If he fails, he may never marry at all. Bassanio and Portia also face a magnificent villain, the moneylender Shylock. In creating Shylock, Shakespeare seems to have shared in a widespread prejudice against Jews. Shylock would have been regarded as a villain because he was a Jew. Yet he gives such powerful expression to his alienation due to the hatred around him that, in many productions, he emerges as the hero. Antonio, a Venetian merchant, has invested all his wealth in trading expeditions. Bassanio, his friend and kinsman, asks him for…. Shylock hates Antonio but….
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Deconstructing what makes the Bard’s play so problematic
SALARINO Your mind is tossing on the ocean; There, where your argosies with portly sail, Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood, Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea, Do overpeer the petty traffickers, That curtsy to them, do them reverence, As they fly by them with their woven wings. I should be still Plucking the grass, to know where sits the wind, Peering in maps for ports and piers and roads; And every object that might make me fear Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt Would make me sad. I should not see the sandy hour-glass run, But I should think of shallows and of flats, And see my wealthy Andrew dock'd in sand, Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs To kiss her burial. Should I go to church And see the holy edifice of stone, And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks, Which touching but my gentle vessel's side, Would scatter all her spices on the stream, Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks, And, in a word, but even now worth this, And now worth nothing? Shall I have the thought To think on this, and shall I lack the thought That such a thing bechanced would make me sad? But tell not me; I know, Antonio Is sad to think upon his merchandise. Then let us say you are sad, Because you are not merry: and 'twere as easy For you to laugh and leap and say you are merry, Because you are not sad.
Synopsis and plot overview of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
TL;DR: Shylock asks for a pound of flesh as part of a loan contract weird , Bassanio agrees to it weirder , and Portia saves the day by cross-dressing and pretending to practice the law perfectly normal. Antonio, an antisemitic merchant, takes a loan from the Jew Shylock to help his friend to court Portia. Antonio can't repay the loan, and without mercy, Shylock demands a pound of his flesh. The heiress Portia, now the wife of Antonio's friend, dresses as a lawyer and saves Antonio. In Venice, a merchant named Antonio worries that his ships are overdue. As his colleagues offer comfort, his young friends—Bassanio, Graziano, and Lorenzo—arrive. Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan, so that he can pursue the wealthy Portia, who lives in Belmont. Antonio cannot afford the loan.
Bassanio wants to marry a woman called Portia but he can't afford to pay for his clothes and travel to Belmont to see her, so he asks his friend Antonio if he can borrow some money. Belmont is a fictional place in rural Italy and translates to mean 'beautiful mountain'. Venice, where Antonio and Bassanio live, was a rich city state in the north of the country that would have been well known to audiences. Antonio has no money to lend his friend so he asks Shylock for a loan instead. Shylock agrees to give him the money, but states that if Antonio doesn't pay him back on time he must give a 'pound of his own flesh'. Portia's father set up a 'lottery' in his will, that means anyone who wants to marry his daughter has to pass a test first. Portia and Nerissa watch as several suitors try to win her love, through picking one of three caskets: gold, silver or lead - but they all fail.