->''I am a Jew! Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?''
-->-- '''Shylock''', 3.1.58-67

''[[LongTitle The most excellent Historie of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe towards the sayd Merchant, in cutting a iust pound of his flesh: and the obtayning of Portia by the choyse of three chests]]'' is a play by Creator/WilliamShakespeare, believed to be written between 1596 and 1598. It is one of his most controversial.

Bassanio is of noble blood, but has spent all his money and now wants to attempt to woo the Lady Portia, a beautiful -- and extremely wealthy -- heiress. He needs to borrow money, so he approaches his old friend Antonio, the eponymous merchant, who's often bailed him out in the past.

Antonio's wares are out at sea, and he has no money on hand, but he's willing to lend Bassanio anything he can get. So Bassanio finds Shylock, a wealthy Jewish moneylender. Shylock hates Antonio, partly for being a Christian, but mainly because Antonio insulting him and spits on him for being a usurer. So he agrees to the loan, and won't even charge interest -- but if the loan isn't paid back by the specified date, he gets a pound of Antonio's flesh. Antonio's got his ship coming in a full month before the money is due, so he's not worried and signs the bond.

Bassanio goes to see Portia, but he's got to get in line; half the single men in Europe want to marry her. Her father has left a will saying that anyone who wants to marry her has to choose from one of three caskets -- one silver, one gold and one lead. The princes of Morocco and Aragon choose the first two and are sent away unhappy. Bassanio chooses the lead one, which was of course right. All is happiness as Portia agrees to marry him right away.

Only, Antonio's just heard that his ship has gone down in a storm and he's now in serious trouble. Not only can he not pay back the loan, but Shylock's daughter Jessica has just eloped with a Christian named Lorenzo (who happens to be friends with Bassanio) and taken most of Shylock's money with her, so he's in an even fouler mood than previously. He has Antonio arrested and brought up before the court to claim his pound of flesh.

Portia and Bassanio, freshly married (in a double wedding with Bassanio's friend Gratiano and Portia's maid Nerissa for good measure), hear about Antonio's plight and set off to the rescue with Portia's money. Impressed by the deep love between Antonia and Bassanio, she offers three times what is owed, in the hope of deterring Shylock. And disguises herself as a man, to be present at the final trial.

''The Merchant of Venice'' is officially classed as a comedy. While during its original production it would have been seen as pretty funny (with a pantomime Jew as a villain who gets his comeuppance in the end), it was a comedy in the classic sense of having a happy ending, rather than the more modern humourous one. These days, it tends to be played and interpreted more as a straight drama, focusing on the racial prejudices against Shylock.

!! Tropes in ''The Merchant of Venice'':

* AmbiguouslyGay: Antonio. His devotion to Bassanio is intense enough that he's willing to sacrifice his life for him, and he explicitly parallels his love for Bassanio with Portia's during the trial scene. In modern productions, it's rarely all that ambiguous.
* AntiVillain: When it comes down to it, Shylock is still trying to kill Antonio (with law!), but the play spends a lot of time showing the audience where he's coming from; see IneffectualSympatheticVillain.
* ArbitrarilyLargeBankAccount: Portia's inheritance. While the rest of the cast is falling over themselves trying to pay back Antonio's bond to Shylock, when Bassanio tells Portia about it, her reaction is "Three thousand ducats? Is that ''all''? Here, give Antonio the money. No, have twice as much. You know what? Just to be on the safe side, let's triple it."
* AsYouKnow: "'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio..."
* AssholeVictim: Traditionally, Shylock. To modern audiences, often Antonio.
* {{Beta Couple}}s: Nerissa and Gratiano and Lorenzo and Jessica, to OfficialCouple Portia and Bassanio
* BetterToDieThanBeKilled: Invoked by Gratiano: "Beg that thou mayst have leave to hang thyself!"
