The Merchant of Venice – Shakespeare
– directed by Jon Miles
Reading: Sunday 19th November 2017
Auditions: Wednesday 22nd and Sunday 26th November 2017
Antonio – a merchant of Venice
Bassanio - his friend and protogee
Gratiano and Lorenzo - friends of Bassanio
Shylock - a Jewish moneylender
Jessica - his daughter
Launcelot Gobbo - a clown in Shylock's service, who defects to Bassiano
Portia - a wealthy lady of Belmont
Nerissa - her lady in waiting
Duke of Venice )
Prince of Morroco )
Prince of Aragon ) all of these are quite small parts
Old Gobbo ) and several can easily
Salarino ) be doubled
Bassanio desperately needs money to court Portia, a wealthy heiress who lives in Belmont, across the lagoon from Venice. He asks his friend Antonio, a Venetian merchant, for a loan but Antonio cannot help him because all his funds are tied up in various ventures at sea.
Antonio suggests that he borrows the money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Shylock hates Antonio, but agrees to the loan and, moreover, says he will charge no interest but instead set a “merry bond” of a pound of Antonio's flesh if he fails to repay the money.
In Belmont, Portia has many suitors but under the terms of her father's will she must marry the man who will choose correctly one of three caskets, gold, silver or lead. She and her lady in waiting Nerissa fondly remember a previous visit by Bassanio but fears he may choose the wrong casket and so bar himself from marrying Portia.
In Shylock's house, his daughter Jessica elopes with Bassanio's friend Lorenzo, under the cover of a masque and dressed as a pageboy, and they flee to Belmont with Bassanio and his friend Gratiano. Shylock is enraged, but then learns that all Antonio's ships have been wrecked so he is unable to repay the debt. Shylock looks forward to taking his pound of flesh in settlement.
Portia begs Bassanio not to choose a casket so that he can stay in her company, but he insists and chooses the correct one. Gratiano also announces that he and Nerissa will be married as well. The celebrations are cut short by the news that Antonio is being put on trial for failure to repay his debt to Shylock, and Bassanio and Gratiano hurriedly return to Venice with the money to settle it for him.
Portia and Nerissa travel to Venice disguised as a lawyer and his clerk and successfully argue the case, pointing out that the bond allows a pound of flesh but makes no mention of allowing blood. Antonio is set free and Shylock's penance is to become a Christian and to settle his estate upon his errant daughter Jessica and her husband Lorenzo. It then turns out that all of Antonio's ships have come safely to port after all.