The Merchant of Venice is a play about love, money, and religion. A merchant named Antonio complains to his friends that his other friend Bassanio is in desperate need of money to court a wealthy heiress names Portia. He can not make this loan himself, for all of his money is invested into ships at sea. Antonio and Bassanio go to a moneylender named Shylock who offers to loan Antonio money, but the trick is that if he can not pay Shylock back, Antonio must give him a pound of his flesh. Antonio agrees, despite Bassanios warnings against it. While this is going down, Portia is confronted by a number of suitors, she really isn’t interested in. In her fathers will, the suitors must pick from three caskets and pick the right one in order to marry Portia. If they choose the wrong casket, however, they are sent away. Bassaino gets the money from Shylock and he and his friend Gratiano leave to win Portia’s hand. After Portia turns away the Prince of Morocco, Shylock gets news that Antonio’s ships have been wrecked and he can soon claim his debt. When Bassanio arrives to Portia’s house she has already turned away the prince of Argon. They both confess their love for each other and Bassanio immediately picks the correct casket. Portia gives Bassanio a ring as a token of her love and demands that he never takes it off. Gratiano confesses his love for Portia’s best friend, Nerissa, and they all decide to have a double wedding. The celebration is cut short due to the fact that Antonio is about to die. Both men go back to Venice to stop the debt from being paid out. A twist occurs when Portia and Nerissa dress up as men, and stop Shylock from cutting Antonio’s flesh. Shylock is forced to forget his Jewish religion and become a Christian. Both women reveal themselves at the end and all is well.
A reoccurring theme that pops up a lot in this play is self-interest versus love. When first analyzing this play one can assume that the Christian characters are written to value human life and emotion over money. This compares to Shylock, a Jewish man, who seems to value business relationships over human relationships. An example of this would be when Shylock runs through the streets yelling “O, my ducats! O, my daughter.” (II.viii.15) This can be looked at as if he values his money just the same as he does his own flesh and blood. This occurs in the Christian characters as well. Even though Bassanio loves Portia, he seeks her hand because he is in so much debt that he needs her money. The reader can see this theme being very relevant when comparing both Shylock and Bassanio. They both love something real and human, but the thought of money is what causes them to pursue said thing. This play is all about money interfering with relationships, common issue not only in Shakespearean society but in todays as well.