The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stategems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
(V.i. 82– 86)
By Act V, with Shylock stowed safely
offstage, Shakespeare returns to the comedic aspects of his play.
He lightens the mood with a harmless exchange of rings that serves
to reunite the lovers, and he brings Antonio’s lost ships back to
port. Because Shylock has been such a large, powerful presence in
the play, and because his decimation at the hands of the Venetians
is profoundly disturbing, the comedy in Belmont never fully escapes
the shadow of the troublesome issues that precede it. The lovers’
happiness, then, is most likely little more than a brief passing
moment. This passage can be read as a meditation on the transitory
nature of the comforts one finds in a wearisome world. Lorenzo,
ordering music to celebrate Portia’s homecoming, reflects that music
has the power to change a man’s nature. Much like a wild beast that
can be tamed by the sound of a trumpet, a man can be transformed
into something less “stockish, hard, and full of rage” (V.i.