What are Shylock's fortunes at the end of The Merchant of Venice?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the end of Act IV scene 1 things go very badly for Shylock indeed, and not just in terms of his literal "fortunes." Having found the loophole in the law that allows her to protect Antonio and to turn the tables on Shylock, Portia is quite merciless in following the law to its "just" close: having planned murder on another citizen, Shylock himself must now be held accountable. The Duke initially states that Shylock must give half of his wealth to Antonio and the other half tothe state. However, Antonio intercedes, asking for the punishment to be slightly modified:

So please my lord the Duke and all the court

To quit the fine for one half of his goods,

I am content, so he will let me have

The other half in use, to render it,

Upon his death, unto the gentleman

That lately stole his daughter.

Thus Antonio asks for the state to relinquish its right to receive half of Shylock's goods under the following conditions: Antonio must have half of Shylock's wealth to keep in trust for Lorenzo and Jessica, Shylock must become a Christian, and, when he dies, Lorenzo must inherit everything. There has been much criticism regarding the severity of this punishment and whether this is a final act of cruelty from Antonio against his enemy. Certainly, for a man whose identity is so bound up in his religion, forcing him to convert would have been a terrible blow.

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