Act 1

Scene 1

Bassanio asks Antonio if he can loan some money so that Bassanio can court Portia. Antonio says that all his money is tied up in shipping investments, but that he will act as a guarantor on a loan for Bassanio.

Scene 2

The will left by Portia’s father instructs that she is not to be married until a suitor correctly guesses which of three caskets contains her portrait, under penalty that if a suitor guesses incorrectly, he will never marry anyone.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 1, Scenes 1 & 2.

Scene 3

Shylock hates Antonio for his anti-Semitic remarks and criticism of Shylock’s lending practices. Shylock agrees to give Bassanio a three-month loan, with the understanding that if he fails to pay the money back, Antonio must give Shylock a pound of his own flesh.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 1, Scene 3.

Act 2

Scene 1

The prince of Morocco arrives to select a casket and attempt to earn Portia’s hand in marriage. She reminds him that he will never be able to marry anyone if he chooses incorrectly, and he agrees.

Scene 2

Launcelot decides to leave Shylock’s service and asks to become Bassanio’s servant instead. Gratiano asks to join Bassanio on his trip to Belmont.

Scene 3

Shylock’s daughter Jessica asks Launcelot to deliver a message to Bassanio’s friend Lorenzo, whom Jessica hopes to marry someday.

Scene 4

Lorenzo, with the help of his friends, is planning to sneak Jessica out of Shylock’s house by disguising her as Lorenzo’s torchbearer.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 2, Scenes 1–4.

Scene 5

Shylock warns Launcelot that Bassanio will not be as good a master to him. Worrying that some plan is afoot, Shylock tells Jessica to lock all the doors and not look out any of the windows during the night.

Scene 6

Gratiano and Salarino meet Lorenzo outside Shylock’s home. Jessica, in disguise, tosses down a chest full of gold and jewels, and then climbs down to join the men.

Scene 7

The prince of Morocco incorrectly chooses the gold casket while trying to win Portia’s hand, and hastily leaves Belmont.

Scene 8

Solanio and Salarino discuss Shylock’s rage upon learning that his daughter and his money are missing. The two worry about Antonio because of rumors that his ships have been lost at sea, and he may not be able to repay his debt to Shylock.

Scene 9

The prince of Arragon attempts to win Portia’s hand, but he also chooses the wrong casket. Portia receives word that a new suitor has arrived from Venice, and she hopes that it is Bassanio.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 2, Scenes 5–9.

Act 3

Scene 1

Shylock is furious over Jessica’s disappearance. Rumors persist that Antonio’s fortunes have been ruined by the loss of his ships.

Scene 2

Bassanio selects the correct casket, Nerissa falls in love with Gratiano, and the couples decide to have a double wedding. Antonio will have to pay Shylock his pound of flesh, prompting Bassanio to return to Venice.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 3, Scenes 1 & 2.

Scene 3

Shylock takes Antonio to prison. Antonio knows that it is unlikely that the Duke of Venice will break the terms of the contract even to save Antonio from death.

Scene 4

Portia believes in the importance of helping Bassanio rescue Antonio, and she decides that she and Nerissa will go to Venice in disguise to help their new husbands.

Scene 5

Launcelot expresses his concern for Jessica’s soul, although Jessica claims that she will be saved by her marriage to Lorenzo. Lorenzo promises Jessica that he will be as good a spouse to her as Portia will be to Bassanio.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 3, Scenes 3–5.

Act 4

Scene 1

At Antonio’s trial, Portia, disguised as a lawyer, wins the day by telling Shylock that he may take his pound of flesh, but that he has no right to Antonio’s blood. Antonio allows Shylock to escape with half his estate if Shylock agrees to convert to Christianity and leave everything to his daughter and Lorenzo in his will.

Scene 2

Portia and Nerissa plan to return quickly to Belmont so that they can beat the men home, but Gratiano arrives to give Bassanio’s ring to Portia. Nerissa decides that she will try to get Gratiano to also give up his ring so that the women can torment their new husbands back in Belmont.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 1–163.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 164–396.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 397–453 & Scene 2.

Act 5

Scene 1

All the couples meet up in Belmont where Portia and Nerissa torment Bassanio and Gratiano until they finally reveal that they were the lawyer and clerk in Venice. Antonio learns that not all of his ships were lost at sea after all.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Act 5, Scene 1.