Merchent of Venice
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The Merchant of Venice is a griping story of love, debt and retribution.  As it is read the reader can see how circumstances lead some characters to bliss while others spiral down to a dark fate.  The story concludes in a twist of logic and irony that leaves the antagonist in jeopardy.

The play begins with Antonio, a merchant, and his friend Bassanio, who is desperately in need of money to woo the wealthy heiress Portia.  Bassanio then asks Antonio for a loan in order to go in style to Portia’s estate.  Antonio agrees, but is unable to make the loan himself because his own money is all invested in a number of trade ships that are still at sea.  But Antonio suggests that Bassanio secure the loan from one of the city’s moneylenders and name Antonio as the loan’s sponsor.  Belmont, Portia is depressed over the terms of her father’s will, which requires that she must marry the man who correctly chooses one of three caskets.  None of Portia’s current suitors are to her liking, but she fondly remembers Bassanio.

In Venice, Antonio and Bassanio approach the moneylender Shylock for a loan. But Antonio and Shylock have had previous encounters before, and both despise each other.  Despite this Shylock acts agreeably and offers to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats with no interest.  Shylock adds, however, that should the loan go unpaid, Shylock will be entitled to a pound of Antonio’s own flesh. Despite Bassanio’s warnings, Antonio agrees.

 In Shylock’s own household, his servant Lancelot decides to leave Shylock’s service to work for Bassanio, and Shylock’s daughter Jessica schemes to elope with Antonio’s friend Lorenzo.  Jessica escapes with Lorenzo by dressing as his page.  Shylock is furious to find that his daughter has run away, but rejoices in the fact that Antonio’s ships are rumored to have been wrecked and that he will soon be able to claim his debt.

Bassanio arrives at Portia’s estate, and they declare their love for one another. Portia’s request that he wait before choosing a casket, but Bassanio immediately picks the correct casket.  The couple decides on a double wedding with Graziano and Nerissa.  They are joined, unexpectedly, by Lorenzo and Jessica.  The celebration, however, is cut short by the news that Antonio has lost his ships, and that he has forfeited his bond to Shylock. Bassanio and Graziano immediately travel to Venice to try and save Antonio’s life.

Shylock ignores the many pleas to spare Antonio’s life, and a trial is called to decide the matter.  The duke of Venice, who presides over the trial, announces that he has sent for a legal expert, who turns out to be Portia disguised as a young man of law.  Portia asks Shylock to show mercy, but he remains inflexible and insists the pound of flesh is rightfully his. Bassanio offers Shylock twice the money due him, but Shylock insists on collecting the bond of flesh. Portia examines the contract and, finding it legally binding, declares that Shylock is entitled to the merchant’s flesh.  But as Shylock is on the verge of collecting his due, Portia reminds him that he must do so without causing Antonio to bleed, as the contract does not entitle him to any blood.  Trapped by this logic, Shylock hastily agrees to take Bassanio’s money instead, but Portia insists that Shylock take his bond as written.  Portia informs Shylock that he is guilty of conspiring against the life of a Venetian citizen, which means he must turn over half of his property to the state and the other half to Antonio.  The duke spares Shylock’s life and takes a fine instead of Shylock’s property. Antonio also forgoes his half of Shylock’s wealth on two conditions: first, Shylock must convert to Christianity, and second, he must will the entirety of his estate to Lorenzo and Jessica upon his death. Shylock agrees and takes his leave.  At the end of the play joyful news arrives that Antonio’s ships have in fact made it back safely. The group celebrates its good fortune.

This play is a powerful piece of work that in my own opinion qualifies it as a classic.  The story, as I interpret it, has messages of morality within its pages.  One message is that a person should not seek revenge when trying to settle the score.  For instance, Shylock demands a pound of flesh, from someone who has wronged him, if the loan goes unpaid.  In the end when logic is turned against him, his quests for revenge causes him to almost lose everything. Another message I’ve found is to be reasonably kind to others even if they are out to get you.  In the Merchant of Venice Antonio shows mercy to Shylock by giving him back his property and wealth.  It is these morals Shakespeare incorporates into his plays that make his works worthy of the being classified as a classic.