Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, agrees to lend Antonio, a Venetian merchant, three thousand ducats so that his friend Bassanio can afford to court his love, Portia. However, Shylock has one condition: should the loan go unpaid, he will be entitled to a pound of Antonio's own flesh. Meanwhile in Belmont, according to the terms of her father's will, Portia's many suitors must choose correctly from three caskets.
Bassanio arrives at Portia's estate and they declare their love for one another before he picks the correct casket. Antonio falls into bad fortune and finds he cannot repay Shylock: a dramatic trial ensues to decide his fate.