-Merchant of Venice-

Act 5

Act 5 Scene 1

Act five scene one begins with Lorenzo and Jessica, who are both still at Belmont. They compare the night to the stories of Troilus and Cressida, Pyramus and Thisbe, and Dido and Aeneus, and then extend the analogy to their own love affair. Stefano interrupts this, to state that Portia is returning home with Nerissa. Lancelot arrives and informs Lorenzo that Bassanio will also be back by morning. Both Lorenzo and Jessica return to the house to listen to music.

Portia and Nerissa (dressed as themselves again rather than men) return home and enter the building. Lorenzo recognises Portia’s voice and comes to greet her. She orders the servants to pretend as if she had never left, she asks Lorenzo and Jessica to do the same. Bassanio, Graziano and Antonio arrive moments later.

Nerissa demands that Graziano show her the ring he gave away to Portia’s “clerk” in Venice. They begin to argue, with Graziano defending his action as a form of kindness for Antonio. Portia overhears them and pretends to “discover” what happened. She demands that Bassanio show her his ring (which he of course cannot do). Portia and Nerissa then berate their husbands for giving away the rings, and even tell them that they would prefer to sleep with the doctor and his clerk rather than with their unfaithful husbands.

Antonio, frustrated and filled with guilt, offers his assurance that neither Bassanio nor Graziano will ever give away their wives’ gifts again. Portia thanks him and asks him to give Bassanio another ring to keep. Bassanio looks at the ring and is convinced it’s the same ring he gave away. Portia then tells him that the doctor came back to Belmont and slept with her. Bassanio is amazed and does not know how to respond.

Portia finally clears up the confusion by informing Bassanio that she and Nerissa were the doctor and the clerk. She further has good news for Antonio, namely a letter that indicates that three of his ships arrived in port safely. Nerissa happily hands Lorenzo the deed from Shylock in which he inherits everything after Shylock dies. The play ends with Graziano promising to forever keep Nerissa’s ring safe.

Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, but it remains deeply controversial. The text may seem anti-Semitic; yet repeatedly, in performance, it has revealed a contrasting nature. Shylock, though vanquished in the law-court, often triumphs in the theatre. In his intensity he can dominate the play, challenging abrasively its romantic and lyrical affirmations. What results is a bitter-sweet drama.

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