Act IV. Scene I. - Venice. A Court of
The Duke of Venice attempts to convince Shylock
to let Antonio pay back Bassanio's debt. Shylock
refuses, threatening the Duke that if he ignores their
agreement, Venice will lose credibility as a place for
Portia, disguised now as a man, defends Antonio,
winning his life, through the technicality defense that
Shylock can take only a pound of flesh and no more,
a clearly impossible task. Furthermore she argues that
Shylock has conspired to murder, an offense that is
punishable by asset confiscation and death in Venice.
A compromise is reached whereby Shylock must become
Christian and give half his assets to Jessica when he
Back in Venice, things don't look good for Antonio.
He has forfeited the debt and Shylock wants justice.
Shylock is unlikely to show mercy easily, the Duke commenting
that Shylock is "A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
/ Uncapable of pity, void and empty / From any dram
of mercy" (Lines 4-6).
The Duke attempts to appeal to Shylock's sense of "human
gentleness and love," (Line 25). Shylock, however will
have none of it; he wants his justice and he wants it
delivered by the court, reminding the Duke that "If
you deny it [Shylock's pound of flesh from Antonio],
let the danger light / Upon your charter and your city's
freedom" (Lines 38-39).
Shylock explains that he would rather have, "A weight
of carrion flesh than to receive / Three thousand ducats:"
To the Duke questioning his motives for the pound
of flesh, Shylock explains that he can offer no reason
other than "a certain loathing I bear Antonio, that
I follow thus / A losing suit [for Antonio] against
him" (Lines 60-62).
Bassanio pledges six thousand ducats for his friend,
"For thy [your] three thousand ducats here is six" (Lines
83-84). Shylock will not be deterred from his revenge:
"If every ducat in six thousand ducats / Were in six
parts and every part a ducat, I would not draw them;
I would have my bond" (Lines 85-87).
The Duke intercedes asking, "How shalt thou hope for
mercy, rendering none?" (Lines 87-88). Shylock replies
that since the Duke and court all have slaves with which
they can do as they please, so too, can Shylock of Antonio,
since his right to him, like that of using slaves has
been "dearly bought;" (Line 100).
Shylock reminds the Duke of his obligation to uphold
the law commenting that, "If you deny me, fie upon your
law! There is no force in the decrees of Venice. I stand
for judgement: answer; shall I have it?" (Lines 101-103).
Seeing no other way to stall time, the Duke replies
that, "Upon my power I may dismiss this court, / Unless
Bellario, a learned doctor, / Whom I have sent for to
determine this, / Come here [arrives] to-day" (Lines
The Duke is brought a letter from the eminent and well
regarded Dr Bellario. It explains that he cannot make
it, but that instead, he will send a very learned colleague
of his in his place. Nerissa, disguised as Portia's
clerk, arrives, "dressed like a lawyer's clerk." Portia
later arrives "dressed like a doctor of laws."
The Duke asks Portia if she is familiar with the nature
of the dispute. She answers that she is. She claims
that Shylock must be merciful, claiming that the quality
of mercy is "twice bless'd; / It blesseth him that gives
and him that takes:" (Lines 186-187). Shylock disagrees,
demanding his justice.
When Bassanio pledges twice the sum owed, Portia explains
that "There is no power in Venice / Can alter a decree
established:" adding that this case will form a precedent
(Line 218). Portia explains that since the bond is forfeit,
"the Jew may claim / A pound of flesh, to be by him
cut off / Nearest the merchant's heart" (Line 231).
This shocking advise by Portia (still disguised as
a man) overjoys Shylock no end and Portia implores Shylock
to be merciful and take "thrice [three times] thy money
offer'd thee [to you]" (Line 226). Shylock will not
and demands a verdict. Portia implores Shylock to have
a surgeon on hand to stop the bleeding.
Shylock replies that it is not in the contract. Says
Shylock, "I cannot find it [the surgeon provision]:'tis
[it is] not in the bond" (Line 263).
Antonio resigns himself to the worse (Portia, the doctor
of laws appears to have just taken Shylock's side) and
Bassanio explains that he would be happy to lose his
wife: "I would lose them all, ay, sacrifice them all,
/ Here to this devil [Shylock], to deliver you" (Lines
Portia comically replies, "Your wife would give you
little thanks for that, / If she were by to hear you
make the offer" (Lines 289-290).
Gratiano makes a similar statement to which his wife
the disguised Nerissa replies, "'Tis well you offer
it behind her [Nerissa's] back; / The wish would make
else an unquiet house" (it is just as well you make
this offer behind her back. If she knew of it, there
would be no end of trouble), (Line 294).
Portia makes her judgment. Since the "bond doth give
thee here no jot of blood;" (the bond gives you no right
to blood), the words only refer to the flesh, Shylock
may have his pound of flesh if he draws no blood (Line
This is impossible. Shylock cannot have his bond.
Secondly, as Portia explains, it is an offense to take
the life of any citizen of Venice directly or indirectly.
The demand for the pound of flesh qualifies.
As such, the state can have half Shylock's assets,
the other half going to the citizen in question and
Shylock may be hanged at the Duke's discretion or will...
A compromise is however reached. Antonio suggests
that Shylock not lose half his assets to the state,
and that the other half of his assets should be given
to his daughter upon his death. Shylock is spared death
and must become a Christian, a verdict all involved
can live with.
The scene ends with a grateful Antonio and Bassanio.
The Duke asks Portia to have dinner with him but Portia
politely turns the Duke down, saying she must leave
Padua tonight (Lines 402-405). Similarly, Portia politely
refuses Bassanio's offer of "Three thousand ducats,"
which was the sum originally due to Shylock (Line 412).
Bassanio politely insists that Portia whom he does
not recognize take some gift from them in remembrance
and appreciation. She insists on his wedding ring. He
refuses, he was told by his wife never to surrender
it following his marriage.
"Good sir, this ring was given me by my wife; / And,
when she put it on, she made me vow / That I should
never sell nor give nor lose it" Bassanio explains (Line
443). However Antonio later talks Bassanio into giving
away the ring. This he does, giving it to Gratiano to
give to Portia.
Act IV. Scene II. - The Same. A Street.
Portia ensures that Shylock will sign a deed making
the verdict binding. Gratiano meets Portia and gives
her Bassanio's ring.
Nerissa tells Portia that she too will get the ring
of her husband (Line 13). Portia decides to make both
men regret their rash action (giving away their rings),