* BittersweetEnding: In many adaptations, including the AlPacino film version. Almost everyone is married and happy, but Shylock has lost everything, both material and spiritual, and Antonio is alone, with his best friend married and living his own life. The film goes one step further and suggests that Shylock and Antonio are NotSoDifferent. Jessica often gets one of these, where it's hinted that she misses her father. Shylock's own ending is somewhat improved when you consider the ValuesDissonance (the play ''was'' written in the Elizabethan era, after all) and realize that Antonio was actually trying to ''save'' Shylock's soul when he asked the court to force Shylock to convert to Christianity.
* BlindMistake: The scene with Old Gobbo.
* BreakingTheFourthWall: Launcelot does this pretty shamelessly, actually asking the audience to pay attention while he plays this awesome prank on his dad.
-->'''Launcelot''': Mark me now; now will I raise the waters.
* BumblingDad: Old Gobbo.
* ButNotTooBlack: According to one of the stage directions, the Prince of Morocco is a "tawny moor", as opposed to a "black" moor. Justified in the sense that, in Shakespeare's time, both sub-Saharan Africans and North African Arabs were referred to as "moors" and the adjective was necessary to distinguish between them. For instance, a painting of the [[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/MoorishAmbassador_to_Elizabeth_I.jpg Moroccan ambassador to Elizabeth I's court]], from the same time period (and who, incidentally, Shakespeare probably met) is entitled ''The Moorish Ambassador in England''.
* CityOfCanals: Part of the play takes place in Venice.
* {{Cloudcuckoolander}}: Launcelot.
* ConvertingForLove: Jewish Jessica turns to Christianity for Lorenzo.
* CruelMercy: Let Shylock live, but only if he gives up his religion and signs his worldly goods over to the daughter that betrayed him.
* DeathByAdaptation: Shylock sometimes falls victim to this when directors want to turn him into an all-out tragic figure; one notable production had him stab himself upon exit from the court scene.
* DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment: Used for drama in Shylock's speeches and comedy in Launcelot's. Portia also does this while {{lampshad|eHanging}}ing the fact that she's stalling.
-->'''Portia''': I speak too long, but 'tis to pheaze the time,\\
To eke it and to draw it out in length...
* DeusExMachina: Subverted. The cast are at their wits end trying to save Antonio, then find out the amount owed is spare change for Portia... Then Shylock refuses ''triple'' the payment it because ItsPersonal.
* DidYouThinkICantFeel: One of the most famous examples.
* DisproportionateRetribution: Shylock decides to enforce his bargain in the most gruesome way possible because of Jessica eloping with Lorenzo, something Antonio had nothing to do with (and even if he did, that's still excessive). Antonio is a douchebag to Shylock, there's no denying, but that's hardly a capital crime.
* EngagementChallenge: The three caskets.
* EntitledToHaveYou: Morocco and Arragon both feel this way about Portia, mostly because they're princes and on her social level. This is why they're both tempted to chose the silver casket, labeled "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves". Morocco doesn't, but Arragon does--they both get sent home, and Portia marries the far poorer Bassanio instead.
* ExactWords: Shylock demanded one pound of Antonio's flesh. Portia, while posing as a judge, informs him that he is entitled only to that one pound, no more or less, and only to Antonio's flesh - no blood can be spilled, otherwise the deal is void.
* {{Expy}}: Launcelot Gobbo is ''very'' similar, in name and nature, to Launce from Shakespeare's earlier play, ''Theatre/TwoGentlemenOfVerona.'' This could be an ActorAllusion, as the two Launces were almost certainly played by the same comic actor, Will Kemp.
** Some theatre critics and Elizabethan scholars argue that Shylock is inspired by [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roderigo_Lopez#Trial_and_execution Roderigo Lopez]], the Portuguese New Christian ("converted Jew") who served as Royal Physician in Elizabeth's day, whose trial and execution was tinged with anti-semitism despite Lopez's insistence that he was innocent and a Christian.
