Venetian merchant Antonio is in sorrow. His friends, Salanio and Salarino, explain his anxiety with unhappy love or because of the ships with the goods. But Antonio does not agree with these explanations. With the help of Lorenzo and Graziano comes a relative and close friend of Antonio – Bassanio. Salanio and Salarino leave. Graziano tries to amuse Antonio, but he does not succeed. Graziano leaves with Lorenzo. Antonio is left alone with his friend Bassanio. And Bassanio admits that he led a wild life and now he has no money and he wants to ask them from Anonio to go to the estate to Portia in Belmont, to a rich and beautiful heiress, who is in love and wants to marry her. There is no cash in Antonio’s money, but he offers a friend a loan for him.
In Belmonte, Portia to her maid Nerissa complains that she does not have the right to choose her fiancé, according to her will, and not to refuse. According to the testament, her husband will be the one who guesses which of the three caskets is her portrait. Nerissa lists many grooms, but Portia each derides. It’s only about Bassanio, who was a warrior and a scientist, she recalls with tenderness.
In Venice, Bassanio finds the merchant Shylock, who asks, under Antonio’s bail, to lend him money for three months. But Shylock knows that the whole state of Antonio is now in the sea. Comes Antonio. Shylock hates him for neglecting his occupation, usury, and his people. In a conversation with Antonio, Sheilock recalls his insults in his direction. Antonio always lent money without interest. So Shylock, to make friends with Antonio, will give him money in debt without interest, but on bail, a pound of meat Antonio, which he can in case of forfeit be cut from any part of the merchant’s body. Antonio likes this joke. Bassanio does not like this and he asks Antonio not to make a deal. Shylock assures us that he will not benefit from such a pledge anyway, and Antonio says that he will give up the debt before the appointed time.
The Prince of Morocco comes to Portia’s house to try and guess one of the caskets. The test requires an oath, which is that if it fails, it will never be a match for any woman. In Venice, Lancelot Gobbo, this servant of Shylock, wants to escape from the master. He wants to go to the servants to Bassanio, who is known as a very generous man. Bassanio takes on the service of Lancelot. Also Bassanio takes Graziano with him to Belmont. Lancelot says goodbye to the daughter of her former owner, Jessica. Jessica is ashamed of her father. Lancelot undertakes to deliver a letter describing the escape plan from the house, to Jessica Lorenzo’s lover. Jessica with Lorenzo runs away from home, taking with him the jewelry and money of his father. They help Salarino and Graziano. Bassanio and Graziano want to quickly sail to Belmont.
In Belmonte, the Prince of Morocco chose a golden chest, believing that only there could be a portrait of a girl. But in it, instead of a portrait, lies instructive verses and a skull. The prince has to go. In Venice, Salanio and Salarino laugh at the anger of Shylock, who learned that his daughter had fled and had taken jewels. Meanwhile, it becomes known that one of the ships of Antonio drowned in the English Channel. Prince of Aragon comes to Belmont. He chose a silver casket, but there are poems in it and an image of some kind of mug. The prince leaves. It becomes known that a young Venetian arrived with rich gifts. Nerissa thinks it’s Bassanio. Salanio and Salarino are talking about Antonio’s new losses. Shylock comes and they get fed up that even Antonio will delay the payment of money, Shylock will not take his meat. In response, Shylock says that he will take his duty,
Salario and Salarino leave. There comes the Jew Tubal, whom Shylock sent in search of his daughter. But Tubal could not find it. He only told rumors about Jessica’s transtering. Shylock is shocked by the losses. He learns that Jessica has exchanged... for a monkey, a ring, which was given to him by his late wife. Shylock curses Jessica. He finds comfort in the rumors about the losses of Antonio. In Belmonte Portia asks Bassanio to wait with a choice, as she is afraid of losing him if he makes a mistake. On the contrary, Bassanio wants to experience fate more quickly. They admit to each other in love. The boxes are brought. Bassanio chooses a lead casket in which a portrait of Portia lies and a congratulation in verse. Bassanio and Portia are getting ready for the wedding, and Nerissa and Graziano are also preparing for the wedding. Portia gives the groom a ring as a pledge of mutual love.
Jessica comes with Lorenzo and a messenger who brought a letter from Antonio. In the letter, the merchant says that all of his ships were drowned, that he was impoverished and that he should remain money to the moneylender. Shylock payments, terrible bail. Antonio, said that Bassanio came to him to say goodbye, before he died. Portia makes the groom go to help a friend, that he offered Shylock any money for the life of Antonio. Graziano and Bassanio go to Venice. In Venice, Shylock rejoices at the thought of revenge. Antonio is ready for death, but wants to see Bassanio. In Belmonte, Portia becomes the heir to the estate. With a servant she goes to pray to the monastery, and she herself is going to Venice. To her cousin, the doctor of law Bellario, she sends a servant who must bring her a man’s dress and papers.
Shylock rejoices at his victory in court. Bassanio proposes to repay the debt in a double amount, but this does not help. The head calls Dr. Bellario to consult with him before making a decision. Shylock sharpens the knife. Nerissa enters, disguised as a scribe, and transmits a letter from Bellario, which states that he can not come for health reasons and recommends for the council to summon a colleague from Rome, Dr. Balthasar, from Rome. Portia disguises herself as a doctor. She tries to persuade Shylock to mercy, but gets rejected. Bassanio does not know what to do. He is ready to sacrifice everything, even the raging wife. Graziano is also ready for anything. Shylock is ready to take his bail. But at the last moment the judge reminds Shylock that he should take only Antonio meat, and only exactly a pound and without a drop of blood, otherwise, if the conditions are violated, the law requires severe punishment. And Shylock agrees to the payment of the amount of debt in triple, but the judge does not agree, as it was not stipulated, he has already refused money.
According to the Venetian laws, in the attempt on the citizen of the republic, Shylock is obliged to give half of his fortune to that, and the second part, as a fine, he must give to the treasury. Now the life of a Jew depends only on the grace of the head. Shylock does not intend to ask for mercy, but he is left alive and fined. Antonio refuses to take from the Jew half of the amount due to him, but with the condition that after the death of a Jew, this half will be Lorenzo bequeathed. Shylock is obliged to bequeath all his property to his son-in-law and daughter. And as a reward, fictional judges take their rings from their husbands.
Jessica and Lorenzo in Belmonte are preparing for the return of their masters. Nerissa, Portia, their husbands, Antonio Graziano, meet the garden. They talk and see that husbands have lost their rings. Wives say that they gave them to women, but husbands swear that they did not. Women continue to play husbands, saying that they will now be sleeping with the judge and scribe. But then they show the rings. Portia and Nerissa confess, in that they played it. Portia gives the letter to Antonio, which says that all his ships are safe. Nerissa gives Jessica and Lorenzo an act in which Shylock writes off all of their wealth to them. Everyone enters the house to listen to the details of the adventures of Nerissa and Portia.