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Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice is a sixteenth century play written by William Shakespeare. The play was written during 1596 and 1599. Shylock and Portia are the best known characters in the play. The speech of Portia about “the quality of mercy” is widely acknowledged.

About the Author :

William Shakespeare is an English playwright, poet, and actor. He is a pre-eminent dramatist and one of the greatest writers in the English language. He is called as the “Bard of Avon” and England’s national poet.

Play Summary :

The Merchant of Venice discusses the ethical and moral issues prevailing in the traditional religious society. The play captures the tensions of the Jewish and Christian society. It also mentions the prevailing religious differences and subsequent inhumane, revengeful acts within the society.

The story of Merchant of Venice is based on the trading conflict between Shylock, a Jewish merchant, and Antonio, a Christian merchant. Antonio is in need of money to finance his friend Bassanio for his trip to Belmont. With no money left at his hand, he puts himself under the power of Shylock. The Jewish moneylender uses the situation for his advantage. He decides to revenge on Antonio if he defaults the loan.

Antonio had been previously disgraceful to Shylock since he was a Jew. This was the reason for Shylock to be furious enough to avenge Antonio. Meanwhile, Shylock’s daughter Jessica elopes with Antonio’s friend Lorenzo. This infuriates Shylock’s vengeance against Antonio multifold.  Unfortunately, Antonio’s ships wrecks down in sea, and are in position to default his loan.

At the same time, Bassanio travels to Belmont to woo Portia for marriage. In the contest of suitors, Bassanio chooses the correct lead casket and takes Portia’s hand. Before the marriage ceremony, Bassanio gets the news about Antonio’s lost ships and his forfeiture of Shylock’s bond. They immediately get back to Venice. Portia, disguised as a man, comes to Venice to save Antonia.

At Venice, Shylock demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh as payback. Even after constant talks, Shylock refuses to free Antonio, demanding for a pound of flash. He demands for judgment to be fulfilled as agreed earlier, declining Bassanio’s double payment for the loan. He also ignores Portio’s pleas for mercy on Antonio in her speech.

The duke of Venice takes the trial with disguised Portia defending Antonio in the court. When Shylock remains inflexible to the legal binding, Portia cleverly tackle him by saying he can take the flesh but not the blood. Aware that he has been trapped, he accepts the double payment, but the duke and Portia refuse it. They condemn him for conspiring against Antonio. Found to be guilty, Shylock is cornered by Portia to give half of his properties to the state and remaining half to Antonio for disgracing him. On hearing Shylock’s plea, the duke take a fine and Antonia demands two conditions – first, to get him converted to Christianity for sparing his life and to write a will for his property to Lorenzo and Jessica after his death.

Shylock leaves defeated. The play ends with Portia declaring her disguise to Bassanio and Antonio’s ships arriving safely.

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