* FaceDeathWithDignity: Starting from the line, "I'll follow him no more with bootless prayers," Antonio becomes bent on doing this.
* FinalSpeech: Antonio gets one, directly after Portia says, "You, merchant, have you anything to say?" Subverted in that he doesn't end up dying at all.
* TheFool: Launcelot.
* FreudianThreat:
-->'''Salario''': Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh: what's that good for?\\
'''Shylock''': To bait fish withal.
* FreudianTrio:
** Antonio: Superego. He's the most sensible of them and a voice of reason (when he's not being an ass to Shylock).
** Bassanio: Ego
** Gratiano: Id
* FriendVersusLover: A major theme of the main plot and in sub-plots.
** During the trial scene, Bassanio and Gratiano swear that, if they could save Antonio's life, they would give up everything, even their new wives. Little do they know that their wives are standing right there. Later, Bassanio refuses to give away his wife's ring... until Antonio talks him into it, and it's nicely tied up when Portia refuses to give Bassanio ''back'' his ring -- until ''Antonio'' talks her into it.
** In the subplot, there seems to be a bit of tension going on between Lancelot and Lorenzo as to which of them gets to spend time with Jessica.
* FunnyForeigner:
** All of Portia's suitors, the Italian Bassanio excepted.
** Shylock has been played as this in the past, though it's very rare to play him for comedy now.
* GenreShift: The first three acts are [[{{Dramedy}} a mix of drama and comedy]] split almost evenly between the Portia and Shylock plots, while the fourth act is straight drama (despite some snarking from Portia and Nerissa) and the fifth act is almost farcical.
* GoodAngelBadAngel: Launcelot's comedic moral struggle, in which he parodies morality plays of the time. In the end, he sides with the devil.
* GreedyJew: Shylock is perhaps the most famous example in existence. He craves money and property, but it's subverted when he refuses double repayment of the debt in favor of being able to carve a pound of flesh out of Antonio.
* GreekChorus: Salarino and Solanio frequently impart crucial information via discussions with one another and interviews with the other characters.
* HaremSeeker: At one point Launcelot reads his palm and discovers that he's going to have fifteen wives. He feels cheated; he wanted twenty, at ''least''.
* HeelFaceTurn: When given the opportunity to start anew as a Christian, a broken Shylock takes that opportunity at once.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: Antonio and Bassanio. (...[[HoYay Arguably]]. These days, the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon itself portrays them as being in a romantic relationship, with full consent and approval from Portia.)
* HollywoodLaw: A contract that gives you the right to murder another person is not enforceable by law. This was true in Elizabethan times as well.
** Subverted in that this is, in effect, how the contract is rendered moot at the end: Shylock may have his pound of flesh, but without shedding blood, and for having plotted to murder Antonio, he is subject to punishment.
* HotBlooded: Gratiano is sometimes portrayed this way. At any rate, he's the most animated of the male cast.
* HumiliationConga: At the play's end Shylock has lost, in short order, his daughter, his fortune, his property and his religion. But every cloud has a silver lining, and considering the ValuesDissonance...
* HurricaneOfEuphemisms / UnusualEuphemism: "...for indeed my father did something smack, something grow to, he had a kind of taste..."
* HypocriticalHumor:
-->'''Solanio:''' But it is true, without any slips of prolixity, or crossing the plain highway of talk, that the good Antonio, the honest Antonio--oh, that I had a word good enough to keep his name company--\\
'''Salarino:''' Come, the full stop.\\
'''Solanio:''' Hah! what sayest thou?
** If Launcelot is saying something like "To be brief..." or "I have ne'er a tongue in my head," you can count on it that he's about to go off on a tangent. Not to mention that he criticizes his dad for not being "honest". This either means "honest" in the modern sense of the word (and the line happens right before he runs into his dad and starts lying to him) or "honest" in the secondary Elizabethan sense of "chaste" (which he clearly isn't, either--he later criticizes ''the girl he got pregnant'' for not being honest).
