The Merchant of Venice, Act 3 Summary

Scene 1

The scene opens in Venice where Salarino and Solanio are found discussing about the rumor which said that yet another of Antonio’s ship has run into trouble. They both are worried whether Antonio will be able to pay back the debt or not. Shylock joins them and he accuses the two of helping in his daughter’s elopement, to which the two men take great pride. Salarino is surprised at the startling difference between Shylock and his daughter, Jessica.

They enquirer Shylock whether the rumor about Antonio’s losses are true or not. Shylock responds gleefully that soon Antonio will be bankrupt and he will be able to collect his bond. Salarino is suspicious as what good Shylock will benefit from Antonio’s pound of flesh but Shylock assured him in this way he will finally be able to get his revenge.

Shylock then elaborately goes on to describe the sufferings he has faced under the tyranny of Antonio just because he is a Jew. Antonio’s indifferent attitude towards him is only in the grounds that Shylock isn’t a Christian but isn’t he after all a human too? Shylock is determined to teach Antonio a lesson for his mistreatment.

Immediately afterwards, Salarino and Solanio take his leave to meet Antonio and Shylock’s friend and another Jew, Tubal enters. Tubal announces that he has no news of Jesica, to which Shylock curses. He repents his bad luck and bemoans when he hears that Jessica has given away Shylock’s precious ring for a monkey. His rants are interrupted by one joyous news which Tubal bears with him is that Antonio’s ships have run into trouble and that there is no way he will be able to repay his debt.

Scene 2

Bassanio arrives at Belmont to try his luck in the casket choosing in order to marry Portia. Portia begs him to delay his choosing with the excuse that if he loses she will miss his company. However, Bassanio request her that by delaying it, it will only torment him. Portia takes him to the room where the three caskets are kept.

While Bassanio is pondering, Portia sings a song where she compares Bassanio to the Greek hero, Hercules. Bassanio, in the meanwhile, carefully examines the three caskets and one by one eliminates them. He rejects the gold casket by saying “the world is still deceived with ornament.” He then rejects the silver casket by saying “a pale and common drudge/ ‘Tween man and men.

He finally selects the lead casket and upon opening it, he is rejoiced to find Portia’s portrait along with the poem, congratulating him. Bassanio and Portia then goes on to promise their love for one another and Portia hands over a ring to Bassanio, as a sign of their love and warns him that the day he loses them will mark the end of their love.

Nerissa and Gratiano join the happy union and announces that they, too, have fallen in love with each other and this marked the call for a joint wedding. Lorenzo arrives with Jessica and Salarino enters with a message from Antonio. The letter reads that Antonio’s ships have failed him and Shylock plans to collect his flesh as according to the condition.

Bassanio is worried and guilt ridden upon hearing the news. Portia assured him that she is ready to pay twenty times the init amount, to which Jessica retorts that her father will have no more interest in the money but in acquiring his revenge. Antonio has written in the letter for Bassanio to come as he wants to see his friend for one last time. Portia urges her husband to make haste and Bassanio leaves for Venice. 

Scene 3

Shylock drags Antonio to jail. He turns a deaf ear to all of Antonio’s pleas and warns him of all the times he had called Shylock a dog, that the dog’s bite is about to happen. Shylock is confident that the duke will grant his justice. Solanio calls Shylock the worst of men to which Antonio replies that it’s his fault as his way of giving loans with interest has incurred losses for Shylock.

Solanio assured him that the duke will never let things happen according to Shylock but Antonio remains skeptic. He says that Venice has a great reputation for upholding laws and ensuring justice and the duke will in no way break the law for economic sufferance. Antonio says aside that he has no more wish left apart from seeing Bassanio for one last time. 

Scene 4

Meanwhile Portia frets over her husband to which Lorenzo assured her that is she knew Antonio half as well as he did, she will see how trifle the praises are in comparison to his great self. Portia replies that she has never regretted any decision in her life and any close friend of Bassanio is close to her.

She hopes that Antonio will be spared and announces that until Bassanio returns, Nerissa and she will be taking refuge in a nearby monastery and living a life in prayer and contemplation. Jessica and Lorenzo are kept in charge of managing Portia’s estate. Portia the sends one of her servant, Balthazar to Padua to meet her cousin, Doctor Bellario, who will provide him with some documents and garment which Balthazar is to bring to them in Venice.

Portia and Nerissa departs for Venice, dressed as young men. Nerissa asks the reason for such a secret visit to Venice to which Portia replies that she will unfold the plan to her on the coach ride. 

Scene 5

Launcelot Gobbo fears for Jessica and her child for Shylock’s sins. Jessica assures him that she is saved from the sin by her marriage to Lorenzo. Launcelot goes on making remarks on the Jewish conventions and that the conversion to one will have disastrous consequences on the bacon.

Lorenzo enters and rebuffs Launcelot for impregnating a Moorish servant to which Launcelot retorts in a series of puns and witty remarks. Lorenzo then asks for Jessica’s opinion of Portia and Jessica replies that she finds her a match unparalleled. Lorenzo jokes by saying that he is as good a spouse as Portia is and they exit for dinner.