This scene further focuses our attention on the use of sheep imagery in connection to money and breeding. Here Shakespeare plays on the words "use", "usury", and "ewes", all of which will be punned throughout the play. All the sheep imagery is on Shylock's side throughout, for he is fleecing the Christians, breeding the ewes. He therefore mentions Jacob as his defense for taking interest, and we can note later that Shylock's wife is named Leah, the same name that Jacob's first wife had. Shylock is also able to make his money breed like sheep through the charging of interest. On the other hand, the Christians have Jason and the Golden Fleece. This image is used in connection with Bassanio, the risk-taker, who risks everything to gain everything. The same image will figure later with Antonio, who is represented as a wether, a castrated sheep. Thus the concept is reinforced that Antonio does not make his money breed because he refuses to charge interest.
Despite Portia's lack of formal legal training, she wins her case by referring to the details of the exact language of the law. Her success involves prevailing on technicalities rather than the merits of the situation. She uses the tactics of what is sometimes called a Philadelphia lawyer . However, the concept of rhetoric and its abuse is also brought to light by Portia – highlighting the idea that an unjust argument may win through eloquence, loopholes and technicalities, regardless of the moral question at hand – and thus provoking the audience to consider that issue.
The editors of the Moby™ Shakespeare produced their text long before scholars fully understood the proper grounds on which to make the thousands of decisions that Shakespeare editors face. The Folger Library Shakespeare Editions, on which the Folger Digital Texts depend, make this editorial process as nearly transparent as is possible, in contrast to older texts, like the Moby™, which hide editorial interventions. The reader of the Folger Shakespeare knows where the text has been altered because editorial interventions are signaled by square brackets (for example, from Othello : “ If she in chains of magic were not bound, ”), half-square brackets (for example, from Henry V : “With blood and sword and fire to win your right,”), or angle brackets (for example, from Hamlet : “O farewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved/you?”). At any point in the text, you can hover your cursor over a bracket for more information.