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Bassanio asks his friend Antonio, a rich merchant, for a loan to help him woo Portia. Antonio's wealth is all invested in merchant ships, so he goes to the Jewish money-lender, Shylock. Shylock, angry that Antonio has insulted him in the past, lends the money on condition that if it is not returned within three months, he will cut off a pound of Antonio's flesh.
Portia's father's will requires her suitors to choose from gold, silver and lead caskets. The lead casket entitles the chooser to marry her. Bassanio chooses it, and marries Portia, and his friend Gratiano marries her maid Nerissa. But then news arrives that Antonio's ships are missing, so he cannot repay the debt. Portia and Nerissa, disguised as a lawyer and his clerk, go to the court to save Antonia. Portia argues that although Shylock may take Antonio's flesh, he must not spill any blood. Shylock cannot do this, and is ordered to give half his wealth to Antonio. Under duress, he agrees to become a Christian. Finally, news comes that Antonio's ships are safe after all.—Summary taken from The World of Shakespeare.
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