Merchant of Venice: Characters

The Duke of Venice (_______________) knows that he cannot risk Venice’s livelihood by denying Shylock’s suit, but is less than happy at the fact.When Shylock complains to him of his daughter’s abduction, he does his best to find her again, but to no avail. When it comes to Shylock’s suit against Antonio, the (________) hopes that the moneylender is merely playing for effect and that he will relent; even more optimistically, he hopes that Shylock will be kind to Antonio and halve the amount of the debt. Though knowing Shylock to be hard-hearted, he is still shocked by the moneylender’s intransigence. Though he knows he has the power to dismiss the court, he does not know enough law to find a loophole for Antonio. When Shylock is confounded and finds himself in danger of Venetian law, the (________) makes a point of pardoning him.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
The Prince of Morocco The (___________) is a suitor to Portia’s hand. Dark-skinned, he is a great and boastful warrior, whose grandiloquent language overbears all before it. He is aware that the color of his skin may not overly please Portia, but he is not ashamed of it. He is proud and convinced of his own worth, and dresses entirely in white.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
The Prince of Aragon The (___________) is a prince of Spain and a suitor to Portia’s hand. He is a pretentious, supercilious elitist, disdaining all that is common.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Antonio (_______________) is a merchant of Venice who has invested deeply in overseas ventures, to the extent that he no longer has any ready money left. However, he is highly respected in the merchants’ quarter, and his credit is strong with them, especially since he has dispersed his investments widely enough that it is unlikely they will all fail. He is a deeply melancholic man, strongly attached to Bassanio, and for love of him risks his credit to the tune of three thousand ducats to allow the younger man to woo his lady. He is also known for lending to friends and taking no interest, and he despises those who do otherwise, particularly Shylock – at times even paying the debt of people trapped by their borrowing from the moneylender. The level of detestation he has for that man has led him even to the indignity of spitting on him, and it is an uncomfortable moment when he is brought to have to borrow money from the man he has publically called a dog. When Shylock calls him out on his previous insulting behavior, he merely grows irate and insults him some more. (_________) is so certain of the return of his ships that he accepts Shylock’s bond of a pound of flesh should he default on repaying the loan in time. Over the next three months, however, his ships are wrecked one by one, and he is left owing the pound of flesh to Shylock. Finding the moneylender impossible to reason with, he resolves to cease trying, and readies himself to die, hoping only for Bassanio to come and see him one last time before then. On being saved by the unexpected advocacy of the young lawyer, he is merciful, merely making sure that Shylock’s daughter and her husband, (________)’s young friend Lorenzo, will inherit his wealth, and that the Jewish moneylender’s soul will be saved by his becoming a Christian. In thanks, he gives his gloves to the young lawyer when so requested, and convinces Bassanio to give up the ring the lawyer wants. He goes with Bassanio to Belmont, where he discovers the lawyer’s identity, and that he is not ruined after all, as three of his ships have come to port.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Bassanio (_____________) is a young gentleman of Venice who has squandered all his fortune and is therefore in dire need of a rich wife. A great friend of Antonio’s, he convinces the latter to lend him the necessary money for him to properly woo Portia. He invites Shylock to dine with them over the matter of a loan for this, allowing Lorenzo to abduct Jessica. He agrees to let his friend Gratiano follow him to Belmont on condition that he keep himself under control. He is greatly liked by Portia and Nerissa, as well as Portia’s servants, but he insists on attempting the test of the caskets without waiting, despite Portia’s entreaties. Winning by choosing humbly, he is overjoyed to have gained the lady, though his joy is soon tempered by hearing of Antonio’s troubles, and he rushes from Portia to see what he can do to save him. He does not recognize his wife when she is dressed as a man, and refuses to give her (as lawyer) the ring he received from her (as herself) and had sworn to never part from until Antonio asks him to, at which point he immediately does. He half-hopes to hide the fact, but is unsuccessful. He is desperate to excuse himself, and greatly relieved when it turns out that the learned lawyer was actually his wife in disguise. Whether his greater love is to Antonio or Portia remains uncertain, however.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Solanio (_________) is a friend of Antonio’s, who once mercantile concerns are dismissed as a cause of the man’s melancholy leaps on love as the reason why.He hopes to cheer Antonio up, but is worried about him, particularly after witnessing Shylock’s mad ravings in the street about the loss of his money and daughter. He does not like the moneylender in the slightest, not least because he is thoroughly anti-Semitic. He follows Antonio when the latter is trying to reason with Shylock, and cannot believe that the bond will be followed through.