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Portia, disguised as a doctor, cleverly manipulates the law to show that Shylock isn't entitled to spill any of Antonio's blood although he's entitled to Antonio's flesh. If he does, his land and goods could be confiscated by Venice. Shylock sees no way to get Antonio's flesh without bloodshed, so he asks for the money instead. Portia then points out that Shylock will be subject to execution if he takes the money. Knowing he's been beaten, Shylock tries to leave with the original 3,000 ducats, but Portia won't allow it as he has already "refused it in open court". Shylock resigns to leaving empty-handed, but Portia cites another law that says if any foreigner "by direct or indirect attempts/...seek[s] the life of a citizen," he loses half his goods to the citizen and the other half to the state. Now Shylock's life depends on the mercy of the Duke, and he spares Shylock's life even though the Duke takes his wealth. Shylock wants to die, but Antonio suggests to the Duke to pardon the state's part of the fine if Shylock agrees to the following: Antonio will get half of Shylock's goods to be put in trust for Lorenzo and Jessica, Shylock must become a Christian, and Shylock must leave all his goods to Jessica and Lorenzo upon his death. Shylock leaves, a broken man, stripped of all his financial and spiritual supports.
There may not be a play more misnamed in Shakespeare’s entire canon than The Merchant of Venice. Though he is certainly an important character, Antonio—the merchant in question—merits, at best, fourth billing. The main lovers in the play, Portia and Bassanio, command a great deal more attention, and, as most commentators suggest, Shylock is ultimately the main attraction. Although the Jewish moneylender “appears in only five of the play’s twenty scenes, and not at all in the fifth act, everyone agrees that the play belongs to Shylock” (Barnet 193-4). His dominance is such that, in certain productions (particularly in the nineteenth century), the last act has been “omitted entirely” (Myrick, “Introduction” xxii). Yet, despite his somewhat lesser role, Antonio proves crucial to both main plots of The Merchant of Venice. His agreement to serve as collateral for Shylock’s loan to Bassanio facilitates the latter’s courtship of Portia, and the risk to his life which results from this arrangement generates much of the plot’s complications. Shakespeare’s decision to make him the title character perhaps stems from an acknowledgment of Antonio’s structural importance to all the various story lines, as well as from an effort—perhaps unsuccessful—to balance the audience’s attention equally between Shylock’s thirst for revenge and the romance of Portia and Bassanio.
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