The Merchant of Venice is an important play for English Literature exams in ICSE. Students should choose only good books that explain every act in detail with questions and answers. Here, Summary of the Act 1 is given.

The Merchant of Venice is one of the masterpieces of arguably the best dramatist of all time, William Shakespeare. This is perhaps one of the most complex works of Shakespeare. It has been woven with a variety of issues like racism and love, as well as friendship and hatred.


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The Merchant of Venice Summary Act 1


When Antonio, a Venetian merchant, expresses his ‘sad’ feelings to his friends Salerio and Solanio, they do not know why. According to his friends, he is either worried about his ships, which are ‘tossing on the sea’ and full of valuable goods, or he is ‘in love’. When Bassanio (Antonio’s ‘noble kinsman’) arrives, Salerio and Solanio leave when Antonio rejects both of these ideas. Bassanio admits to Antonio that he has run out of money and needs money so that he can go to Belmont and woo Portia. Antonio commits to helping Bassanio and assures him he will find someone to lend him the money, which he will then give to Bassanio.

The heiress Portia and her friend Nerissa discuss the intriguing ‘lottery’ that her father devised before he died. It is impossible for Portia to choose her own husband; instead, a suitor wishing to marry her must choose one of three caskets. The lead one is made of lead, the silver one of silver, and the gold one of gold. When the suitor chooses the casket containing a portrait of Portia, they win her hand in marriage. In discussing the men who have recently visited Belmont on this quest, Portia dismisses them all as unappealing. When Nerissa points to someone she once met who she considers ‘the best deserving a fair lady’, Portia agrees.

Back in Venice, Bassanio meets Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, from whom he asks for a loan of ‘three thousand ducats for three months’. Antonio will be obligated to repay the loan in return. Shylock admits to the audience that he hates Antonio for a number of reasons in an aside. Shylock reminds Antonio about the way he has been treated by Antonio in the past (‘you call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog’), although he agrees to lend Antonio the money.

But if Antonio fails to repay Shylock by the set date, then Antonio’s flesh will be cut off. Despite Antonio’s confidence that his ships will return ‘a month in advance’, Bassanio does not want to accept Shylock’s request for repayment. The agreement is sealed by Antonio.