* IncrediblyLamePun:
-->'''Lorenzo''': ...the Moor is with child by you, Launcelot!\\
'''Launcelot''': It is much that the Moor should be more than reason, but if she be less than an honest woman, she is indeed more than I took her for.\\
'''Lorenzo''': How every fool can play upon the word!
* IneffectualSympatheticVillain: Shylock is very easy to portray this way, though it's not really clear if it was intentional. See FairForItsDay.
* InsistentTerminology: Launcelot uses this a lot.
* IronicEcho / OverlyLongGag: Gratiano starts jubilantly quoting Shylock after the tables turn in the court scene. For context, Shylock was referring to the Biblical story of Daniel preventing innocent blood from being shed by using his God-given wisdom to expose the two judges that had blackmailed a young woman named Susanna, who was on her way to execution, but not quite there, when Daniel intervened.
-->'''Gratiano''': A Daniel still say I, a second Daniel!\\
I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.
* TheJester: Launcelot Gobbo, who may become a literal jester during the course of the play. (Arguable because, after he's given his special "guarded" livery, his punning becomes more deliberate and he's repeatedly referred to as "the fool".) Either way, he tells Jessica that she's "damned" and complains that converting Jews will raise the price of pork, and nobody seems to him too seriously.
* KillHimAlready: Gratiano, when the tables are turned and Antonio gets to decide Shylock's fate: "A halter gratis! Nothing else, for God's sake!"
* LoanShark: Already an established trope that Shakespeare is riffing on. In a bit of a MemeticMutation, the term "Shylock" is now synonymous with loan sharks.
* LostWeddingRing
* LysistrataGambit: Portia and Nerissa vow never to come to bed with their husbands until they see the rings. Of course, they're the ones who ''took'' the rings.
* MadnessMantra: "I will have my bond..."
* MaidAndMaiden: Nerissa is the Maid to Portia's maiden. They both even go undercover together as men and keep the same dynamic. Nerissa is also officially Portia's waiting maid.
* {{Malaproper}}: Both the Gobbos constantly use the wrong words.
* MamasBabyPapasMaybe: Launcelot argues that Jessica might not be her father's child.
* MatzoFever: Lorenzo has it bad, although he (and all the other guys) seem to regard Jessica's lovable qualities as existing in spite of her Jewishness.
* MeaningfulName:
** Portia is the "port" towards which many merchant-like princes venture in an attempt to claim the "goods", her money and herself. She may also have been named after Porcia, the beautiful and clever wife of [[Theatre/JuliusCaesar Brutus]], who she's compared to.
** Portia also means "Pig", and she's completely unfair to poor Shylock.
** The name "Shylock" is possibly derived from ''shallach'', a Hebrew word for "cormorant" which was also used to describe usurers.
** The name Shylock could also mean that he's shy and locks his feelings inside. He is shy because of his tormentors.
** "Gratiano" means ''grace,'' and can also be taken to mean "gratuitous", because he's said to speak "an infinite deal of nothing".
** "Launcelot" means ''servant,'' which is, well, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin exactly what he is,]] and in some productions his last name, "Gobbo" (Italian for ''hunchback)'' is taken as an indication that he has curvature of the spine.
*** His name in the quartos and folios is spelled as "Launcelet" or "little lance", possibly referring to his sharp tongue or his sharp wit.
** "Nerissa" is Italian for ''black-haired''. Shakespeare may have intended to contrast her, a more traditional Italian beauty, with the exotic golden-haired Portia.
** "Belmont" means ''Beautiful Mountain'', and is viewed as an earthly paradise, the place where the characters are happiest and (literally and figuratively) closest to Heaven.
** Antonio's ship, according to Salarino, was wrecked on "the Goodwins"... which means ''good friends''. Bonus points for Shakespeare in the sense that [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodwin_Sands the Goodwins]] are actually a real place, where there have been over ''2000 shipwrecks.'' British people play cricket on them when the tide is low enough.
