A young Venetian, Bassanio, needs a loan of three
thousand ducats so that he can woo Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress.
He approaches his friend Antonio, a merchant. Antonio is short of money
because all his wealth is invested in his fleet, which is currently at
sea. He goes to a Jewish money lender, Shylock, who hates Antonio
because of Antonio’s anti semitic behaviour towards him.
Shylock nevertheless agrees to make the short term loan, but, in a
moment of dark humour, he makes a condition the loan must be repaid in
three months or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio.
Antonio agrees, confident that his ships will return in time.