The Merchant of Venice

play by Shakespeare set in the Republic of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is a play written by William Shakespeare. The date the play was written in unknown, but the play was mentioned in 1598 in Francis Mere's Wit's Treasury. A date of 1596-1597 is now accepted. Shakespeare's source was Il Pecorone by Ser Giovanni, a 14th-century Florentine writer.

The Merchant of Venice was first published in 1600. It was again published in 1619, and then in 1623 in the First Folio, a collection of all of Shakespeare's plays. The play has been made into television programs many times and also into some movies. Three operas are based on the play.

Story change

Bassanio is an aristocratic but poor young man from Venice. He has fallen in love with Portia, a beautiful young lady of Belmont. Bassanio needs money to woo the lady. He asks his friend Antonio, the merchant of Venice, for a loan.

Antonio's money is tied up in business ventures. Antonio borrows money from a Jewish moneylender named Shylock. Antonio signs a bond agreeing to give Shylock a pound of his flesh if the money is not repaid on a certain date. Bassanio uses the money to travel to Belmont. He wins Portia's love.

Antonio cannot repay the borrowed money on time. Shylock insists on the pound of flesh as stated in the bond. The case goes to court. Portia disguises herself as a lawyer. She says that Shylock's bond is cruel. His insistence on the terms of the bond is just, but justice must be softened with mercy but Shylock does not relent. Portia then traps Shylock in the loopholes of his own bond and thus Shylock is not only forced to release Antonio but also give away his wealth and religion.

Summary change

This plot takes place in Venice and Belmont. Shylock-The Jew, a usurer and Antonio-The merchant of Venice, were rivals. Antonio's friend who was in love with the noble lady Portia needed money to be able to woo her. He turns to his friend and asks for money but Antonio had no money at that time to lend his friend. They decided to go to Shylock and borrow money that would be returned after Antonio's ships arrived with the merchandise. Shylock made Antonio sign a friendly bond stating that a pound of flesh of Antonio would be given to Shylock if he failed to return the money in three months.

Bassanio went to woo Portia and passed the test that her late father had kept for the men who would woo Portia. Portia herself in love with Bassanio accepted him as her husband willingly. Portia's lady in waiting, Nerissa and Bassanio's servant, Gratanio asked to be married along with them. Portia and Bassanio consented. News arrived from Antonio that all his ships were lost and he could not pay Shylock the money. The day of payment being passed, the cruel Jew demanded Antonio's pound of flesh to be given to him in front of the duke.

After Portia parted with her husband , she wrote to her relative, a counsellor, Dr.Bellario asking him to help her solve the case. The counsellor provided her with advice and the equipment needed to solve the case. Portia dressed as a man along with Nerissa appears in court without her husband knowing. She asks to look at the bond and states in front of the duke that the bond stated that only a pound of flesh was to be cut off Antonio's body and hence no drop of blood should be taken from Antonio's body. For conspiring against the life of Antonio, Shylock's wealth was divided between the state and Antonio who decided to give it to Shylock if he promised to leave it to his daughter after he died. The rest half of the wealth would be given to him if he turned to Christianity which he did.

On returning home to Belmont, Portia and Nerissa disclose their attempt to save Antonio's life. Antonio's ships return to Venice safely the play ends in good spirit.