Merchant of Venice: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 1

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The first scene opens with Antonio, a wealthy merchant of Venice, discussing his sadness with his friends, Salerio and Solanio.  The two friends try to guess at his unhappiness, but they can't.  The topic abruptly changes when Bassanio, Antonio's closest friend, enters with Lorenzo and Gratiano.  All of the characters in this scene are Christians and friends, there is a sense of closeness between all of the Christians in the play.
All of the characters exit, leaving Bassanio to speak with Antonio privately.  Antonio's first question to Bassanio is about a woman Bassanio had mentioned at some prior meeting.  Bassanio ignores the question for the moment and instead begins to discuss his various debts, most notably his debts to Antonio for past loans.  Bassanio swears that his intent is to pay off these debts, but to do so he needs to borrow again.  Antonio dismisses Bassanio's promises, saying he trusts his honor, "My purse, my person, my extremest means/ Lie all unlock'd to your occasions." (I.i.138).  With this assurance, Bassanio tells Antonio that his intentions are to try and win a woman who has been left riches from her father in Belmont.  He describes her beauty and virtues and riches to Antonio and that he needs the loan to furnish his trip to Belmont.  His reasoning is that if he wins her she will have more than enough riches to pay his debts.
Antonio agrees to the plan, but all of his money is tied up with his ships which are at sea.  He suggests that Bassanio set up a meeting with someone in Venice to try and procure a loan based on Antonio's credit.

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