundation for communist rule in Russia under the leadership of Lenin.
We can see that the ideological moorings of the Spartacist League and the Bolshevik Revolution were almost identical.
The Bolshevik Revolution’s success in seizing power, and the coming into being of the Soviet Union had an electrifying on Europe, particularly in Germany. In matter of weeks, Russia, a symbol of weak governance and inequality became a role model for Germans looking for salvation from their wretched fate. Such shift towards authoritarianism disturbed many other Germans.
As a counter against this shift, Catholics, Democrats and Socialists met in Weimer to boost the authority of the sagging Weimer Republic. Their effort was successful at the beginning. Taking the help of war veterans, the Weimer Republic crushed the anti-government moves of the Spartacist League activists. These groups decided to dissolve the League, and formed the Communist Party of Germany.
The chasm between the Socialists and the Communists widened further. Although both groups to the ideas of Hitler, they could not join hands to form a common front against Hitler. Germany became a divided nation.
Economic crisis plunges Germany deeper in crisis … By 1923, Germany’s economy went into a downward spiral. Inflation sky-rocketed, and goods became scare. Life became unbearable for the ordinary people.
Germany had taken huge loans for fighting the war. Repayment of these loans fell due. To make matters worse, war reparations as per the Versailles Treaty had to be paid. All these payments had to be made in gold. Germany’s gold reserves began to be depleted sharply.
Germany defaulted in its payment. France, as the debtor, refused to grant any moratorium. Instead, it occupied Ruhr, the thriving coal mines hub of Germany. The beleaguered, cash-starved Germany protested, but it fell in deaf ears. In desperation, Germany began to print notes copiously with scant regard to the catastrophic consequences such step could cause. Inflation soared at astounding pace. The German currency fell almost every minute of the day, touching a few trillion marks for each U.S. dollar. With a worthless currency, Germany became a nation to be pitied, not treated with any respect. Germans walked with their head hung low.
Finally, America intervened through a rescue package called the Dawes Plan. The creditor nations were prevailed upon to stagger the repayments to give Germany a breathing space.
The Years of Depression follow……….
As America stepped in to inject some cash as short-term loans, the ailing German economy showed some signs of revival. This was between the years 1924-28. But, this little joy was short-lived. Wall Street Exchange crashed in 1929, triggering a panic sell-off of shares in America. This caused a severe turmoil, as the Stocks lost almost half of their worth. The U.S economy slipped into Depression.
German economy was battered by the unforeseen downturn in America. German industrial production plummeted by 40%. Unemployment soared. By 1932, six million jobs had been lost and the economy’s fall had begun to hit the average German very hard. Un employed men and women wandered in city streets soliciting work. Long queues were seen in front of Employment Exchanges.
Angst and fear gripped the middle and salaried class as their savings amounts’ net worth fell in tandem with the fall in the value of the national currency. To earn a living, desperate people started to resort to petty crimes.
The middle class, once the backbone of the German society, began to get progressively impoverished. They feared soon they would be forced to do manual works to earn a living, or will simply be un-employed. This process of gradual decline of economic and social status of large sections of the population is called ‘proletaranisation’. Most middle class people feared they would soon be sucked into this category.
The Weimer Constitution had inherent weaknesses that made it weak to fend off dictatorial tendencies. Because of this, the Weimer Republic became a weak barrier to stop dictators from taking over the government.
What were the flaws of the Weimer Constitution …..
a. The Constitution stipulated that Deputies would be chosen through a process of proportional representation. In other words, a party’s share of Deputy seats would be directly proportional to its vote share in the election. Since there were a number of political parties in Germany at that time, no party could win a decisively larger number of votes. As a result, its share of Deputy seats could never cross the half-way mark. This made coalition forming a prerequisite for forming a government.
b. The other infirmity was the Article 48 of the Constitution. It enabled the President to declare emergency, suspend civil rights and rule by decree.
Instability of government became the order of the day. Cabinets were formed and dissolved in quick succession. In just about two and half years, 20 cabinets were formed and dissolved. The provision of Article 48 was invoked quite frequently by the President. People lost confidence in the system and were greatly frustrated.
Hitler’s rise to power …
Tags: The One Who Survived