Notes on Characters from Merchant of Venice

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Merchant of Venice Major Characters

Antonio: A Successful merchant. His love of his friend Bassanio leads him to offer himeslf as collateral for Bassanio's loan. He's forced to borrow the money from Shylock, a Jewish loan shark he'd persecuted in the past. When one of Antonio's ship's is wrecked in the English Channel, he is left without the money to pay Shylock, and it looks like Shylock will be able to legally kill him, but then Portia intervenes, saving his life in court, and turning the tables on Shylock.

Bassanio: Antonio's best friend, he is deep in debt, and in love with Portia. He borrows money from Shylock against Antonio's name in order to travel to Belmont with all the necessary gifts to prove his worth to her. He wins her hand in marriage, then has to go back to Venice when he discovers that Antonio is at Shylock's mercy. Portia then plays a trick on him, taking her wedding ring back as payment for saving Antonio's life.

Lorenzo: A friend of Antonio and Bassanio. He is in love with Jessica, but is unable to marry her because she is a Jew. With the help of his friends, they elope, stealing some of Shylock's money and running to Padua, then Belmont.

Gratiano: A friend of Antonio and Bassanio, thought of as somewhat of a blowhard. He travels to Belmont with Bassanio, and falls in love with Portia's maid, Nerissa. They marry, and then he is tricked by Nerissa into giving up his ring as well.

Portia: A wealthy woman who lives in Belmont. Of all her suitors, she is most partial towards Bassanio. She is frustrated by her late father's capriciousness, forcing her future husband to be chosen by chance. She favours Bassanio, but is trapped by her father's order. After Bassanio chooses correctly, they are married. When Bassanio returns to Venice to help Antonio, Portia disguises herself as a doctor and goes to Venice, judging the trial in Antonio's favor. She tricks Bassanio out of his wedding ring.

Nerissa: Portia's maid and confidant. She marries Gratiano, then travels with Portia to Venice, disguised as a doctor's clerk. She also tricks her husband out of his wedding right.

Shylock: The villain of the story, Shylock is a loan shark who despises Antonio. He planned to take advantage of Bassanio's situation by forcing him to default on the loan, allowing him to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio. He is bitter because of the horrible treatment he's recieved at Antonio's hands, and wants Antonio dead. When Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock takes him to court, but Portia, disguised as a doctor, uses Venice's laws against Shylock, leaving him robbed of his money and religion.

Jessica: Shylock's daughter. She is in love with Lorenzo. They run off together, taking money from Shylock's house as they go.

Minor Characters

Salarino: Merchant and friend of Antonio

Salanio: Another Merchant friend of Antonio's

Portia's Father: Knowing that he was going to die before choosing a husband for his daughter, he devised a game of chance to determine whether a suitor would win her hand in marriage.

Trains: These are the entourages that follow important people around, made up of advisors, heralds, messengers and servants.

The Duke of Venice: He is the ruler of Venice, who has the final say in settling all disputes within the city. When Shylock wants to bring Antonio to court, the Duke oversees the trial.

Prince of Aragon: Another Suitor of Portia's. He takes part in the test - he believes that he deserves Portia, so he chooses the silver chest - the wrong choice.

Tubal: An associate of Shylock's, also a Jew. Shylock dispatched him to Genoa to track down Lorenzo and Jessica.

Salerio: A Venetian messenger and friend of Gratiano. He brings word from Venice that Antonio has defaulted on his loan to Shylock, and needs Bassanio's help.

Jailer: He is the Jailer that Shylock hired to take Antonio into custody for defaulting on his loan.

Balthasar: Portia's servant. She sends him to Padua with letters for her Cousin, Doctor Bellario.

Doctor Bellario: Portia's Cousin, he provides her with the clothes and identificationnecessary for Portia and Nerissa to disguise themselves as men.

The Magnificoes: This is the council of noblemen that advise the Duke. They come to watch the court proceedings.

Stephano: A messenger sent by Portia to announce her return from 'The Monastery'.

Prince of Morocco: One of Portia's suitors, he begs her to overlook the color of his skin, and is the first to accept her method of choosing a husband, and choose one of the chests.

Launcelot Gobbo: A servant of Shylock's. He despises his master, yet cannot bring himself to run away. He convinces his father to beg Bassanio to take him on as a servant. After becoming Bassanio's servant, he becomes even more insufferable, informing on Jessica and Lorenzo's plans to elope, as well as insulting Jessica's plan to marry away from Shylock.

Old Gobbo: He is Launcelot's blind elderly father. He brings a gift to Shylock in thanks for keeping his son as a servant, but Launcelot tells his father to give the gift to Bassanio instead, so that Bassanio might take him on as a servant.

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