Short summary - The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Merchant of Venice
William Shakespeare

Venetian merchant Antonio is tormented by causeless sadness. His friends, Salarino and Salanio, are trying to explain her concern for ships with goods or unhappy love. But Antonio rejects both explanations. Accompanied by Graziano and Lorenzo, a relative and closest friend of Antonio, Bassanio, appear. Salarino and Salanio leave. The joker Graziano tries to cheer Antonio when it fails («The world is a scene where everyone has a role,» says Antonio, «mine is sad»), Graziano leaves with Lorenzo. Alone with his friend Bassanio admits that, leading a careless lifestyle, he was completely left without money and was forced to again ask Antonio for money to go to Belmont, the estate of Portia, a wealthy heiress, whose beauty and virtues he was passionately in love with and the success of matchmaking to which sure. Antonio does not have cash, but he offers a friend to find a loan in his name, Antonio.

Meanwhile, in Belmonte, Portia complains to her maid Nerisse («Little Black») that, according to her father’s will, she can neither choose nor reject the groom herself. Her husband will be the one who guesses, choosing from three caskets - gold, silver and lead, in which her portrait is located. Nerissa begins to list numerous suitors - Portia poisonously makes fun of everyone. Only Bassanio, the scientist and warrior who once visited her father, she recalls with fondness.

In Venice, Bassanio asks the merchant Shylock to lend him three thousand ducats for three months under the guarantee of Antonio. Shylock knows that the entire state of the guarantor is entrusted to the sea. In a conversation with Antonio who appeared, whom he fiercely hates for contempt for his people and for his interest in usury, Shylock recalls the countless insults that Antonio subjected him to. But since Antonio himself lends without interest, Shylock, wishing to earn his friendship, will also give him a loan without interest, only against a comic collateral - a pound of Antonio’s meat, which Shylock can forfeit from any part of the merchant’s body. Antonio is delighted with the joke and kindness of the usurer. Bassanio is full of misgivings and asks not to conclude a deal. Shylock assures that such a pledge will not be of any use to him anyway, and Antonio recalls that his ships will come long before the due date.

A prince of Moroccan arrives at Portia's house to select one of the caskets. He takes, as required by the conditions of the test, an oath: in case of failure, do not woo any more women.

In Venice, the servant of Shylock Lancelot Gobbo, constantly joking, convinces himself to escape from the owner. Meeting his blind father, he plays him out for a long time, then devotes himself to his intention to join the servants of Bassanio, known for his generosity. Bassanio agrees to accept Lancelot for service. He agrees to Graziano’s request to take him with him to Belmont. In the house of Shylock, Lancelot says goodbye to the daughter of the former owner - Jessica. They exchange jokes. Jessica is ashamed of her father. Lancelot undertakes to secretly convey to his beloved Jessica Lorenzo a letter with a plan to escape from the house. Dressing as a page and taking with him the money and jewelry of his father, Jessica escapes with Lorenzo with the help of his friends - Graziano and Salarino. Bassanio and Graziano hurry to sail with a fair wind to Belmont.

In Belmonte, the prince of Morocco chooses a gold box - a precious pearl, in his opinion, cannot be enclosed in a different frame - with the inscription: "With me you will get what many want." But in her is not a portrait of her lover, but a skull and instructive verses. The prince is forced to retire.

In Venice, Salarino and Salanio make fun of the fury of Shylock, who learned that his daughter robbed him and fled with the Christian. «Oh my daughter! My ducats! Daughter / Run away with a Christian! Missing / Christian Ducats! Where is the trial? »Shylock moans. At the same time, they are discussing aloud that one of the ships of Antonio sank in the English Channel.

In Belmont is a new challenger - the Prince of Aragon. He chooses a silver casket with the inscription: "With me you will get what you deserve." It features an image of stupid faces and mocking verses. The prince is leaving. A servant announces the arrival of a young Venetian and the rich gifts he sent. Nerissa hopes this is Bassanio.

Salarino and Salanio discuss the new losses of Antonio, whose nobility and kindness both admire. When Shylock appears, they first mock his losses, then express confidence that if Antonio expires the bill, the moneylender will not demand his meat: what is it good for? In response, Shylock says: «He dishonored me, <...> impeded my affairs, cooled my friends, heated my enemies; and what was his reason for this? The one that I am a Jew. Does the Jew have no eyes? <...> If we are pricked, don’t we bleed? <...> If we are poisoned, don’t we die? And if we are offended, shouldn't we take revenge? <...> You teach us abominations - I will fulfill it ... "

Salarino and Salario leave. The Jew Tubal appears, whom Shylock sent in search of his daughter. But Tubal could not find her. He only retells rumors about Jessica's motivation. Shylock is terrified of losses. Upon learning that her daughter exchanged a ring, given to him by her late wife, for a monkey, Shylock sends a curse to Jessica. The only thing that comforts him is the rumors about Antonio’s losses, on which he is determined to vent his anger and grief.

