The Merchant of Venice: Act 3, Scene 1 to 5 - Summary

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Act 3, Scene 1

      At the Rialto in Venice, news is out that one of Antonio's ships has indeed sunk. Shylock is still lost in his misery of having lost his money and his daughter. He is seen wandering around, asking Solanio and Salerio if they knew Jessica was planning her escape or if they had seen her in the town. They are able to tell him nothing. They do mention, though, that one of Antonio's ships has gone down and wonder if Shylock knows this. Saleria, who is worried about Antonio, asks what good a pound of flesh would be to Shylock. Shylock answers: "It will feed my revenge." Shylock then relates how Antonio has disgraced him, over and over again. He says Antonio has laughed at him, mocked him, and spit on him. It is at this point that Shylock makes his famous speech, noted by some as one of the more impelling speeches against prejudice ever written. Shylock begins with the statement that Antonio has done all these hateful things against him merely because Shylock is a Jew. Then he continues: "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands? Shylock's point is that a Jew is the same as a Christian. He uses his speech, however, to also justify his own revenge against Antonio because Shylock is doing only what has been done to him. He has learned about revenge, he claims, from the Christians.

      Tubal, a friend of Shylock's, then appears. He tells Shylock that he has heard news of Jessica. She has been spending a lot of money. Tubal also tells Shylock that Antonio has lost another ship. Then Tubal switches back to the topic of Jessica. She has sold a family ring in order to buy a monkey. Then he talks of Antonio again, pushing Shylock back and forth emotionally, from feeling sad about his daughter to feeling glad that Antonio is failing. Tubal assures Shylock that Antonio is sure to fail. Shylock tells Tubal that if Antonio cannot pay back the loan on time, he plans to take Antonio's heart, the pound of flesh, in payment.

Act 3, Scene 2

      In Belmont, Bassanio arrives. Portia sees him and debates in her mind whether she should help him choose the correct chest. She knows she cannot really do this without breaking her vow to her father, but she wishes that she could.

      Bassanio and Portia talk, hinting at one another's love. Portia tells Bassanio that she is locked inside one of the chests. As Bassanio stands in front of the chests, he thinks out loud, trying to figure out the scheme behind the notes accompanying each one. "The world is still deceiv'd with ornament," Bassanio tells himself as he looks over the silver and gold chests. Then, as he stands in front of the lead chest, he claims: "Thy plainness moves me more than eloquence" He chooses the lead chest and is right. He finds a picture of Portia inside.

      Bassanio and Portia celebrate. In the midst of this, Gratiano and Nerissa announce that they too want to be married.

      A messenger from Venice arrives with a letter for Bassanio from Antonio. Portia notices the changes in Bassanio's expression and wants to know the news. Bassanio confesses that he came to Portia not only a man without money, but a man who is in debt. He owes everything to Antonio. And now Antonio is in jail and must pay off that debt with his flesh. Portia says the amount of money is small. She will double it and give it to Shylock. Jessica warns them that her father has sworn that if Antonio himself, does not pay back the money, he will have Antonio's flesh. Portia believes she can solve this problem, but first she wants to become Bassanio's wife.

Act 3, Scene 3

      Antonio is in prison. Shylock insists on having Antonio's flesh, no matter how much Antonio and his friends beg for mercy. When Shylock refuses, Antonio is resigned to his death. He knows that Shylock has the law on his side. There is nothing anyone can do. Antonio signed the bond, which is binding.

Act 3, Scene 4

      Lorenzo praises Portia for coming to the aid of Antonio. Portia tells him that if Antonio is Bassanio's friend, then he must be as good as Bassanio and is worth anything she can do. She tells Lorenzo that he must look after her estate as she and Nerissa are going to a monastery to pray until this ordeal is over. Portia then turns to a servant and gives him a letter to take to Padua to her cousin Doctor Bellario. Then he is to bring the things that Bellario will give him and deliver them to Portia in Venice. Portia tells Nerissa that their husbands will see them sooner than they think but they will not recognize them because the wives will be disguised as men.

Act 3, Scene 5

      Launcelot teases Jessica that she is like her father but then says maybe Shylock is not really Jessica's father. Jessica Comes back by saying that would be no better, since that would make her tainted by the sins of her mother. Jessica then says that she is not concerned about her relationship with Shylock because by marrying Lorenzo, a Christian, she has been saved. Lorezo comes in and upon finding out What they have been talking about, Lorenzo further develops the topic of racism, chiding Launcelot that the black servant he has been sleeping with is pregnant with Launcelot's baby.

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