The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Why does Shylock agree to lend money to Antonio?

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Shylock lends money to Antonio as part of a plan to get rid of him. Though he initially figures that Antonio is “sufficient” (he has enough money to be considered in a business proposition), Shylock despises him, vowing not to “catch him once upon the hip” and to not forgive him. Antonio wishes to borrow money for his friend Bassanio, but he is reluctant to make a deal involving interest. He strongly opposes usury, frequently condemning Shylock for his practices and his religion. Shylock reports that he even spits on and kicks him as he would “spurn a stranger cur.” On top of that, he is bad for business because he “lends out money gratis,” poaching potential borrowers from Shylock.

Antonio becomes so frustrated at Shylock’s hesitance that he suggests lending as “to thine enemy.” Shylock feigns friendliness, offering to loan the money without charging interest. However, if Antonio does not repay him on time, Shylock will select “an equal pound / Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken / In what part of your body pleaseth me.” Antonio agrees, confident that he will have enough money well before his time is up. Bassanio feels very uncomfortable about the deal, not liking “fair terms and a villain's mind.” Shylock reasons that he would not profit off of a pound of human flesh, so the men need not worry.

Bassanio was right. Shylock had ill intentions from the start, but he was not as enthusiastic about carrying out his plot until his daughter Jessica stole from him and ran off with a Christian. Then Shylock desperately clings to the bond made with Antonio, demanding his pound of flesh.

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