Why can’t Antonio pay back his loan?

After a series of accidents, all of Antonio’s ships are reported as wrecked. As Bassanio laments, “Have all his ventures failed? What, not one hit? . . . And not one vessel ’scape the dreadful touch / Of merchant-marring rocks?” (III.ii.274-279). Therefore, Antonio does not have the money to pay back Shylock and is in danger of having to pay the penalty of a pound of his own flesh. Antonio was initially confident that his investment was guaranteed, but he learns the hard way that nothing is ever certain. Thanks to Portia’s generosity, Antonio gains enough money to pay back the loan, but by then, Shylock is insistent on claiming the penalty that he is technically owed.

Popular pages: The Merchant of Venice