ONE NIGHT OF SHAKESPEARE - THE PLAYS
The Merchant of Venice
Classified as a "Christian comedy" The Merchant of Venice weaves together two ancient folk tales.
Bassanio needs some money, 3,000 ducats to be precise, so he can try make wealthy heiress Portia fall for him. He goes to his friend Antonio, a merchant, to ask for money yet again. Although a fairly wealthy man, Antonio's funds are all tied up in merchant ships at sea, so in order to help Bassanio he asks for a loan himself from Shylock, a Jewish money lender.
Antonio's poor treatment of Shylock in the past has caused the moneylender to build up a deep seated hatred for the young merchant, so he lends him the money with strict conditions; Antonio must repay the debt within three months or Shylock will take a pound of flesh in payment.
As Bassanio gets his money and goes to win over Portia, his friend Lorenzo elopes with Shylock's daughter Jessica, much to the annoyance of the moneylender.
When Bassanio arrives in Belmont he has to complete a test set down by Portia's father. The man to marry his daughter must choose from three boxes. If he selects the one with his daughter's portrait in they are allowed to marry. Bassanio chooses correctly and the pair are set to wed that very night.
Meanwhile Antonio's luck has taken a turn for the worse. Two of his ships have been wrecked in transit and his creditors are asking for repayment, including Shylock. Hearing about his friend's trouble Bassanio travels back to Venice, followed by Portia disguised as a lawyer.
Although Bassanio offers Shylock many times the original debt, he is intent on revenge now that the three months are up and wants his pound of flesh.
Portia, still disguised as a lawyer, enters to defend Antonio and argues that Shylock can take his pound of flesh as long as he doesn't spill any blood as that wasn't part of the deal. She goes on to argue that by wanting a pound of flesh Shylock is in fact planning to kill Antonio, as surely he knows it would kill him to have a pound of flesh removed.
The duke who sits in judgement agrees that Shylock has planned to kill a Venetian citizen so he calls for all his money to be split between the city and Antonio. Antonio offers to give his half back if Shylock agrees to leave it all to his daughter Jessica and if he converts to Christianity. Now a broken and defeated man, Shylock agrees to all the conditions as he leaves the court.
The play ends with news that Antonio's remaining ships have returned safely and everyone, except Shylock, join together in a happy ending.
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