The Merchant of Venice
From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ The Merchant of Venice Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.
The Merchant of Venice (1605) | Written by: William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice Thug Notes Summary & Analysis
Y’all already know what it is- it’s Thug Notes, bitches; and this week we gettin’ serious bout da bread with The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Noble brutha Bassanio got it BAD fo’ a girl who got as much paper as she got booty- Portia of Belmont. Dude wanna put a ring on it, but he blown all his cheddar and now he ain’t got da ends to get an uptown girl like her to holla back. So Bassanio hit up his boy Antonio, a hood rich merchant from the lock, and be like “Say bruh, think you can front me some cash money so I can get my woo on with this bangin hunny? You know I’ll hit you back.”
Antonio like “No dice, bruh. I’m cashed out cuz all my bread invested in some ships that are flowin’ in da sea. But look, I’ll cover yo’ ass if you can find a lender.” Up in Belmont, Portia straight buggin cuz her daddy’s will say her she gotta marry whichever dude picks da right chest outta three-one gold, one silver, and one lead. Man, what kinda shit is that? Portia ain’t feelin any of dem gumby-lookin mofos tryna hit it, but then her main homegirl Nerissa say “Maybe that legit playa Bassanio will drop by. He SO fly.”
Back in V-town, Bossanio hit up a Jewish moneylender named Shylock and tell him Antonio gonna guarantee a loan of 3Gs. Thing is, Shylock got beef with Antonio cuz Shy-guy don’t like da way Antonio do bidness and always be hatin’ on is Jewish roots. So he agree to lend em da cash under one condition: if Bassanio can’t pay up in three months, Shylock gonna take a pound of Antonio’s FLESH. Man… that’s steep, bruh. Antonio say “aight” though. So Bassanio get dat cash-money and peace out to Belmont with his boy Gratiano. While Shylock busy plottin’, his daughter Jessica run off and marry Antonio’s homie Lorenzo. Damn.
In Belmont, Portia drowning in a buncha lame-ass bustas all jonezin to get a crack at dat ass. But first they gotta choose from dem three chests. The first two scrubs pick the gold and silver, but EHHHH- dat ain’t gonna unlock dem legs. Then Bassanio drop in to town, roll up to the scene, and pick da lead casket like a boss. DING DING! THAT’S RIGHT BOY- Portia ALL yours! So Portia give him a ring and say “You best not EVER take this thang off.” “Damn, girl. Aight.” Gratiano say he and Nerissa in love too, so they suggest a double wedding- cuz go big or go home, right?
Just as they bout to pop bottles, they get word dat Antonio’s ships lost at sea, so he ain’t got the money to pay Shylock back. When Bassanio hear this, he like “Shit I gotta bust ass home and save mah boy!” Portia give her boo some fat stacks to pay off the debt, but she got another plan she cookin’ up. She and Nerissa gonna dress up as dudes and swang over to Venice. Up at court, Bassanio offer Shylock 6 big ones, TWICE the original loan. But Shylock like “Nah, blood. I want dat pound of flesh.”
The Duke of Venice lookin’ fo some advice on da case, so out comes a legal whiz named Balthazar but, on the real, it’s Portia dressed up like a dude. She still fine though. Girl start talkin bout how Shylock need to show mercy but he ain’t feelin it. So Antonio ready to get carved up real good, but then Portia like “HOLD UP! Yuh, the law say you can have a pound of his flesh, but it DON’T say you can draw any of his blood, blood. Spill a single drop, and yo’ crib and all yo money belong to the law. So good luck with that.”
Shylock like “Psssssh FIIIIIINE I’ll just take the cash.” But Portia say “Nuh-uh. Not so fast playboy. Since you tried to ice a Venetian citizen, you gotta give up all yo property- half to the state, half to Antonio, AND the Duke get to decide whether you live o’ die.” The Duke pity da fool and let him walk away. Anotinio say “Aight son, I’ll give you yo cash back on two conditions- 1. You gotta become a Christian and 2- you leave all yo benjamins to Lorenzo and Jessica after you die.” Shylock like “aight. Fine” and peaces out.