In Belmonte, Portia persuades Bassanio to slow down his choice, she is afraid to lose him in case of an error. Bassanio wants to immediately test fate. By exchanging witty remarks, young people confess each other their love. They bring caskets. Bassanio rejects gold and silver - the sheen is deceptive. He selects a lead casket with the inscription: «With me you will give everything, risking everything you have» - in it is a portrait of Portia and a poetic congratulation. Portia and Bassanio are getting ready for the wedding, just like Nerissa and Graziano, who have loved each other. Portia hands the groom a ring and takes an oath from him to keep it as a guarantee of mutual love. The same gift gives the named Nerissa. Lorenzo appears with Jessica and the messenger who brought the letter from Antonio. The merchant reports that all his ships were lost, he was busted, the bill to the moneylender was expired, Shylock requires the payment of a monstrous penalty. Antonio asks his friend not to blame himself for his misfortunes, but to come to see him before his death. Portia insists that the groom immediately go to the aid of the Friend, offering Shylock any money for his life. Bassanio and Graziano set off for Venice.

In Venice, Shylock revels in revenge, for the law is on his side. Antonio understands that the law cannot be broken, he is ready for the inevitable death and only dreams of seeing Bassanio.

In Belmonte, Portia entrusts her estate to Lorenzo, and herself, along with the maid, is removed, supposedly to the monastery for prayer. In fact, she is going to Venice. She sends a servant to Padua to her cousin, Doctor of Law Bellario, who must supply her with papers and a man’s dress. Lancelot taunts Jessica and the adoption of Christianity. Lorenzo, Jessica and Lancelot exchange playful remarks, striving to surpass each other in wit.

Shylock enjoys his triumph in court. The doge's calls for mercy, Bassanio's offer to pay the debt in double size - nothing mitigates his cruelty. In response to reproaches, he refers to the law and, in turn, reproaches Christians for the fact that they have slavery. The Doge asks for the introduction of Dr. Bellario, with whom he wants to consult before making a decision. Bassanio and Antonio try to cheer each other up. Everyone is ready to sacrifice themselves. Shylock sharpens a knife. A scribe enters. This is a disguised Nerissa. In a letter she transmitted, Bellario, referring to ill health, recommends a doge for the conduct of the process of his young, but extraordinarily learned colleague, Dr. Balthazar of Rome. The Doctor is, of course, Portia, in disguise. She first tries to appease Shylock, but, having been refused, admits that the law is on the side of the moneylender. Shylock extols the wisdom of a young judge. Antonio says goodbye to a friend. Bassanio is in despair. He is ready to sacrifice everything, even his beloved wife, if only this would save Antonio. Graziano is ready for the same. Shylock condemns the fragility of Christian marriages. He is ready to begin his disgusting business. At the last moment, the «judge» stops him, reminding him that he should take only the merchant’s meat, without shedding a drop of blood, and besides, exactly a pound - no more, no less. If these conditions are violated, cruel punishment awaits him under the law, Shylock agrees to pay the triple amount of the debt - the judge refuses: not a word about the bill, the Jew has already refused money before the court. Shylock agrees to pay only one debt - again a refusal. Little of, according to Venetian laws, Shilock must give half of his property to him for an attempt on a citizen of the republic, the second goes like a fine to the treasury, but the life of a criminal depends on the mercy of the doge. Shylock refuses to beg. Nevertheless, they save his life, and requisition is replaced by a fine. Generous Antonio refuses to give him half, on condition that after the death of Shylock she will be bequeathed to Lorenzo. However, Shylock must immediately adopt Christianity and bequeath all his property to his daughter and son-in-law. Shylock in desperation agrees to everything. As a reward, imaginary judges lure the rings from their fooled husbands. Generous Antonio refuses to give him half, on condition that after the death of Shylock she will be bequeathed to Lorenzo. However, Shylock must immediately adopt Christianity and bequeath all his property to his daughter and son-in-law. Shylock in desperation agrees to everything. As a reward, imaginary judges lure the rings from their fooled husbands. Generous Antonio refuses to give him half, on condition that after the death of Shylock she will be bequeathed to Lorenzo. However, Shylock must immediately adopt Christianity and bequeath all his property to his daughter and son-in-law. Shylock in desperation agrees to everything. As a reward, imaginary judges lure the rings from their fooled husbands.


On a moonlit night in Belmonte, Lorenzo and Jessica, preparing for the return of their masters, order the musicians to play in the garden.

Portia, Nerissa, their husbands, Graziano, Antonio converge in the night garden. After an exchange of courtesies, it turns out that young husbands have lost gift rings. Wives insist that the pledges of their love were given to women, husbands swear that this is not so, they justify themselves with all their might - all in vain. Continuing the rally, women promise to share the bed with the judge and his scribe, just to return their gifts. Then they report that this has already happened, and show the rings. Husbands are terrified. Portia and Nerissa are recognized in the draw. Portia hands Antonio the letter that fell into her hands, informing her that all of his ships are intact. Nerissa gives Lorenzo and Jessica an act by which Shylock denies them all her wealth. Everyone goes to the house to find out the details of the adventures of Portia and Nerissa.