The Merchant of Venice, Act 5 Summary

The scene opens in Belmont with Lorenzo and Jessica, out beneath the moonlight, comparing themselves to the different classical lovers like Troilus and Cressida, Dido and Aeneas and so on. They go on back and forth declaring their love for one another when a messenger enters and announces that Portia will be returning soon.

Jessica and Lorenzo gets ready to meet the mistress of the house when Launcelot enters and announces that Bassanio along with Antonio will be arriving the next day. Lorenzo says that this calls for some music and he and Jessica sits on the grassy bank, while the music plays in the background. As the melody drifts towards them,

Lorenzo muses that music is something only possible by the movement of the mystical orbs in the universe. He also says that the people who aren’t moved by the music, are some of the vile creatures on Earth and deserve the worst cruelties. Portia and Nerissa make way for their home but even before they have crossed the threshold, music reaches their ears and Portia declares that the music is made more beautiful in the night.

They greet Lorenzo and Jessica and Portia warns them not to mention to Bassanio about their absence. Flaring of the trumpets announce the approach of Bassanio and Antonio along with Gratiano. They greet one another and Bassanio introduces his friend to his wife and Portia heartily welcomes him.

In the meantime, Gratiano and Nerissa break into a little quarrel. When asked by the others, Nerissa mentions that Gratiano has already lost their ring bearing their sign of love. Gratiano argues that he has given the ring to the clerk of the lawyer who caught for Antonio as a sign of gratitude. Portia announces by saying that’s just an excuse and how Bassanio will never give up the ring which is a token of their love for something like this.

Gratiano corrects Portia by saying that Bassanio did, in fact, present his ring to the lawyer out of gratitude. Portia declares that Bassanio has been unfaithful and that she will never visit his bed till Bassanio is able to acquire the ring back. Bassanio implores Portia to consider his position and that he was indebted to a worthy man who saved his dear friend’s life.

Portia, however, dismisses this by saying that he most likely has given the ring to a woman, which in that case, she feels laying with another man to prove back her faithfulness. Antonio interjects and vouches for both Bassanio and Gratiano, saying how they did it all to save his life and that never again will they ever be unfaithful to either of them.

Portia and Nerissa agrees to that and gives both Bassanio and Gratiano, respectively, another ring for safekeeping. Bassanio and Gratiano recognizes the rings to be the ones given to the lawyer and to the clerk. Portia then unravels the entire history by saying how she disguised herself as the young lawyer and Nerissa as the clerk and went to Venice to save Antonio’s life.

Antonio, in the meanwhile, receives some news about how all of his ships have ventured safely and have reached the docks and declares to Lorenzo that he will be the owner of Shylock’s estate after his death. The play ends in reconciliation and rejoice by all the present characters.