Not knowing Balthazar is really his woman, Bassanio try to throw her some mad gratitude, but Portia like “yo playboy I want dat ring.” And Nerissa, disguised as Balthazar’s right hand man, say da same thing to Gratiano. Both boys hand over the bling and head back to the crib where Portia and Nerissa be chillin. They like “YO. WHERE DA HELL ARE YO RINGS?” But Before shit go to far, da girls reveal dat dem boys just got punked and it’s alllllll good.
In da end, Lorenzo all geeked to know dat after Shylock bite the dust, he and Jessica gonna be buried in benjamins. And Antonio get word dat his ships all good, so his paper still legit. Phew. My man Willy Shakes is so gangsta that when he busts a mad lyrical flow- it change the way people talk fo’ all time. You ever heard somebody say they gonna take a pound of flesh if they ain’t get paid? Yep, it came from this play right hurr. Or ever heard someone who shady with money called a shyster? Yeah, dat come from our boy Shylock. And well… that’s where stuff start gettin messy.
See, this play is one of da most notorious of all da bad bard’s works. What’s the beef? Well open up yo ears and soak this game up: Most scholars say da main jam of this text is dat holy rollin with Jesus make yo’ thuggin all righteous, but if you ain’t- like say you Jewish- then yo’ morals are way outta whack. Now keep in mind this mess was written back in the day when this kinda prejudice against foreigners was goin down on the reg. Antonio reppin all da virtuous things Christianity preachin’- like showin mad love to yo neighbor. Antonio’s wallet always open to his homies, he neva’ charge any points on top of da principal, and dude offers up his OWN life just to get his boys back.
Whereas Shylock s’posed to rep all da crooked morals you might have when you sippin on the manischewitz instead of da Jesus joose. Fo one, shylock only got ONE thing on his mind- stackin paper off otha’ peoples problems. And when homies ask him to show a lil mercy up at court, he would rather see Antonio bleed out n’ die like a bitch. So was da bard really throwin’ shade at Jews or was he playin a mo’ subtle game? If you look close, it ain’t just Shylock who actin shady- ERRYBODY got that side- whether they Christian, Jewish- whatever.
Fo example, if Shakespeare really sayin’ Christians are mo’ legit towards their fellow man, then why is Antonio always talkin shit bout Shylock and callin him a dog? Cuz on the real, Shylock ain’t da only one on dat vengeance grind. Antonio sho as hell don’t turn the other cheek when he make Shylock convert and tell him how he s’posed to spend his money. No matter what faith you representin, you might wanna dole out a lil’ payback. Like Shylock say: “If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge.” (III.i.64-67)
And how about dat boy Bassanio? Errybody always runnin they mouths bout Shylock being obsessed with da bread, but why do Bassanio got it bad for Portia? CUZ SHE RICH. As he say “In Belmont is a lady richly left.” Portia ain’t no saint neither. Girl don’t wanna marry da prince of Morocco just cuz of da color of his skin: “If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach: if he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.” (I.ii.127-131)
That’s some bulllllshit! But it don’t stop there. Yuh, Antonio a pretty generous brutha, willing to sacrifice himself for his homie n’ shit, but he never SHUT DA HELL UP ABOUT IT. It’s like he tryna get people to talk bout him like he freakin Jesus. “I am a tainted wether of the flock,/ Meetest for death: the weakest kind of fruit/ Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me;/ You cannot better be employ’d, Bassanio,/ Than to live still and write mine epitaph.” (IV.i.114-118)
Is he really as selfless as he say? Or do he just have a big-ass head? So look- there ain’t no doubt this play got the stank of more prejudiced times all up on it. But was Ol’ Willy really sayin dat religion define da way you treat anotha’ brotha? Or did he pull a fast one by subtly callin out all dem Elizabethans on their bullshit? Either way, yo boy Sparky know that ANYONE can have a serious hater streak to em- no matter what religion they representin’. Yo thanks for chillin’ wit yo boy. Keep it real in the library y’all. Peace!