The Merchant of Venice


Writers: William Shakespeare


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Comedy, Dark Comedy
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
Venice, 16th century
Cast Size
Ideal for
College/University, Community Theatre, Large Cast, High School, Regional Theatre, Professional Theatre, Ensemble Cast
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult, young adult characters


In the melting pot of Venice, currency opens many doors. A multicultural metropolis, Venice welcomes its arms to all – so long as they come prepared for the brutality of the business of trade. Young Bassanio wants to take a gamble for brilliant Portia, the wealthy heiress of Belmont. He is willing to risk all he has to win her hand, but all he has is not enough. In need of extra money to make a proper suit, Bassanio enlists the help of his merchant friend, Antonio, who takes out a loan from Jewish money lender, Shylock, on his behalf. Shylock is an outsider who has suffered persecution for many years, but when he loses his most prized possession – his daughter Jessica – Shylock feels a hurt greater than all that has come before. When Christian merchant Antonio cannot repay his debt, Shylock gets his chance at revenge. Demanding his due, Shylock insists that he be repaid in accordance with his contract: with a pound of flesh. Resourceful Portia takes justice into her own hands, devising a scheme to triumph in the courtroom and save Antonio – but at what cost? With humor and pathos, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice tells a complex story of mercy and justice, tolerance and intolerance, generosity and greed.

Lead Characters

The Merchant of Venice guide sections