Here is a brief plot summary of The Merchant of Venice:

A young Venetian, Bassanio, needs a loan of three thousand ducats so that he can woo Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress. He approaches his friend Antonio, a merchant. Antonio is short of money because all his wealth is invested in his fleet, which is currently at sea. He goes to a Jewish money lender, Shylock, who hates Antonio because of Antonio’s anti-semitic behaviour towards him.

Shylock nevertheless agrees to make the short-term loan, but, in a moment of dark humour, he makes a condition - the loan must be repaid in three months or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio. Antonio agrees, confident that his ships will return in time.

Because of the terms of Portia’s father’s will, all suitors must choose from among three caskets, one of which contains a portrait of her. If he chooses that he may marry Portia, but if doesn’t he must vow never to marry or court another woman. The Princes of Morocco and Arragon fail the test and are rejected. As Bassanio prepares to travel to Belmont for the test, his friend Lorenzo elopes with Shylock’s daughter, Jessica. Bassanio chooses the lead casket, which contains her picture, and Portia happily agrees to marry him immediately.

Meanwhile, two of Antonio’s ships have been wrecked and Antonio’s creditors are pressurising him for repayment. Word comes to Bassanio about Antonio’s predicament, and he hurries back to Venice, leaving Portia behind. Portia follows him, accompanied by her maid, Nerissa. They are disguised as a male lawyer and his clerk. When Bassanio arrives the date for the repayment to Shylock has passed and Shylock is demanding his pound of flesh. Even when Bassanio offers much more than the amount in repayment, Shylock, now infuriated by the loss of his daughter, is intent on seeking revenge on the Christians. The Duke refuses to intervene.

Portia arrives in her disguise to defend Antonio. Given the authority of judgment by the Duke, Portia decides that Shylock can have the pound of flesh as long as he doesn’t draw blood, as it is against the law to shed a Christian’s blood. Since it is obvious that to draw a pound of flesh would kill Antonio, Shylock is denied his suit. Moreover, for conspiring to murder a Venetian citizen, Portia orders that he should forfeit all his wealth. Half is to go to Venice, and half to Antonio.

Antonio gives his half back to Shylock on the condition that Shylock bequeath it to his disinherited daughter, Jessica. Shylock must also convert to Christianity. A broken Shylock accepts. News arrives that Antonio’s remaining ships have returned safely. With the exception of Shylock, all celebrate a happy ending to the affair.

 

See The Merchant of Venice translated to modern English >>

See summaries of Shakespeare’s other plays >>

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  1. dadaskanha
    dadaskanha says:

    sumary of the merchant of venice
    Bassanio, a young noble, wishes to woo the beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia of Belmont.Bassanio approaches his friend Antonio, a wealthy merchant of Venice and a kind and generous person for three thousand ducats needed to subsidise his expenditures as a suitor. Antonio agrees, but since his ships and merchandise are busy at sea – he promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender, so Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and names Antonio as the loan’s guarantor.
    Shylock, who hates Antonio is at first reluctant but finally agrees to lend Antonio the sum without interest upon the condition that if Antonio is unable to repay it at the specified date, he may take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Bassanio does not want Antonio to accept such a risky condition; Antonio is surprised by what he sees as the moneylender’s generosity and he signs the contract. With money at hand, Bassanio leaves for Belmont with his friend Gratiano.Meanwhile in Belmont, Portia is awash with suitors. Her father has left a will stipulating each of her suitors must choose correctly from one of three caskets – one each of gold, silver and lead. If he chooses the right casket, he gets Portia. As Bassanio ponders his choice, it turns out to be be the correct .At Venice, Antonio’s ships are reported lost at sea. This leaves him with no money. Shylock has Antonio brought before court.
    At Belmont, Bassanio receives a letter telling him that Antonio has been unable to return the loan taken from Shylock. Portia and Bassanio marry and then leave for Venice, with money from Portia, to save Antonio. They come in the court of the Duke of Venice. Shylock refuses Bassanio’s offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demands his pound of flesh from Antonio. The Duke refers the case to a visitor who introduces himself as Balthazar, a young male “doctor of the law”.The doctor is actually Portia in disguise who repeatedly asks Shylock to show mercy which, Shylock refuses.
    Then at the court the disgised Portia points out that the contract only allows Shylock to remove the flesh, not the “blood”, of Antonio .Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio’s blood, his “lands and goods” would be forfeited under Venetian laws. Further she tells him that he must cut precisely one pound of flesh, no more, no less; she advises him that “if the scale do turn all thy goods are confiscate.”
    Defeated, Shylock concedes to accepting Bassanio’s offer of money for the defaulted bond which Portia prevents by saying that he has already refused it “in the open court.” She then cites a law under which Shylock having attempted to take the life of a citizen, has forfeited his property, half to the government and half to Antonio and orders him to convert to Christianity .Bassanio offers to give a present to the supposed lawyer. First she declines, but after he insists, Portia requests his ring and Antonio’s gloves Bassanio gives the ring only after much persuasion from Antonio, as earlier in the play he promised his wife never to lose, sell or give it.At Belmont, Portia taunt and pretend to accuse her husband before revealing she were actually the lawyer. Antonio learns from Portia that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all.

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