The Merchant of Venice plays a significant role in ICSE Class 9 & 10 English Literature. To understand the play, a brief description of the character portrayal and sketches is necessary. Students should select good books with detailed explanations of every act. Here, the Characters of the play are explained in detail.


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The Merchant of Venice Characters


Characters in Order of Appearance


The little character, Antonio is a wealthy but sad elder merchant who claims never to have borrowed money, but is willing to lend to the people and friends, especially Bassanio, without benefit of interest.


A young man with expensive tastes and rich friends who borrows money from Antonio in order to become the right suitor to the rich, intelligent and beautiful Portia.

Salerio, Salarino & Salanio

Friends of Antonio and Bassanio, minor characters almost indistinguishable from each other (in fact they are sometimes considered to be a single person) who comment on the action and and who inform the audience about the action that has occurred offstage.


Bassanio’s friend with a bawdy and clownish demeanor, who accompanies Bassanio to Belmont where Portia lives and falls in love with Portia’s maid Nerissa.


Bassanio’s friend who falls in love with Shylock’s daughter Jessica.


Servant to Bassanio.


Widely pursued noblewoman who is as intelligent as she is rich and beautiful. Her father’s will demands that her husband be selected through a test involving three caskets: one gold, one of silver and one of lead.


Portia’s handmaid who falls in love with Gratiano, Bassanio’s friend.


The Jewish merchant of Venice who lends Antonio the money on his friend Bassanio’s behalf. Clever and quick, Shylock is all at once a dark humorist, a moral absolutist, a religious bigot and surprisingly, a sentimentalist. He serves as both the villain and the most tragic figure of the play.


Shylock’s daughter who escapes from her father’s house in order to marry Lorenzo. She converts to Christianity in order to further assimilate into Christian society of Venice.


Shylock’s friend, the only other Jew in the play, who functions as a news bearer of Jessica’s escape and of her consequent behaviour.

Launcelot Gobbo

Shylock’s comic servant who leaves Shylock’s service to serve Bassanio.

Old Gobbo

Launcelot’s blind father who has not encountered his son in years.

Prince of Morocco

Portia’s suitor and the only Black character in all of Shakespeare outside of Othello.

Prince of Arragon

One of Portia’s suitors who greedily chooses the silver casket.

Balthasar and Stephano

Servants to Portia

The Duke of Venice

The reigning office of Venice who presides over the court when Shylock intends to collect on his bond.