Scene by Scene
Courting an heiress 1.1
Antonio is the rich merchant named in the title. His friend, Bassanio, has problems – he is in debt and has no money. However, he has a plan – to marry Portia, wealthy heiress who lives outside the city at Belmont. There is a problem though, to win Portia he needs money to go to Belmont in style. He asks Antonio for a loan.
Antonio wants to lend Bassanio the money, but he doesn’t have enough spare cash. His money is tied up in his ships that are out at sea. He agrees to borrow money so he can lend it to Bassanio.
A Father’s Will 1.2
In Belmont, Portia is talking to her waiting-gentlewoman, Nerissa, about her father’s will. It says Portia must marry the suitor who succeeds in a challange, to pick correctly from a choice of three caskets. Portia is not happy she cannot choose her husband herself; she hasn’t liked any of the suitors so far, but Nerissa reminds her of Bassanio, who Portia admits she remembers and liked.
Cut Throat Dog 1.3
Bassanio asks Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, for a loan of 3000 ducats, which Antonio will guarantee, Shylock agrees, because Antonio will be able to pay him back. Shylock complains about the way Antonio has treated him, scorning him for being a Jew and being a moneylender. Antonio refuses to apologise and says the loan will not change the way he treats Shylock. Shylock’s conditions for the loan are that if it is not repaid, he is owed a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Antonio is confident that his ships will return with nine times the amount that he owes Shylock, and a month before the deadline, so does not worry about the possible forfeit.
The Prince of Morocco 2.1
The Prince of Morocco arrives at Portia’s house as a suitor. Portia tells him that her choice of husband is controlled by her father’s will and the challenge of the three caskets.
To serve Bassanio 2.2
Shylock’s servant, Gobbo, decides to leave Shylock, who treats him meanly. Bassanio agrees that Gobbo can be his servant, and Bassanio also agrees that his friend Gratiano can come with him to Belmont.
A secret letter 2.3
Shylock’s daughter Jessica tells Gobbo she will miss him. She gives Gobbo a letter for Bassanio’s friend Lorenzo, who she plans to run away with.
Preparing for a masque 2.4
Gratiano, Lorenzo, and their friends plan the entertainment for Bassiano’s dinner that evening. Lancelot gives Jessica’s letter to Lorenzo. In it, she writes that if Lorenzo can come to her father’s house that night, she will take money from the house, and they can run away together. He sends Gobbo back promising to be there.
Lock up my doors 2.5
Shylock tells Jessica he has been invited out for dinner. He decided to go despite his reluctance to do so. He gives her his keys, and tells her to lock the doors carefully once he has gone. Gobbo tells Jessica Lorenzo will come for her.
Transformed to a boy 2.6
Disguised as a boy, and stealing money and jewels from her father, Jessica elopes with Lorenzo and his friends.
All that Glitters 2.7
Back at Belmont, The Prince of Morocco takes the challenge, reads the inscriptions on the three caskets carefully, and chooses the gold one. It is the wrong choice.
And so they parted 2.8
Salerio and Solanio discuss Jessica and Lorenzo’s escape. They joke about whether Shylock was more upset at the loss of his daughter or his money. Salerio has heard a rumour that some Venetian ships have sunk in the English Channel, and decide to tell Antonio in case one of the ships was his.
The Prince of Arragon 2.9
Back at Belmont again, the Prince of Arragon takes the challenge. He studies the caskets carefully, and picks the silver one, which is again the wrong choice. A messenger arrives to tell Portia of another suitor, and Nerissa hopes it is Bassanio who has returned.
Trouble for Antonio 3.1
Salerio and Solanio hear more bad news about Antonio, and Shylock makes it clear he will claim a pound of Antonio’s flesh if the debt is not repaid on time. Shylock is angry about Jessica and the money she took, and feels worse when a friend tells him she and Lorenzo is spending his money fast.
