Merchant of Venice: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 3

 

Bassanio finds Shylock, a Jewish lender of the town and has proposed a loan of three-thousand ducats for a period of three months on Antonio's credit.  Shylock says he knows Antonio's credit is good and aside he mentions his reasons for hating Antonio: he spits on Shylock, publicly humiliates him, and lends money without interest, driving down the rates for Shylock's own business.  Antonio says he doesn't usually borrow or lend with interest because it isn't Christian, he makes the exception for Bassanio.  When Shylock confronts Antonio about his mistreatment of him in the past, Antonio says he will continue to disrespect Shylock.  It is Antonio's belief that the money is better lent to an enemy than a friend, "Who if he break, thou mayst with better face/ Exact the penalty. (I.iii.136)." The final agreement is at Shylock's suggestion, the forfeiture if the loan is not repaid within three months will be one pound of Antonio's flesh, taken by Shylock.  Antonio agrees to this freely, expecting over three times the sum he owes to return with his ships within two months.  Antonio's final comment is that the Hebrew will turn Christian, suggesting that his "kindness" was a Christian attribute.