The Merchant of Venice minimized

Antonio is a wealthy Venetian merchant. Antonio has a friend in Bassanio and Bassanio has an interest in Portia. But Bassanio is short of funds. And Portia lives in Belmont. Shylock is a Jew and a moneylender. Portia is beautiful, wealthy and talented, as you shall see.  

1. Antonio suggests Bassanio use his good credit to finance a trip to Belmont. Portia’s deceased father had required through his will that she conduct a “lottery” to determine her husband, and she’s distressed with the requirement. Bassanio borrows three thousand ducats from Shylock who extracts tough terms, “a pound of his fresh flesh” (Antonio’s flesh) if the loan isn’t repaid as agreed. The collateral for the loan is Antonio’s ships at sea.  

2. Bassanio’s good friend Gratiano talks Bassanio into letting him travel with him. Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, elopes with Lorenzo, a Christian, while helping herself to some of her father’s gold and jewels. Shylock is very distressed. Portia’s first two suitors fail the lottery test and leave Belmont. Bassanio arrives in Belmont.  Nerissa, Portia’s gentlewoman, squeals for joy when she learns a young Venetian has arrived.

3. Word has it in Venice that Antonio’s ships have sunk. With no love for Antonio, Shylock promises to hold firm with his bond. Bassanio wins Portia’s father’s lottery, winning Portia. They marry. Gratiano and Nerissa marry. They learn Antonio’s ships might have sunk. Bassanio leaves for Venice. Jessica and Lorenzo show up. Portia hires them to watch the house. Portia and Nerissa leave, Portia having written to her cousin, Dr. Bellario, a noted jurist.

4. Shylock tells the court in Venice that he demands “to forfeit on my bond.” A disguised Nerissa enters to tell the court that Bellario is ill and has sent Balthazar. Portia enters disguised as Balthazar. She conducts the trial, beautifully. Shylock can have his pound of flesh, but no blood and but precisely one pound. Shylock leaves, saying “I am not well.” When offered pay, Balthazar refuses, but tells Bassanio she’ll have his ring.  He ends up giving it to her, Antonio convincing him it’s the right thing to do. Nerissa secures Gratiano’s ring.

5.  Portia and Nerissa return to Belmont, followed by the men. Nerissa asks Gratiano about his ring.  Portia turns to Bassanio, looking for his ring. Bassanio is desperate. Antonio tells her it was his fault. Portia describes the ruse. The rings are returned. Portia shows Antonio a document letting him know that his ships are safe. Nerissa shows Lorenzo a document from Shylock deeding them his possessions. The men pledge to better care for their rings.