Success...and a disaster 3.2
At Belmont Portia is worried that if Bassanio takes the challenge and fails, he will have to leave, but Bassanio picks the lead casket, which is correct. Both are delighted, and Portia gives Bassanio a ring as a symbol of their love, which he promises never to take off. Nerissa and Gratiano join them, and Gratiano announces he and Nerissa want to marry too.
Salerio brings a letter for Bassanio from Antonio. He has lost his ships, he cannot repay the debt, and Shylock demands his pound of flesh. Portia tells Bassanio that, straight after their wedding, he must go to Venice to pay Shylock with her money.
No mercy 3.3
Shylock has Antonio arrested and rejects his pleas for mercy. Antonio tells Solanio he has no hope – the law is on Shylock’s side. He does hope Bassanio will be there at the end.
Into a manly stride 3.4
Portia asks Lorenzo to look after her house while she and Nerissa wait for their husbands’ return in a nearby monastery. However, Portia then tells Nerissa her plan is to follow their husbands to Venice, disguised as men. Portia sends a message to Bellario, a famous lawyer for advice.
Sins of the Father 3.5
Left in Belmont, Gobbo teases Jessica who then teases Lorenzo.
In court in Venice, with the Duke as judge, Shylock refuses to show mercy, and demands to cut off a pound of Antonio’s flesh, taking it from the place nearest to his heart. Nerissa enters, disguised as young lawyer’s clerk, with a letter to the Duke from Bellario, the famous lawyer. In the letter Bellario says he can’t come to the trial, but recommends a young lawyer called Balthasar (Portia, in disguise). Balthasar insists that Shylock must be merciful. Shylock refuses both to show mercy and Bassanio’s offer of three times the money he is owed.
After reading the bond, Balthasar (Portia) agrees Shylock can claim the pound of flesh that he is owed. Shylock, pleased with the verdict, tells Antonio to prepare himself for his forfeit. Portia stops him, telling Shylock that while he is entitled to a pound of flesh, he is not entitled to any blood, and that one drop of Christian blood from Antonio will mean Shylock is guilty of murder – he will be executed and his wealth confiscated. Shylock attempts to backtrack and to take the offer of three times the money; however Portia insists that Shylock is entitled to the forfeit he is owed, and nothing else.
Shylock, realising he will not receive any payment, tries to leave. Before he can, Portia states that Shylock has plotted to take the life of Antonio, a Venetian citizen, and according to the law, Shylock should be executed and all his wealth confiscated. Shylock’s life now lies in the hands of the Duke, who shows some mercy. Shylock is to be forced to become a Christian, and Antonio is to control half of Shylock’s wealth, until Shylock’s death, when it will pass to Jessica and Lorenzo.
Bassanio and Antonio want to thank Balthasar (Portia) and offer the 3000 ducats owed to Shylock as a reward. Portia refuses the money, but Bassanio insists upon a gesture of their thanks. She decides upon his ring as a token, but Bassanio refuses, Balthasar (Portia) and his clerk (Nerissa) leave. Antonio presses Bassanio to give the ring. He agrees, and sends Gratiano to give it to the disguised Portia.
Accepting a gift 4.2
Gratanio catches up to Balthasar (Portia) who accepts the ring. Nerissa tells Portia she will try to get her ring from Gratiano.
Revealing Identities 5.1
Portia and Nerissa return to Belmont, ordering the servants to say nothing about their absence. When Bassanio, Gratiano and Antonio arrive, Portia welcomes them, but, accuses Bassanio and Gratiano of being unfaithful and giving their rings away to other women. After Bassanio and Gratiano defend themselves from the accusations, Portia and Nerissa suddenly show them the rings and saying they had slept with the lawyer and his clerk to get their rings back. Portia then reveals that she was the lawyer, and Nerissa her clerk. News arrives that Antonio’s ships were not sunk and have returned to harbour, and Lorenzo and of Jessica’s inheritance from Shylock. They all go inside for Portia to tell the story in detail.