The Merchant of Venice | Summary, Themes, Plot & Analysis of The Merchant of Venice (Audio Book)

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The Merchant of Venice is a 16th century play by William Shakespeare in which a  merchant  in Venice must default on a large loan provided by an abused Jewish moneylender. It is believed to have been written between 1596  and  1599. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio  and  sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare’s other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic scenes,  and  is best known for Shylock  and  the famous “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech. Also notable is Portia’s speech about “the quality of mercy”.

Summary:

Bassanio, a young Venetian of noble rank, wishes to woo the beautiful  and  wealthy heiress Portia of Belmont. Having squandered his estate, he needs 3,000 ducats to subsidise his expenditures as a suitor. Bassanio approaches his friend Antonio, a wealthy  merchant  of Venice who has previously  and  repeatedly bailed him out. Antonio agrees, but since he is cash-poor – his ships  and  merchandise are busy at sea – he promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender, so Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock  and  names Antonio as the loan’s guarantor.

Antonio has already antagonized Shylock through his outspoken antisemitism,  and  because Antonio’s habit of lending money without interest forces Shylock to charge lower rates. Shylock is at first reluctant to grant the loan, citing abuse he has suffered at Antonio’s hand. He finally agrees to lend the sum to Bassanio without interest upon one condition: if Bassanio is unable to repay it at the specified date, Shylock may take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Bassanio does not want Antonio to accept such a risky condition; Antonio is surprised by what he sees as the moneylender’s generosity (no “usance” – interest – is asked for),  and  he signs the contract. With money at hand, Bassanio leaves for Belmont with his friend Gratiano, who has asked to accompany him. Gratiano is a likeable young man, but is often flippant, overly talkative,  and  tactless. Bassanio warns his companion to exercise self-control,  and  the two leave for Belmont.

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Sources:

Text:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Merchant_of_Venice

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Comments

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