William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, famous for the lines, "prick us do we not laugh, wrong us will we not avenge", tells the story of love, honour and justice.
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The Merchant of Venice

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Merchant of Venice Play

The Merchant of Venice begins with Antonio's friend Bassanio owing Antonio money. Unnable to pay his debts, Bassanio asks Antonio for more money so he may marry the wealthy and beautiful Portia and so pay back his friend. Antonio has no money to spare but tells Bassanio to use his good name to get a loan... Meanwhile, Portia laments that she has yet to find her special someone. She complains about her past suitors and her late father's will which chooses her husband for her. This will chooses 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. Losing means never seeing Portia again. Though Portia did not like any of her past suitors, she does remember Bassanio...

Bassanio gets his loan from a Jewish merchant named Shylock. The price for not repaying is a pound of flesh from Antonio, but Antonio is not worried. His ships (and wealth) come back a month before the debt is due... Jessica, ashamed of her father Shylock, plans to elope with Lorenzo. Jessica disguised as a boy and with some of her father's jewels and gold, will be waiting at her house for Lorenzo... Shylock learns that Bassanio will be having a masque (masked ball). Shylock tells Jessica to stay at home and ignore the Christian revelries, which Shylock despises.

The Moroccan Prince takes the three-casket challenge for Portia, choosing the gold casket and losing. Lorenzo and Jessica escape successfully from Shylock... Shylock is furious at losing his daughter, his gold and his precious jewels to a Christian and knowing Antonio was partially involved, swears revenge... At Belmont, The Prince of Arragon chooses the silver casket, going home empty handed. Shylock makes it clear that he no longer wants repayment of Bassanio's debt. He would prefer his pound of flesh since he sees Antonio as the source of all his miseries... Bassanio arrives to court Portia who is reluctant never to see Bassanio again should he fail the casket challenge. Bassanio chooses correctly. Bassanio will marry Portia, Bassanio's friend Gratiano planning to marry Nerissa, Portia's maid. Without money, Antonio forfeits his debt to Shylock, standing to lose a pound of his flesh and his life for helping Bassanio. Portia offers to pay Bassanio's debt twelvefold... Antonio pleads to Shylock to let him pay back Bassanio's debt but Shylock wants Antonio's pound of flesh... Portia and Nerissa leave for Venice to save Antonio, disguised as men.

Portia, disguised as a man, defends Antonio, winning his life, through the technicality defense that Shylock can take a pound of flesh and no more, an impossible task. Furthermore, she argues Shylock conspired to murder, an offense punishable by asset confiscation and death. A compromise is reached whereby Shylock must become a Christian and give half his assets to Jessica when he dies. Still disguised as men, Portia and Nerissa trick Bassanio and Gratiano into giving them their wedding rings. Portia and Nerissa arrive back in Belmont and ask to see their husband's wedding rings... Much comedy ensues as the two men attempt to make excuses... Portia ends Bassanio's and Gratiano's suffering by explaining their role in Venice. The two men are embarrassed that they could not recognise their own wives...


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act II
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V, Scene VI, Scene VII, Scene VIII, Scene IX

Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Act IV
Scene I
, Scene II

Act V
Scene I

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