Jewish moneylender in Venice. Angered by his mistreatment at the
hands of Venice’s Christians, particularly Antonio, Shylock schemes
to eke out his revenge by ruthlessly demanding as payment a pound of
Antonio’s flesh. Although seen by the rest of the play’s characters
as an inhuman monster, Shylock at times diverges from stereotype
and reveals himself to be quite human. These contradictions, and
his eloquent expressions of hatred, have earned Shylock a place
as one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters.
in-depth analysis of Shylock.
wealthy heiress from Belmont. Portia’s beauty is matched only by
her intelligence. Bound by a clause in her father’s will that forces
her to marry whichever suitor chooses correctly among three caskets,
Portia is nonetheless able to marry her true love, Bassanio. Far and
away the most clever of the play’s characters, it is Portia, in
the disguise of a young law clerk, who saves Antonio from Shylock’s
in-depth analysis of Portia.
merchant whose love for his friend Bassanio prompts him to sign
Shylock’s contract and almost lose his life. Antonio is something
of a mercurial figure, often inexplicably melancholy and, as Shylock
points out, possessed of an incorrigible dislike of Jews. Nonetheless,
Antonio is beloved of his friends and proves merciful to Shylock,
albeit with conditions.
in-depth analysis of Antonio.
gentleman of Venice, and a kinsman and dear friend to Antonio. Bassanio’s
love for the wealthy Portia leads him to borrow money from Shylock
with Antonio as his guarantor. An ineffectual businessman, Bassanio proves
himself a worthy suitor, correctly identifying the casket that contains
friend of Bassanio’s who accompanies him to Belmont. A coarse and
garrulous young man, Gratiano is Shylock’s most vocal and insulting
critic during the trial. While Bassanio courts Portia, Gratiano
falls in love with and eventually weds Portia’s lady-in-waiting, Nerissa.
she is Shylock’s daughter, Jessica hates life in her father’s house,
and elopes with the young Christian gentleman, Lorenzo. The fate
of her soul is often in doubt: the play’s characters wonder if her
marriage can overcome the fact that she was born a Jew, and we wonder
if her sale of a ring given to her father by her mother is excessively
friend of Bassanio and Antonio, Lorenzo is in love with Shylock’s
daughter, Jessica. He schemes to help Jessica escape from her father’s
house, and he eventually elopes with her to Belmont.
lady-in-waiting and confidante. She marries Gratiano and escorts
Portia on Portia’s trip to Venice by disguising herself as her law
servant. A comical, clownish figure who is especially adept at making
puns, Launcelot leaves Shylock’s service in order to work for Bassanio.
The prince of Morocco
- A Moorish prince who seeks Portia’s hand in marriage.
The prince of Morocco asks Portia to ignore his dark countenance
and seeks to win her by picking one of the three caskets. Certain
that the caskets reflect Portia’s beauty and stature, the prince
of Morocco picks the gold chest, which proves to be incorrect.
The prince of Arragon
- An arrogant Spanish nobleman who also attempts to
win Portia’s hand by picking a casket. Like the prince of Morocco,
however, the prince of Arragon chooses unwisely. He picks the silver
casket, which gives him a message calling him an idiot instead of Portia’s
Venetian gentleman, and friend to Antonio, Bassanio, and Lorenzo.
Salarino escorts the newlyweds Jessica and Lorenzo to Belmont, and
returns with Bassanio and Gratiano for Antonio’s trial. He is often almost
indistinguishable from his companion Solanio.
Venetian gentleman, and frequent counterpart
The duke of Venice
ruler of Venice, who presides over Antonio’s
trial. Although a powerful man, the duke’s state is built on respect
for the law, and he is unable to help Antonio.
father, also a servant in Venice.
Jew in Venice, and one of Shylock’s friends.
- A wealthy Paduan lawyer and Portia’s cousin. Doctor
Bellario never appears in the play, but he gives Portia’s servant
the letters of introduction needed for her to make her appearance
servant, whom she dispatches to get the appropriate materials from