Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scene 3.1 - Venice
In Venice, Salerio confides to Solanio that one of Antonio's ships has been wrecked. Both hope that he won't have any more losses. Shylock enters. He reports that his daughter has run away, and they taunt him - Salerio jokes that he knew the tailor who made the wings she flew away with, and that there is more difference between her and him than between black and white. Shylock tells them that he's heard about Antonio's losses; they ask if he really means to take Antonio's flesh. He will, says Shylock, to feed his revenge. Further, Shylock says, for scorning him for being a Jew - for treating him as less than human though he too eats, gets sick, gets healed, and feels the seasons change as a Christian does - and will also take revenge as a Christian does. Salerio and Solanio are called away to see Antonio, and another Jew, Tubal, enters.
Tubal has been searching for Shylock's daughter and his money, but has had no luck. He has only heard rumors of Jessica squandering all of Shylock's money in Genoa - a merchant showed him a ring with which Jessica bought a monkey. Shylock wishes that his daughter were dead, and his money in her coffin. Tubal reports, though, that Antonio has lost another ship, and that his creditors report that he won't be able to repay the loan. He instructs Tubal to find an officer to arrest Antonio, and to meet him later at the synagogue.
Scene 3.2 - Belmont
Bassanio and Portia enter the lottery room. Portia asks Bassanio to wait a couple of days before choosing, because he will have to leave if he chooses wrongly, and she does not want to lose him. She wishes that she could tell him which casket was the right one, but realizes that she's not allowed. Bassanio insists that he's ready to choose, tortured by the anxiety of not knowing whether he'll win her or not. Portia orders for music to be played while he is choosing. If he loses the music will seem like a swan's song; if he wins, a wedding march. She watches him go towards the casket, describing him as like Hercules, when he rescued a maiden from a sea monster to whom her father had sacrificed her.
While Bassanio examines the caskets, a song is played - the lyrics imply that what looks best to the eye may be what is most dangerous. Bassanio, looking at the golden casket, responds to the song - he argues that beautiful ornament covers up injustice in law and heresy in religion, and that men who are cowardly dress bravely, and women who are naturally ugly dress themselves up as beautiful. For those reasons, Bassanio rejects the golden casket. He turns down the silver one too, for the same reason.
Bassanio chooses the leaden casket for its silent humility. Speaking only to the audience, Portia exclaims her joy. Bassanio opens the casket and finds Portia's picture. He describes the beauty of the picture, but notes that it is not nearly as perfect as the real thing. He reads the attached scroll, which commends him for not choosing what looks best, and permits him to kiss Portia. Bassanio turns to her and asks if she, too, will approve of their marriage. Portia says she does, and claims that she is humble and unschooled, and wishes she were a thousand times better for Bassanio's sake. She then gives him a ring, telling him that, if he loses it, he will lose her love too. Bassanio takes the ring, and promises never to take it off.
Nerissa and Graziano congratulate the couple. Graziano remarks on what a wonderful wife Bassanio has found, and Bassanio expresses his hope that he can find one as good. Graziano says that he has - that he and Nerissa have sworn their love to each other. Portia and Bassanio joyfully approve of the marriage.
Lorenzo, Jessica, and Salerio then enter. Salerio gives Bassanio a letter from Antonio. Portia asks why Bassanio looks so pale while reading it. He tells her the truth: he is a poor man, and borrowed money to impress her, and the letter is from the friend who lent it, the envelope torn open as his friend's body will be. Antonio's ventures have all failed. Even if Antonio could get the money, says Salerio, the deadline for repayment has passed, and Shylock insists on Antonio's flesh. Jessica says she's heard her father say that he'd rather have Antonio's flesh than twenty times the sum he's owed. Portia offers to pay as much as she can to satisfy Shylock. Bassanio reads the letter aloud: it announces that there is no hope for him, and he only wants to see Bassanio before he dies. Bassanio takes leave for Venice, promising not to sleep until he returns.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Scenes 1.2 and 1.3
Scenes 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3
Scenes 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6
Scenes 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9
Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scenes 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5
Scenes 4.1 and 4.2