Act III, Scene 3
Antonio is under arrest. He tries to speak with Shylock, but he will have none of it. He demands to have his bond because of how Antonio mistreated him.
After he leaves, Salarino curses Shylock’s name. Antonio tells him not to do that. He understands why Shylock hates him. He also knows why the duke will have to uphold the bond as a matter of law. He hopes Bassiano comes in time to pay his debt.
Act III, Scene 4
Lorenzo confirms to Portia that she has done a good thing by helping Antonio. She isn’t worried about that at all. If Antonio is good friends with Bassiano, then he must be a good man.
She asks Lorenzo to look after her home until Bassiano returns. She and Nerissa are going to pray at a nearby monastery for a couple days. Once she is alone with Nerissa and her servant, Balthazar, she puts her true plan into motion. She sends Balthazar to her cousin, Doctor Bellario, to copy a letter she has given him. Then, she explains to Nerissa that they will disguise themselves as men. When Nerissa asks why, she says she will explain later, but for now they have to go.
Act III, Scene 5
Launcelot teases Jessica that she is damned because of the sins of her father. In fact, not even being a bastard would save her because that would mean her mother had sinned. She is certain that her Christian husband will save her. Launcelot laments that the price of pork will go up if all the Jewish people convert to Christianity.
When Lorenzo arrives, Jessica fills him in on the conversation. He has some witty retorts and then asks Launcelot to tell the rest of the servants to prepare for dinner. Launcelot, of course, doesn’t make this request easy by intentionally misunderstanding almost every word. It isn’t until Lorenzo is fully exasperated that Launcelot finally goes in.
Lorenzo and Jessica discuss how much they like Portia and then decide to dote complements on each other over dinner.
Act IV, Scene 1
The Duke apologizes to Antonio because he has to deal with such a contemptible person, but there is nothing he can do to save him. The Duke has tried to reason with Shylock, but he won’t be reasoned with and there is no legal course for getting Antonio out of this bond.
When Shylock enters, the Duke reproaches him for being so uncaring toward his fellow man and that pretty much everyone thinks he is just the worst. Shylock doesn’t care. He doesn’t want the money. He wants the pound of flesh because he hates Antonio just that much. Bassiano questions Shylock repeatedly about how he can be so cruel. Antonio tells him not to bother. He might as well argue with a wolf or a tree. Bassiano offers Shylock six thousand ducats, three times the amount of the bond.
The Duke tries one more time to convince Shylock not to be so cruel, but he remains obstinate. The Duke hopes that the law doctor (why did we stop calling them that?!) he sent for will come to make the case. Conveniently Doctor Bellario has sent a letter. A young law clerk (Nerissa) delivers it to the Duke. He reads that Bellario was unable to come, but has sent a young lawyer in his stead. During the whole letter portion, Antonio’s friends keep asking Shylock how he can be so cruel, but it doesn’t really seem to bother him or sway his opinion. The Duke calls to the young lawyer to come in immediately. Cue Portia.
Portia first confirms the details of the case and then explains that Shylock should be merciful because he will be twice blessed by heaven for showing mercy over seeking justice. Shockingly, this does not convince Shylock. She asks if anyone can provide the money. Bassiano offers the six thousand ducats again he even offers to pay it ten times over. He begs the disguised Portia to bend the law to their side. She insists that they can’t set that precedent. Shylock super loves the young law doctor at this moment and willingly hands over the bond when he (she) asks for it. She asks Shylock again to take the money, which he refuses. There is nothing she can do. He must have the pound of flesh.
Portia tells Antonio to prepare to lose the pound of flesh. She asks if a scale is ready. It is. She asks if there is a surgeon on hand to heal his wounds. There’s not because it wasn’t detailed in the bond. Antonio is resigned to death and gives Bassiano a sweet goodbye. Bassiano says he would gladly give up his new wife to save Antonio (not realizing he is, in fact, in front of his new wife). Gratiano says the same thing.
Portia, as the lawyer, says that Shylock is definitely entitled to the flesh…but not to any blood. If he should spill any blood, everything he owns would be surrendered to Venice. Shylock tries to take the money, but Portia is having none of that. He already declined the money on the court record. He also has to take exactly a pound, no more, no less. Shylock keeps trying to take the money, but it’s too late for that. It turns out that under Venetian Law, if an alien (which a Jewish person would be) threatens the life of a Venetian, half of his estate goes to the person he threatens and half is given to Venice after he is put to death. The Duke agrees to spare his life and Antonio tells him to give Antonio’s half to Jessica and Lorenzo. Antonio also requests that Shylock convert to Christianity, which the judge orders. Shylock leaves, defeated.
Bassiano and Antonio thank the young lawyer and insist on giving him something to say thank you. Portia asks for Antonio’s gloves and Bassiano’s ring…the ring Portia gave him. He refuses and Antonio tells him not to be so silly. Bassiano sends Gratiano to give the young lawyer (Portia) the ring.
Act IV, Scene 2
Portia is pretty surprised when Gratiano comes running out with the ring. Nerissa tricks him into giving up his ring to her.
Act V, Scene 1
Lorenzo and Jessica cuddle under the moonlight expressing their deep, undying love for one another. Stephano reveals that Portia is coming back soon and Launcelot brings the same news about Bassiano. Lorenzo asks Stephano to play some music and then resumes his romantic cuddling.
Portia and Nerissa see the lights on at the house and hear the music. They take a few moments to remark on the music before Lorenzo notices them. Portia tells everyone to keep their departure a secret.
Bassiano, Gratiano, and Antonio approach. Portia graciously welcomes Anontio to her home. Nerissa and Gratiano start bickering about the ring he gave away. Nerissa is very offended that he gave away her ring and to a boy! Portia chides Gratiano and uses her husband as an example of a man who kept his oath. Gratiano rats him out immediately. Now both women are quite perturbed. Bassiano explains why he gave it away and that it was really hard for him, but Portia is still upset. She says he better keep a good eye on her or she will be loosey-goosey with her own vows. Bassiano promises not to do anything like it again, which Portia doesn’t really believe since they are literally fighting about him breaking a promise. Antonio intervenes on Bassiano’s behalf and Portia gives him a “new” ring.
Bassiano doesn’t understand how Portia came by the ring. She jokingly makes it sound like she slept with the law doctor, which doesn’t go over all that well. Nerissa confesses the same of the clerk. When both men are good and upset they reveal that they were actually the law doctor and clerk. The men are very relieved.
Antonio inexplicably discovers in the letter that his ships are actually just fine (yaaay!). Portia gives the deed for Shylock’s estate to Jessica. Everybody is happy and gets ready to run off to their nuptial beds…except for Antonio. He’s still alone.