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Gratiano (__________) is a friend of Bassanio. A great talker, he is almost impossible to shut up, and can be unmannerly, to the extent that Bassanio only allows him to accompany his trip to Belmont on condition that he keep himself under control. He helps Lorenzo abduct Jessica, which almost makes him late for the departure to Belmont. He falls in love with Nerissa, Portia’s lady-in-waiting, who agrees to marry him on condition that Bassanio succeeds in the task of the caskets. He has no compunction about admitting to the mercenary nature of Bassanio’s choice of bride. He returns to Venice with Bassanio on his mission to rescue Antonio, and gives his tongue free rein during the trial, spitting out invective against Shylock, and then mercilessly mocking him once the carpet is pulled out from under him. Like Bassanio, he is willing to prefer Antonio’s life to his newly-acquired wife’s. The law-clerk manages to convince him to give his wedding ring as a gift of thanks in return, which leads to some problems on his return to Belmont, as he had sworn to Nerissa that he would never remove it. He gives away that Bassanio has done much the same. On it being revealed that Nerissa and the clerk were one and the same, he is much relieved to discover that he has not in fact been cuckolded, and closes the play on a bawdy pun.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Salerio (_______) is a well-connected merchant of Venice, and a friend of Antonio and Bassanio. Owning at least one ship, he is convinced that worry about merchandise is the root of Antonio’s melancholy. With Gratiano, he helps Lorenzo abduct Jessica, but does not know where the two runaways have gone. He is very worried about Antonio’s investments, as he is deeply fond of the man and scared of Shylock, though completely unapologetic about his role in Jessica’s flight. He is sent to Belmont by Antonio to let Bassanio know of his bankruptcy and of Shylock’s insistence on the payment of the pound of flesh, and begs Lorenzo and Jessica to accompany him in this task.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Lorenzo (________) is a friend of Bassanio. In love with Shylock’s daughter Jessica, he helps her run away from her father’s, with the aid of Graziano and Salerio.He flees with her to Genoa, before moving on to Belmont at Salerio’s insistence, to help support Bassanio when the latter finds out about Antonio’s losses. Portia asks him to take charge of Belmont while she is gone on her retreat during Bassanio’s absence. He has a great appreciation of nighttime and a deep love of music, but is not quick-witted enough to keep up with Lancelot’s wordplay. He is delighted to discover himself to be Shylock’s heir.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Shylock (___________) is a Jewish moneylender in Venice, who detests and despises Christians. He makes his money by charging interest on his loans, and dislikes Antonio for not doing so and therefore ruining his business – particularly as Antonio sometimes pays the debts of those who cannot repay their loans in time, and therefore spoils (_________)’s enrichment by taking control of their forfeitures. When he calls Antonio out on the latter’s insults, he merely provokes more insults from the merchant. He decides to ask for a pound of flesh as his bond from Antonio, apparently as a jest. He is a miser and something of a puritan, having no taste for music or other reveling, starving his servant and letting him wear out his clothes rather than replacing them. Considering Launcelot a spendthrift, he is happy to let him leave to go serve Bassanio, as this will make the latter go through his money more swiftly. Even his daughter considers him cruel. He flies into a wild passion when she flees his house, taking with her massive amounts of his money, and has her chased after as much if not more for the money than for her own sake. Knowing that Antonio was aware of this abduction, and hearing that the latter is ruined, he is delighted at the possibility of cutting out the merchant’s heart. He is able to justify revenge on the basis of the bad behavior of Christians. His insistence on the letter of the law will be his undoing, leaving him not only unable to kill Antonio, but losing all the extra money offered him, the return of his principal, and soon forfeiting all of his wealth and his life. He accepts to turn Christian to save his life, but is left ill by the sudden reversal in his fortune. He is not a particularly nice man.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Tubal (____________) is a wealthy Jew of Venice, who lends Shylock enough to make up the full three thousand ducats the latter lends to Antonio. Shylock sends him to track down Jessica, though he is unable to do so, only being able to make a list of all the bills she has run up over the course of her flight. He also brings Shylock news that Antonio is on the verge of bankruptcy.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Launcelot Gobbo (________________) is a quick-witted young fellow who is originally Shylock’s servant. Badly-fed in that household, he switches his allegiance to Bassanio. He is friendly with Jessica, whom he teases remorselessly about her Jewishness. A trickster, he also teases his blind father, pretending to be someone else, and not letting him complete his sentences when they are asking Bassanio to take him into his service. On his last day at Shylock’s, he serves as go-between for Jessica and Lorenzo. He follows Bassanio to Belmont, and remains there with Lorenzo and Jessica.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Old Gobbo (_________) is an old man, blind or as well as, and not entirely comfortable with long words. He wishes the best for his son Launcelot, to the extent of bringing gifts to the young man’s master. He accepts to help Launcelot beg Bassanio to take him on as a servant so that he may leave Shylock’s.
