Bassanio Meets Shylock
As Antonio has directed, Bassanio goes to a moneylender to ask for money on Antonio’s guarantee. He meets Shylock, a Jew. The scene opens with Shylock asking how much money Bassanio wants and for what period. Bassanio tells him that he needs three thousand ducats for three months.
Shylock feels that Antonio is a wealthy merchant himself but he has risked too much into his ventures and thus was not able to help his friend. However, he is ready to lend money to Bassanio but also wants to talk to Antonio.
Shylock’s hatred of Antonio
Bassanio asks Shylock to dine with them. Shylock gets very much miffed at this thought. He says that he can trade with Christians but would never do much more than that. In between, Antonio arrives.
Shylock expresses his hatred of Antonio in an aside. He says that the despises Antonio because he is a Christian but more because he is spoiling business for other moneylenders by not asking for interest. He further says that if he could only put Antonio at a disadvantage, surely he would like to have his revenge. He also mentions that Antonio hates the Jews.
Antonio is ready to do anything for Bassanio
Shylock says that even he doe snot have three thousand ducats at the present but he would ask Tubal, a friend of his, for the amount. Now, they talk about the terms. Antonio says that though he has always condemned the practice of charging or paying interest for loans, he will change his custom to help his friend Bassanio.
Shylock vents his grudge against Antonio
Shylock thinks that Antonio is nothing but a hypocrite and he narrates a story from the Bible. Antonio replies that even ‘the devil can cite scriptures for his purpose’. Shylock then says that why should he lend them money when Antonio has insulted him so many times. He has even spit on him and called him a dog. Antonio does not try to defend what he has done but says that he will do it again. He further says that Shylock is not giving money to a friend. This would be a transaction between enemies. If Antonio fails in his commitment, Shylock would have a chance to penalise him.
The condition of the Bond
Seeing Antonio get angry over the matter, Shylock says that they can be friends as a matter of fact, he would not charge any interest for his loan. However, he put forth the stipulation that if Antonio is not able to pay the money in three months, Shylock would be entitled to cut off ‘a pound of flesh’ from any part of Antonio’s body.
Bassanio is averse to the idea
Antonio is ready for the condition but Bassanio advises him against it. Antonio tries to comfort him by saying that his ships would return a month before the decided time. Shylock also tries to ease the fears of Bassanio.
Shylock then asks Antonio to meet him at the notary and seal the ‘merry bond’. Antonio remarks, “The Hebrew will turn Christian : he grows kind.” However, Bassanio is still not able to trust Shylock. He says that it was not good to accept such a deal from a villain’s mind. Antonio does not seem to pay heed to his worries.
Act 5 : Scene 1