Act 1, scene 1: Antonio accepts to be a guarantor of Bassanio
A well-established merchant of Venice, Antonio, cannot find words to express how sad he feels to his friends. His friends tell him that he has to either love getting worried or be in business. Basssanio arrives in the company of Gratiano and Lorenzo, and he (Bassanio) requests for some money from Antonio. Bassanio says that the purpose of the money is to woo Portia, a filthy rich heiress lady from Belmont. Since Antonio has invested all money in the shipping business, he has no liquid cash to give to Bassanio, but he accepts to guarantee him a loan.
Act 1, scene 3: Bassanio and Antonio negotiate with Shylock for a bond
Bassanio goes to Shylock, a money lender who is a Jew, and requests for a credit of three thousand ducats payable within three months. Antonio is the guarantor. Shylock doubts the guarantor since he knows that all of Antonio’s wealth is bound by the ships at sea. Moreover, he (Shylock) has a lot of hatred for Antonio since he says that Antonio gives loans without interest and this destabilizes Shylock’s business. The other source of conflict between Antonio and Shylock is that the latter is a Jew while the former is a Christian.
On Antonio’s arrival, Shylock politely reminds him of the criticism of his lending money without interest and how much he loathes the Jewish faith. Antonio comes to Bassanio’s defense saying that he rarely borrows or lends. Shylock accepts to loan his perceived enemy and goes ahead to ignore interest charges as a show of his commitment to the new friendship. However, he has no kind words if the loan is not paid in time. Shylock says that he will grab a part of Antonio’s body to cater to the penalty. The three parties later agree to meet in a lawyer’s office where the agreement will be drawn and the signing is done. Antonio sees as if Shylock is generous, but Bassanio does not trust him. Bassanio argues that Shylock is still heavy in the heart. However, Antonio encourages Bassanio that the ships will be home a month before the due date for the loan and it will be easy to repay it.
Act 2, scene 2: Gobbo leaves Shylock, his master, and goes to Bassanio
The scene starts with a soliloquy where Lancelet Gobbo asks himself whether he ought to leave the devil and brute Shylock. He comes across Old Gobbo, his father who does not know him since he is blind. The young Gobbo plays a trick pretending to be another person and tells his father than Lancelet is deceased. He only reveals his true self after a lot of confusion, and he tells his father that he has escaped from the hands of Shylock. He tells his father to give Bassanio the present that was to be given to Shylock. At this juncture, Bassanio enters, takes the present and accepts to be with Lancelet as a servant. Bassanio leaves for Belmont and tells Gratiano to watch his trait if he wants to be with him.
Act 2, scene 6: Lorenzo and Jessica elope
In the midst of darkness, Salerio and Gratiano lay in wait for Lorenzo outside the house of Shylock. Lorenzo arrives and calls Jessica, the daughter of Shylock. Jessica throws a casket bearing jewels and money from their home. Jessica goes to join Lorenzo, her lover while wearing clothes that make her resemble a boy. The two go to enjoy some entertainment. Gratiano leaves his friends and goes to join Bassanio who is headed to Belmont.
Act 3, scene 1: Intolerance of Shylock exposed
On seeing Salerio and Solanio, Shylock rushes to accuse them of being behind the elopement of Jessica. They insult Shylock and tell him of the recent loses that Antonio has experienced. Shylock only reacts with a fervent speech about the misfortunes he has undergone for being a Jew. Shylock goes on to say that Jews, just like other men, have feelings too. Tubal enters and explains to Shylock loses that Antonio has gone through after losing another ship. Shylock is torn between celebrating the misfortunes of Antonio and minding about the mishaps he is experiencing. Tubal states that he has not seen Jessica but he has heard that she has been lavishly spending her father’s wealth.
Act 3, Scene 2: Bassanio discovers his luck and chooses his casket
While in Belmont, Bassanio is prevailed upon by Portia to hold on for at least two days before can choose the casket which will be the yardstick of marrying her or not. However, Bassanio goes ahead to choose. Under the tune of cool music, he goes through the lead, silver, and gold caskets, and settles for the lead one. When it was opened, it bore the portrait of Portia and this made him win her fortune and love. Bassanio receives a ring from Portia as a sign of sealing the match and he is told to always wear it. On the other hand, Gratiano says that he loves Nerissa, a companion of Portia, and he gets a go-ahead to marry her.
In the meantime, Salerio, Jessica, and Lorenzo come with a letter addressed by Antonio to Bassanio. In the letter, Antonio indicates that he is doomed since Shylock is ready to take a part of his flesh as per the loan agreement. After seeing how sad Bassanio is, Portia demands an immediate marriage but they agree to defer celebrations until Bassanio has managed to let Antonio off the hook. She tells Bassanio that they should pay Shylock, even if it means twenty times the value of the loan. Bassanio goes to Venice but promises to return soon.