The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice between 1596-1598. It is usually classified as a romantic comedy though its dramatic scenes are hugely popular and some speeches amongst characters like Shylock and Portia have incited much study and debate.

The play begins with Bassanio, a young man and a Venetian of noble rank. Bassanio would like to earn the hand of the rich heiress Portia, but since he's squandered away his wealth he needs some help reaching the 3000 ducat fee that guarantees him as a suitor. Bassanio asks his friend Antonio, a merchant of Venice who is wealthy and has previously come to his aid.

Antonio agrees to back Bassanio but doesn't have the funds to do so directly, so he insists upon a bond lender. The Jewish moneylender Shylock steps in and Antonio guarantees to pay the loan for Bassanio. Their history together is not positive since Antonio has already displayed anti-Semitic behavior towards Shylock. Shylock commits to granting the loan with the condition of that Bassanio will give Shylock a pound of his own flesh if the loan is not repaid in due time.

Antonio is alarmed by the deal and surprised when he's see that no interest is asked for in the loan. He signs the contract. Bassanio gets his money to woo Portia, and departs for Belmont with his servant and friend Gratiano. Bassanio asked Gratiano to accompany him despite his tendency of sometimes being overly talkative and flippant, and advises him to practice self control.

Portia has no lack of admirers. Before his death her father left that asks any prospective suitors to choose from three caskets. One casket if made of gold, one of silver, and one of lead. The Prince Of Morocco decides upon the gold casket, commenting that by acquiring Portia he will have what many men covet. The second, the Prince of Arragon, selects the silver casket and proclaims himself full of merit to win the lady's hand. Both of these suitors leave empty-handed.

Bassanio decides upon the unlikely choice of the lead casket and win's Portia, understanding the baseness of its material and the message of its slogan, "Who chooseth me must give hazard all he hath."

When Shylock gets news that Antonio's fleet has been lost at sea, he fears for his returned bond money. He brings Antonio before court. In Belmont, Bassanio receives word that Antonio hasn't been able to pay the fee required for him to court Portia. Portia and Bassanio still marry, at the same time as her handmaiden Nerissa and Gratiano. After the nuptials Bassanio and Gratiano leave to Venice to try and save Antonio's life with money offered from Portia. Portia has also secretly sent her servant, Balthazar, for advice from a cousin and lawyer in Padua, Bellario.

When Bassanio arrives in Venice, Shylock refuses his offer of 6000 ducats, double the original sum of the loan, and insists for his pound of flesh from Antonio. Portia disguises herself as a doctor, Balthazar, who asks Shylock to show mercy.Shylock stubbornly refuses and insists on the flesh.

When Portia, still disguised, insists for the deal to be honored and that Shylock cut only a pound of flesh and no more. He exhaustedly agrees to accept the bond money. Shylock is then forced to convert to Christianity.

Bassanio did not recognize his wife in disguise but offers her a present, letting her take his gloves but with hesitation his wedding ring. Finally Portia and Nerissa taunt their husbands for not realizing their identities. Portia shares with Antonio that his ships have not been lost but have returned to harbor safely.