Merchant of Venice Eng Lit Paper Watch
My advice is to just get quotes for every character and theme; i learned so many so i could talk about nearly anything, and although it may be hard to learn them all, some quotes are quite versatile and useful for many things. I doubt you will learn them all in a few days, but by the time your ACTUAL gcse's come next year, you should be prepared!! Start learning early. Make a quote bank, and learn it.
Anyway, learn quotes about the important characters: 1. Shylock, 2. Portia, and 3. Antonio and Bassanio (Ant and Bass are basically the same people, only their friendship is important between them...Antonio on his own is rather a boring character, he is only interesting with his interactions with Bass and Shylock with love and hatred). These 4 characters are the big ones - i wouldn't waste time learning anything about Gratiano or Lorenzo or Launcelot or whatever unless you really like them, and there will always be a question on either a big character or a big theme (even if it is a disguised question)
Big themes are.... 1. Love and friendship (between Portia and Bassanio, Ant and Bass etc) 2. Revenge/Hatred (Ant and Shylock and just anything that shows hatred!) 3. Money/greed (very big topic for shylock). 4. Prejudice (but you can include this as part of hatred). 5. Mercy - basically Portia sees mercy, how the rest of the christians see mercy, and how Shylock see mercy (hint, he doesn't!)
Then consider how each is related; for example, money vs love - Does Bass only go for Portia out of love, or for her wealth? Is Bass friends with Antonio just to fund his expeditions to court women? (Initially yes, the friendship is very one-sided - but by the end of the play we see Bass has a newfound appreciation of Ant, shown by how he was willing to sacrifice everything for Ant, there are a couple of good quotes in Act 4 scene 1 for this in the trial scene). There is a quote for everything - you just gotta find it.
Smaller themes include: 6. Deception/Appearance vs Reality (with all the women dressing up, the dramatic irony in the Court scene, with just anything that has a hidden meaning/motive behind it like with the caskets too.) 7. Luck/Misfortune (very small theme, luck with caskets and misfortune with Antonio's ships) I wouldn't stress too much about the caskets. A question would probs never be centered around these themes. Just on the off chance you can include something about it, it might help, but isn't necessary.
My exam question was about (I don't know whether im actually allowed to say it word for word, so ill paraphrase) how Shylock feels towards Jessica and whether it's right for him to feel that way (a "how far do you agree", question), essentially. On the surface it may be tricky, but its just saying why Shylock hates Jessica and whether she deserves it or not. For example, he hates the fact that she gave his wife's ring away - this was a cruel act and so we sympathise with Shylock. Yet, Jessica is also the poor, oppressed Jew of the daughter, whose "house is hell", and therefore the argument goes both ways. And you can include the big themes in nearly any question: like money - we can consider how Shylock values his money over his daughter. Or revenge/hatred, the way he would rather his daughter be "dead at my foot and the jewels in his ear" (both revenge and money in that quote!).
If you are doing AQA, i don't really know how your exam paper is structured. For OCR we got a choice of 2 questions, 1 is looking at an extract they give us and exploring how something is 'presented' and elsewhere in the play too, or the other question is a statement and we write about how far we agree with it. I did the statement one, which i explained above.
To summarise....learn lots and lots of quotes, but make sure you understand what they mean and what they show. Sorry if it's different for Aqa, but it really shouldn't be!! You should have an idea by now about what could be on your exam paper if you have done the practise paper/specimen, and so you should know whether to focus on themes or characters or whatever the question usually asks about. Either way, learn quotes is my advice.
Hope its useful, GL