* MeaninglessVillainVictory: Former TropeNamer. The court finds that Shylock's contract with Antonio is legally binding, so he is entitled to a pound of Antonio's flesh. The court goes on to say that Shylock is ''not'', however, entitled to any of Antonio's blood. Since he couldn't take any flesh without also spilling blood, Shylock's "win" is rendered moot.
* MoralDissonance: You'll find that the Christian protagonists do not act with any of the Christian values they so preach. This is {{lampshade|Hanging}}d by Shylock in his famous monologue.
* MorallyBankruptBanker: Shylock.
* MortonsFork: Used as a theme. Launcelot describes being tempted by the devil to run away from Shylock. He then reasons that Shylock is "the very devil incarnation", so whether he runs or not, he'll be getting bossed around by the devil. Later, he breaks it down for Jessica: she's either going to hell because her father is a Jew, or else she's not really his daughter, in which case she's going to hell because her mother was unfaithful.
* MotiveRant: Shylock's famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech.
* NotSoDifferent: There's a lot of literary theory on Antonio and Shylock as this.
* OffTheTable: Both Shylock's refusal to take twice the money and Balthazar's refusal to let him take the money once he's been [[MeaninglessVillainVictory refused the pound of flesh]].
* OlderThanSteam: This play is the first instance of the given name "Jessica."
* PluckyComicRelief: Gratiano, Nerissa, and Launcelot all qualify.
* PragmaticAdaptation: The film version starring AlPacino as Shylock opens with a montage to illustrate how the Jewish community is appallingly mistreated enough for Shylock to want revenge.
* PungeonMaster: Launcelot, much to Lorenzo's annoyance.
* RecursiveCrossdressing: Shakespeare was very fond of this trope.
** Male actors play women -- Portia and Nerissa -- who disguise themselves as men.
** Jessica also cross-dresses when she elopes with Lorenzo by disguising herself as his page.
* RevengeBeforeReason: In the courtroom scene, Shylock turns down the complete value of the bond - even doubled and doubled again - in favor of getting to enact revenge on Antonio. Can be played as a VillainousBreakdown, where the injuries Shylock has suffered are driving him to irrationality.
* RichSuitorPoorSuitor: "Rich Suitors, Poor Suitor" in this case; the whole plot revolves around the fact that Bassanio, a "poor...gentlemen", has had to borrow money in order to woo Portia.
* SadClown: Launcelot. When you get right down to it, he hates his job (although that problem is soon solved), his relationship with his father is strained (apparently his dad fooled around with other women), and, by the end of the play, he's fathered an illegitimate child with a racial outcast who he probably doesn't even like. Of course, he constantly cracks jokes about all of these things. Some stagings take this a step further by implying that Launcelot likes Jessica and that his ranking-out of her and her new husband disguises his bitterness.
* SayMyName: Shylock says his daughter Jessica's name a lot in their first scene. One gets the feeling he likes her a lot, but he's somewhat overprotective and possessive. "What, Jessica!" "What, Jessica!" "Why, Jessica, I say!" "Jessica, my girl." "Hear you me, Jessica."
* ScrewySquirrel: Launcelot appears to be this in his first scene, but as the play goes on he leans back into a more standard comedy-relief role.
* SecretTestOfCharacter:
** Sure, you can have the ring that my wife (to whom you [[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial bear absolutely no resemblance]]) made me swear to never take off. Bassanio pretty much fails the test.
** The caskets are a test of character too, though not exactly "secret."
* ServileSnarker: Launcelot.
* SmallRoleBigImpact: Lorenzo and Jessica's elopement is what arguably pushes Shylock over the edge.
