The Merchant of Venice

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Genres: Banned Books
Language: English
Type: Digital

The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. A merchant in Venice named Antonio defaults on a large loan on behalf of Bassanio, his dear friend, provided by a Jewish moneylender, Shylock.

Plot Summary

In Venice, Antonio, a wealthy merchant, is known for his generosity and kindness. His friend Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan of 3,000 ducats to court Portia, a wealthy heiress. Antonio agrees to the loan, but his wealth is tied up in his ships at sea, so he asks Bassanio to borrow the money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender who has a long-standing grudge against Antonio.

Shylock agrees to lend Bassanio the money, but he demands a pound of Antonio's flesh as collateral. Bassanio agrees to this condition, believing that Antonio's ships will return in time to repay the loan. However, Antonio's ships are lost at sea, and he is unable to repay the loan.

When Bassanio returns to Venice, he learns that Antonio has defaulted on the loan and that Shylock is demanding his pound of flesh. Bassanio offers to repay the loan, but Shylock refuses. He is determined to collect his pound of flesh, and he takes Antonio to court.

Portia, disguised as a male lawyer, defends Antonio in court. She argues that Shylock's bond is illegal because it demands the taking of a human life. She also argues that Shylock has forfeited the bond by failing to show mercy.

The court rules in Antonio's favor, but Shylock is allowed to take a ring from Bassanio's finger as compensation. However, Portia tricks Shylock into giving up his right to all of his property to the state.

In the end, Antonio is saved, and Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity.


The Merchant of Venice explores a wide range of themes, including:

  • Prejudice and discrimination: The play is set in a time when Jews were widely discriminated against, and Shylock is a victim of this prejudice. He is portrayed as a villain, but he is also a complex and sympathetic character.

  • The nature of justice: The play raises questions about the nature of justice and the importance of mercy. Shylock's insistence on his pound of flesh is ultimately seen as unjust, but Portia's trickery is also questionable.

  • The value of love and friendship: The play shows the power of love and friendship to overcome adversity. Antonio's friendship with Bassanio is a central theme of the play, and Portia's love for Bassanio leads her to defend Antonio in court.

  • The nature of contracts: The play also explores the nature of contracts and the importance of keeping one's word. Shylock's bond is ultimately seen as invalid because it demands the taking of a human life.


The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most popular and enduring plays. It has been adapted into numerous films, television shows, and operas. The play continues to be relevant to the world today, and it raises important questions about prejudice, discrimination, and the nature of justice.

Key Works

  • The Merchant of Venice (1596–98)
  • Hamlet (1603)
  • Romeo and Juliet (1597)
  • King Lear (1606)
  • Macbeth (1606)
  • Othello (1604)
  • The Tempest (1611)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1598)
  • As You Like It (1600)


  • "To be or not to be, that is the question."
  • "If music be the food of love, play on."
  • "The course of true love never did run smooth."
  • "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
  • "Parting is such sweet sorrow."


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