What does the term "bond," as it relates to events depicted in The Merchant of Venice, mean?

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A bond is a written and signed promise to pay a specific sum of money on a particular future date or on the fulfillment of a certain condition. It is, therefore, a legal contract in the form of a loan agreement. The bond is normally signed by the parties thereto as...

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A bond is a written and signed promise to pay a specific sum of money on a particular future date or on the fulfillment of a certain condition. It is, therefore, a legal contract in the form of a loan agreement. The bond is normally signed by the parties thereto as well as a witness and is attested by a notary public or a legal authority who is mandated to perform such function, who can then sign the agreement and may place a seal on it. Both parties are protected once all the formalities have been dealt with.

If either party, therefore, forfeits on the agreement, the injured party may then seek restitution on legal grounds. The claimant may only seek compensation in terms of the conditions stated in the bond and cannot insist on any other recourse except through applicable legal means. 

The bond signed by Antonio and Shylock has the following terms:

Shylock will lend three-thousand ducats to Bassanio with Antonio to provide surety (guarantee) for its repayment.

The specified amount should be repaid within three months from the date on which the agreement is finalised.

The loan has to be repaid by Antonio.

No interest will be charged.

If Antonio does not repay the entire loan amount (three-thousand ducats) on or before the specified repayment date, Shylock may cut out one pound of his flesh as compensation.

The terms and conditions of the agreement may not be unilaterally altered by any of the parties.

Since Antonio was unable to repay the debt because his merchant ships did not reach their destinations and he was out of pocket, Shylock could claim restitution. Antonio had to abide by the conditions of their agreement. This gave Shylock the ideal opportunity to exact his revenge.   

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