In one of Shakespeare's more sober and less antic comedies, the Jewish moneylender Shylock agrees to loan money to a hated business rival, the Christian merchant Antonio, if Antonio will agree to surrender a pound of flesh "nearest his heart" in the event of a default on the loan. Antonio blithely agrees to the deal because he is sure nothing will go wrong, but his ships fail to make their deliveries and he does default. Meanwhile, Antonio's good friend Bassanio is going to try his luck at a game of skill or puzzle set up by the deceased father of wealthy Portia to decide who shall marry her. (Several other suitors are shown trying and failing the test.) In addition, Shylock's daughter Jessica is secretly planning to elope with her boyfriend. All these plot lines come together in the climactic trial scene where Shylock seeks to collect on his broken contract, and everyone learns a lesson about justice -- the clash between the spirit of the law and the letter of it -- and generosity.
This report prepared by David Loftus