Antonio in a pensive mood
The play opens on a street of Venice where Antonio is seen in the company of Salario and Salanio. Antonio is talking about his sad and worrisome state. The play opens in media res, i.e., in the middle of an ongoing conversation between Antonio, Salario and Salanio, where Antonio is answering a question that was asked before the action of the play begins.
The friends try to guess the reason for his melancholic state
Salario and Salanio suggest that Antonio is worried about his ships at sea but Antonio says that he is doing pretty well and they don’t matter that much to him. Salanio then says that it perhaps is love which troubles Antonio, but Antonio in turn, terms it as nonsense. The two conclude that he is sad because of some strange reason.
Bassanio, Gratiano and Lorenzo arrive
After the arrival of Bassanio and others, Salario and Salanio leave them to attend other matters. Bassanio also finds Antonio in a worrisome state and says that Antonio has too many things on his mind. To this, Antonio replies that the world is a state and he being an actor must play his part, which is to be sad. Gratiano says that if that was so, his role was to play a clown and he would try to make Antonio merry. Gratiano and Lorenzo leave after having a few more words.
Bassanio tells Antonio about Portia
As soon as the others leave, Antonio asks Bassanio about his secret pilgrimage to see a lady. Bassanio begins by saying that he has been extravagant and is in debt. Antonio has lent him the most, both money and friendship. But now Bassanio has a plan to get rid of all his debts. He says that there is a rich maiden in Belmont whose virtues impressed him the most. Her name is Portia. Many suitors came forward for her and Bassanio was not able to match them as he did not have enough money.
Antonio is not able to help Bassanio
Antonio wants to help Bassanio with money but he tells that he has no ready cash in hand. His merchant ships are yet to land. However, he tells Bassanio to go to other moneylenders in Venice and ask them for money on Antonio’s credit. Antonio knew that his would be no trouble, as he was a very well known merchant in Venice.
Act 5 : Scene 1