* SpellMyNameWithAnS:
** Depending on the editor, it's "Lancelot" or "Launcelot". Just to make it even more complicated, the original folios spelled it "Lancelet" or "Launcelet", leading some to think that's the name Shakespeare intended--and while his father is "Old Gobbo" in the stage directions, he refers to himself as "La(u)ncelet Iobbe" or "La(u)ncelet Job".
** This type of confusion also determines the presence or absence of a ''whole character''. Either, as in the first quarto, Antonio has two friends--Salarino and Solanio--and a third, Salerio, who delivers a message from him to Bassanio later in the play, or Salerio and Salarino are one and the same, in which case either the copier messed up or Shakespeare forgot how the name was spelled. (Which is plausible, since Shakespeare was notorious for never spelling his ''own'' name the same way twice.)
* SpitefulSpit: Shylock notes that Antonio would literally spit on him as a way of showing contempt.
* StayInTheKitchen: Averted. Bassanio is actually pleased that Portia disguised herself as a lawyer to save his friend's life.
* TakeAThirdOption: Instead of running away (thereby committing a sin) or continuing to serve his hated master, Launcelot enlists his father to help him switch jobs.
* TakeThat: Portia makes snarky comments about various contemporary European nationalities as personified by her suitors...including her English suitor, who borrows fashions from other countries but has none of his own (a common caricature of the English at the time).
* ThemeNaming: Solanio, Salerio and (if he exists at all and isn't just Salerio with his name spelled differently) Salarino.
* ThenLetMeBeEvil: Summed up with a memorable line, spoken in response to Antonio's pleading: "Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause/But since I am a dog, beware my fangs."
-->'''Shylock''': If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
* TheyCallMeMrTibbs: A large portion of Act II, Scene II is devoted to comedy based on Elizabethan usage of this trope.
-->'''Launcelot:''' Talk you of young Master Launcelot?\\
'''Old Gobbo:''' No master, sir, but a poor man's son; his father, though I say it, is an honest exceeding poor man, and, God be thanked, well to live.\\
'''Launcelot:''' Well, let his father be what 'a' will, we talk of young ''Master'' Launcelot.\\
'''Old Gobbo:''' Your worship's ''friend'' and Launcelot, sir.
* ThoseTwoGuys: Salerio and Solanio. Not to the extent of [[Theatre/{{Hamlet}} Rosencrantz and Guildenstern]], but still. Or more, since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at least have different-sounding names. Apart from one scene where they converse alone you could easily combine Saerio and Solanio into a single character.
* TranslationConvention: {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d heavily when Portia complains that she can't understand the English baron: "...he hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian, and you will come into court and swear, I have a poor penniworth in the English."
* UnbuiltTrope: It plays very much like one would expect a deconstruction of Panto tropes to. The villain is unpleasant and mean in all the ways you expect a panto-villain to be, but he's also the most put-upon character in the play: he begins the underdog and ends stripped of everything, his money, his daughter, even his religion. With the exception of his murderous intent all other characters treat him far worse than he treats them, and they largely hate him simply for being a Jew. Portia and Nerissa, the blushing brides, also reveal themselves as shameless racists.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse:
** In a comedy relief scene, Lorenzo and Launcelot are bantering and it turns out that Launcelot got a Moorish woman pregnant. Launcelot makes a joke about it... and it's never mentioned again. A few scholars have suspected that the line is the final remnant of a [[WhatCouldHaveBeen lost subplot.]]
** Solanio disappears completely after Act III (and so does Salarino if he isn't Salerio), being displaced as Antonio's companion once Bassiano and the others return to Venice.
* WhereDaWhiteWomenAt: One of the noblemen who tries to win Portia is the Prince of Morocco. She's relieved when he chooses the wrong casket and gets sent home, not least because of his dark skin. Later in the play, it turns out that Launcelot's been having some kind of offscreen affair with a "Moor" (and gotten her pregnant).
* YourMom: Launcelot comes up with a whole bunch of these when he and Jessica discuss her parentage.