THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Antonio was a wealthy and successful merchant in Venice. His ships sailed on practically every ocean, and he conducted business with Portugal, Mexico, England, and India. Although he was proud of his wealth, he was very generous with it and enjoyed using it to relieve the difficulties of his acquaintances, the most notable of whom was his cousin Bassanio.
Bassanio, like many other gay and chivalrous gentlemen, was irresponsible and extravagant. When he ran out of money and was unable to pay his debts, he requested additional assistance from Antonio.
“To you, Antonio,” he added, “I owe the most in terms of money and affection, and I’ve devised a strategy to repay everything if you would assist me.”
“Tell me what I can do, and it will be done,” his friend said.
Then, Bassanio added, “In Belmont, there is a wealthy woman, and famous suitors come from all over the world to court her, not only because she is wealthy but also because she is attractive and honorable.” She looked at me so favorably the last time we met that I am confident I could win her love if I had the money to go to Belmont, where she resides.
Antonio answered, “All my fortunes are at sea, so I have no cash on hand; fortunately, my credit is outstanding in Venice, and I will borrow for you the money you need.”
At this time, there lived in Venice a wealthy moneylender called Shylock. Antonio detested and disliked this man intensely, and he treated him with the utmost cruelty and contempt. He would push him over his barrier like a rat and even spit on him. Shylock suffered all these humiliations with a patient shrug, yet he cherished a desire for vengeance against the wealthy merchant. Because of Antonio, both his dignity and his business were damaged. “Were it not for him,” thought Shylock, “I would be half a million ducats wealthier.” On the market and anywhere else he can, he criticizes the interest rate I charge and lends money freely.
Therefore, when Bassanio approached him, requesting a loan of 3,000 ducats to Antonio for three months, Shylock concealed his hate and turned to Antonio, saying, “As harshly as you have treated me, I would be your friend and share your affection.” Therefore, I will lend you the money at no interest. However, as a joke, you must sign a contract that states, “If you do not repay me within three months, I will have the right to a pound of your flesh, to be cut from whatever part of your body I choose.”
No, Bassanio said to his companion, “You shall not take such a risk for me.”
“Fear not,” answered Antonio, “my ships will arrive home a month early.” I agree to sign the bond.”
Thus, Bassanio was given the resources to go to Belmont and court the beautiful Portia. Jessica, the attractive daughter of the moneylender, fled her father’s home with her boyfriend the same night, taking ducats and valuable jewels from her father’s hoards. Shylock’s sorrow and rage were awful to see. His affection for her turned to hatred. He wailed, “I wish she were dead at my feet with the gems in her ear.” The only consolation he could find was in the news of Antonio’s heavy losses, as several of his ships were drowned. “Let him examine his bond,” Shylock continued, “let him study his bond.”
In the meantime, Bassanio had arrived in Belmont and visited the lovely Portia. As he had informed Antonio, he discovered that the rumors of her riches and beauty had attracted suitors from far and wide. To all of them, though, Portia had only one answer. She would only accept a man who promised to respect her father’s wishes. These circumstances scared away several enthusiastic suitors. To win Portia’s heart and hand, one had to correctly identify which of three caskets contained her portrait. If he guessed correctly, Portia would be his wife; if he guessed incorrectly, he was obligated by promise not to reveal which casket he had chosen, never to marry anyone, and to leave immediately.
The caskets were made of gold, silver, and lead. The gold one was inscribed, “Whoever chooses me will have what many men seek.” The silver one said, “Whoever chooses me will get what he deserves.” While on the lead were the words, “Whoever chooses me must offer and risk all he has.” As courageous as he was black, the Prince of Morocco was among the first to submit to this examination. He picked the gold coffin because, according to him, neither lead nor silver could hold her portrait. Therefore, he picked the golden casket and discovered within a symbol of what many men desire: death.
Following him was the arrogant Prince of Arragon, who, stating, “Let me take what I deserve; certainly I deserve the woman,” picked the silver casket (box) and discovered a fool’s head inside. He exclaimed, “Did I deserve nothing more than a fool’s head?”
Then Bassanio arrived, and Portia would have prevented him from making his decision out of concern that he would choose incorrectly. because she loved him as much as he loved her. “But,” Bassanio said, “let me select now, because as I am, I live on the rack.”
Then, Portia instructed her attendants to bring music and play while her brave lover chose. And Bassanio took the oath and approached the caskets while the musicians played gently in the background. “Mere outer appearance is to be scorned,” he stated. The world is still fooled by decoration, therefore I will not wear showy gold or gleaming metal. “I choose the lead casket; let happiness be the result!” And upon opening it, he saw a painting of Portia, and he asked her if it were true that she was his.
“Yes,” said Portia. “I am yours, and this house is yours, and with them I give you this ring, from which you must never part.”
And Bassanio, unable to control his delight, found the words to promise that he would never give up the ring as long as he lived.
Then, all of a sudden, his happiness was destroyed as he heard news from Venice that Antonio had been bankrupted and that Shylock had demanded from the Duke the execution of the bond, which entitled him to one pound of the merchant’s flesh. Portia was as concerned as Bassanio upon learning that his friend was in danger.
“First,” she said, “take me to church and marry me, and then immediately go to Venice to assist your friend.” “You should take with you sufficient money to repay his loan twentyfold.”
Soon after Bessanio had gone, Portia went to Venice dressed as a lawyer and with an introduction from the renowned attorney Bellario, whom the Duke of Venice had summoned to settle the legal difficulties posed by Shylock’s claim on Antonio’s flesh. When the court convened, Bassanio offered Shylock double the amount he had borrowed if he would withdraw his claim. However, the lender’s sole response was
“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.”
Then Portia came in disguise, and not even her husband recognized her. Due to the great Bellario’s introduction, the Duke welcomed her and delegated the task of resolving the issue to her. Then, with noble words, she appealed for Shylock’s mercy. However, he was deaf to her pleadings. “I’ll take the pound of flesh,” he said.
“What do you have to say?” Portia inquired about the merchant.
He said, “Very little; I am armed and well-prepared.”
Portia told the moneylender, “The court has awarded you a pound of Antonio’s flesh.”
“Most righteous judge!” Shylock exclaimed. “A sentence: come, prepare.”
“Wait a while.” This bond does not entitle you to have Antonio’s blood, only his flesh. If you then shed even a single drop of his blood, your whole property will be confiscated and given to the state. “So declares the law,”
Fearful, Shylock said, “Then I will accept Bassanio’s offer.”
“No,” Portia said firmly, “you will only have your bond.” “Take your pound of flesh, but keep in mind that if you take more or less, even by a hair’s weight, you will lose your property and your life.”
Now, Shylock became quite frightened. “Return the three thousand ducats I lent him and liberate him.”
Bassanio would have paid it, but Portia answered, “No! “He shall have nothing but his bond.”
“You, a foreigner,” she said, “attempted to take the life of a Venetian citizen; thus, your life and possessions are forfeited under Venetian law.” Kneel, then, and beg the Duke’s forgiveness.
The tables would have now been turned, and Shylock would have been given no compassion. As things stood, the moneylender surrendered half his fortune to the state and had to settle the other half with the husband of his daughter; he had to be content with this.
Bassanio, in his gratitude to the brilliant lawyer, was persuaded to give up the ring his wife had given him, which he had said he would never give up. When he returned to Belmont and confessed this to Portia, she seemed furious and swore not to be his friend until she got her ring back. But in the end, she revealed that it was who, in the guise of the lawyer, had saved his friend’s life and taken the ring from him. As a result, Bassanio was pardoned and made happier than ever upon learning what a valuable gift he had won in the lottery of the caskets.