Merchant of Venice Commentary provides a comprehensive
description of every act with explanations and translations
for all important quotes.
Act I. Scene I. - Venice. A Street.
Antonio a wealthy merchant is not happy since he
is worried about his enterprises. Antonio's friend Bassanio
owes Antonio money but unable to pay his debts, asks
Antonio for more money so he may marry the wealthy Portia
and so pay back his friend. Antonio has no money but
tells Bassanio to use his name to try to get a loan...
The play begins with the picture of one depressed Antonio.
Antonio is a wealthy "Merchant of Venice" but he is
not happy. His friends Salarino and Salanio suggest
he is worried about his ventures or business enterprises.
Antonio's wealth comes from the ships he owns and Salarino
comments that Antonio is worried for his ships which
could easily be at peril from storms or pirates. One
of Antonio's friends is Bassanio. Bassanio has a problem;
he still owes Antonio a great deal of money and wants
to pay it back. He has a plan. If Antonio lends him
still more money, he will pursue the very beautiful
and wealthy Lady Portia whose "sunny locks / Hang on
her temples like a golden fleece;" (Line 170). He suspects
she likes him and says, "sometimes from her eyes I did
receive fair speechless messages:" (Lines 164-165).
Her hand in marriage will give Bassanio the money he
needs to pay back Antonio. Antonio agrees, but he has
no money, all his wealth is tied up at sea in his ships.
He will however help, urging Bassanio to look for moneylenders,
adding that his good name will help. "Try what my credit
can in Venice do:" Antonio urges (Line 181).
Act I. Scene II. - Belmont. A Room in
Portia: "I remember him well, and I remember him worthy
of thy praise."
Portia laments that she has yet to find her special
someone. She famously complains about the faults of
all her past suitors and her father's will which
chooses her husband for her. Portia's father will
choose Portia's husband by means of three caskets,
one gold, one silver and one lead. A suitor must choose
one of the three caskets, a picture of Portia being
contained in the correct casket. When a suitor chooses
a casket, he makes his worthiness to Portia clear, this
devise ensuring that only the right man for Portia will
marry his daughter. Though Portia does not like any
of her past suitors, she does however, remember one
man fondly, Bassanio...
Within a room in Portia's house at Belmont, a tired
Portia laments her situation, "By my troth, Nerissa,
my little body is aweary [tired] of this great world"
(Lines 1-2). She is also tired of her continuous stream
of suitors, mocking each in comedic fashion. Nor is
she happy about her father 's will denying her the right
to choose for herself her future husband.
Nerissa tells Portia that her father was wise:
Your father was ever virtuous, and holy men
at their death have good inspirations; therefore, the
lottery that he hath devised in these three chests of
gold, silver, and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning
chooses you, will, no doubt, never be chosen by any
rightly one but one who you shall rightly love. (Lines
(Your father was ever virtuous and holy men near their
deaths often have good inspirations. Thus the lottery
your father has devised whereby a man must choose between
three caskets, one gold, one silver and one lead, each
proving his true desire, will no doubt ensure that the
man you will marry will be the one who you will rightly
will love), (Lines 30-36).
Of her "Neapolitan prince", the "County
Palatine", "The French lord, Monsieur Le Bon",
a young English baron (Falconbridge), "the Scottish
lord," and the "young German, the Duke of Saxony's
nephew", Portia dislikes them all. So far none
have taken up the challenge for Portia. To lose is to
agree never to marry, nor ever see Portia again. She
remembers, Bassanio fondly however: "I remember him
well, and I remember him worthy of thy [my] praise"
Act I. Scene III. - Venice. A public Place.
Bassanio gets his loan of three thousand ducats
from a Jewish moneylender named Shylock. The price for
not paying the debt back is high, namely a pound of
flesh from Antonio, but Antonio is not worried. His
ships (and wealth) come back a month before the debt
Back in Venice, Bassanio secures his three thousand
ducats from a rich Jewish named Shylock. Shylock hates
Antonio and has little love for Bassanio. Antonio tells
Shylock to make the terms of the loan those he would
give any enemy.
Feigning friendship towards Antonio he agrees to lend
the money. However there is a catch; if Bassanio does
not repay the debt within the specified two months,
Shylock who hates Antonio can by agreement, cut from
him a pound of flesh. Antonio is not worried, "My ships
come home a month before the day" (Line 183).