the merchant of venice


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A young Venetian, Bassanio, needs a loan of three thousand ducats so that he can marry Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress. He asks for help to his friend Antonio, a merchant. Antonio is short of money because all his wealth is invested in his ships. He goes to a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who hates Antonio because of Antonio’s behaviour towards him.

However, Shylock agrees to make a short-term loan, on a condition – the loan must be repaid in three months or Shylock will take out a pound of flesh from Antonio. Antonio agrees, confident that his ships will return in time.

Portia’s father decided that whoever was going to marry his daughter would have to pass a test. The suitor had to choose between three caskets, only if he found the one containing the portrait of Portia, he could marry her. The Princes of Morocco and Arragon fail the test and are rejected.

When Bassanio prepares to travel to Belmont for the test, his friend Lorenzo escapes with Shylock’s daughter, Jessica. Bassanio chooses the lead casket, which contains her picture, and Portia happily agrees to marry him immediately.

Meanwhile, two of Antonio’s ships have been wrecked and Antonio’s creditors are pressurising him for repayment. Bassanio, knew this, came back in Venice. Portia follows him, accompanied by her maid, Nerissa. They are disguised as a male lawyer and his clerk. When the time for repayment ended, Shylock demands his pound of flesh. Even when Bassanio offers much more than the amount in repayment, Shylock, now infuriated by the loss of his daughter, is intent to looking for revenge on the Christians. The Duke refuses to intervene.

Portia arrives in her disguise to defend Antonio. Given the authority of judgment by the Duke, Portia decides that Shylock can have the pound of flesh as long as he doesn’t draw blood, as it is against the law to shed a Christian’s blood. Since it is obvious that to draw a pound of flesh would kill Antonio, Shylock is denied his suit. Moreover, for conspiring to murder a Venetian citizen, Portia orders that he should forfeit all his wealth. Half is to go to Venice, and half to Antonio.

Antonio gives his half back to Shylock on the condition that Shylock bequeaths it to his disinherited daughter, Jessica. Shylock must also convert to Christianity. A broken Shylock accepts. News arrives that Antonio’s remaining ships have returned safely. With the exception of Shylock, all celebrate a happy ending to the affair.

 

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