How was Shakespeare used the first two scenes to sustain the audience’s interest and how would a modern and Shakespearean audience differ in their response?
The first two scenes are important in this play as it is packed with humor and engaging subjects and in this case necessary to have these to have the audience not lose interest.
Shakespeare purposely exaggerates Portia’s reaction towards her possible suitors in order to keep her audience interested. For example, ‘’God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man. In truth I know it is a sin to be a mocker, but he! - why, he hath a horse better than the Neapolitan’s, a better bad habit of frowning than the Count Palatine: he is every man in no man.’ This shows that Portia is a judgeful and critical person although it has been shown that she is educated and comes from a wealthy family. Although she is a Christian, it is shown that she is not behaving in a Christian way and she knows she isn’t as she says, ‘I know it is a sin to be a mocker, but he!’
Shakespeare’s racist and sexist humor and comments would have mostly sustained the audience’s interest, although it may raise eyebrows. For example, Portia says, ‘If he hath the condition of a saint, and a complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.’ A shakespearean audience, by their standards of humor, would have found this amusing. However, a modern audience would have frowned and not have accepted this in today’s terms as people are way less accepting towards racism. The ‘sh’ sound of the word ‘shrive’ puts emphasis on that word to show aggression and power, and not very ladylike. Also, the ‘sh’ sound also produces a shocking and sudden sound, also for the same reason. Also, shrive and wive rhymes, the give the up and down sound when you say the sentence.
Shakespeare presents the relationship between Portia and Bassiano and Shakespeare also describes Portia like an angel in the play in order to keep the audience...