Leonardo (_____________) is one of Bassanio’s servants. He is sent out to do some shopping for his master when the latter receives the money from Shylock.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Balthazar (____________) is one of Portia’s servants. She sends him to bring her letters to Bellario, and to meet her and Nerissa on the way to Venice with the law-clerk clothes Bellario will give him. Portia steals his name for her disguise as a boy.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Stephano (___________) is a servant of Portia’s. He announces her return to Belmont, supposedly from her religious retreat.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Portia (__________) is an extraordinarily rich heiress of Belmont constrained by her father’s will to accept in marriage whichever suitor successfully passes the test of the three caskets. Luckily, as an unsuccessful suitor must swear to never marry, most of them refuse to go as far as the ordeal, but she is still not overly glad of her circumstances. She has no taste for dark-complexioned men, though she is tactful enough not to say so directly to the Prince of Morocco. She is highly hopeful that Bassanio will succeed, but worried enough that she begs him to wait a few days before attempting the task, as she does not want him to leave as he will have to if he fails. By this point she definitely knows which casket is the successful one, and she has a song sung during his meditations that contains many words rhyming with “lead.” On being won, she is somewhat uncertain as to what she is, now that all her wealth has passed to Bassanio. She is either wildly generous or has no actual sense of money, offering a massive fortune to Bassanio to help Antonio with Shylock. She is also highly intelligent and trained in law, and knows enough that she quickly conceives a plan to secretly save Antonio’s life disguised as a man. With the help of instructions from her father’s old friend Bellario, she is able to do so, though she drags it out unconscionably, giving Shylock multiple opportunities to stop, but letting him get to the point of killing Antonio before revealing that he cannot and stripping him of his wealth. As thanks for saving Antonio’s life, she receives the ring that she gave Bassanio that he had sworn never to part with. Not best pleased by this, especially as he has earlier sworn he’d give her up to save Antonio, she leads him a merry dance on his return to Belmont, refusing to listen to his protestations of good faith and swearing that she would sleep with the lawyer who had the ring should he come along. Having properly panicked Bassanio, she reveals the trick, to his evident relief. She is also able to let Antonio know that he is not ruined after all, one of his ships having made it to shore, though she refuses to say how she knows.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Nerissa (____________) is Portia’s lady-in-waiting, verbal sparring partner, and friend. Fully supportive of her mistress in all, she has high hopes that Bassanio will return to Belmont. She agrees to marry Gratiano on condition that Bassanio succeed in the task of the caskets. When this is accomplished, she is quite happy to do so. At his request, she takes care of Jessica when the latter arrives at Belmont. She joins Portia in dressing up as men to save Antonio’s life, playing the part of a law clerk. Hearing Gratiano swear that he’d prefer her dead if that might save Antonio’s life, she is not best pleased, and in return convinces Gratiano to give her (as the law clerk) the ring that she gave him (as herself) which he had sworn never to remove. On his return to Belmont, she rants at him upon hearing it, and manages to twist him around her little finger, swearing that she’s slept with the clerk before doing so with her husband.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Jessica (_____________) is Shylock’s daughter. She does not have the happiest of home-lives with her father, finding it only relieved by Lancelot’s jesting. She feels wrong that she does not actually like her father, but she cannot agree with his ways. Falling in love with Lorenzo, she plots with him to run away together. She is practical-minded enough to let him know how much money she can bring with her. She disguises herself as a boy to facilitate her flight, though she is deeply embarrassed to do so. Fleeing to Genoa with him and hence escaping a fun-denying father, she spends a great deal of money in the flush of her freedom, even giving up an heirloom ring for a monkey. She follows Lorenzo to Belmont, and assures the others that her father will not relent in the matter of Antonio’s bond. Finding Launcelot again there, she takes his teasing well. She matches wits well with those she meets, swearing that she would be able to find more examples of nights and lovers than Lorenzo could. She does not speak on hearing what happened to her father, nor on learning that she and Lorenzo will inherit all his wealth on his death.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.
Jailer The (___________) is charged with keeping an eye on Antonio to prevent him from running away before having paid his debt to Shylock. Despite the moneylender’s scoldings, he allows Antonio to walk around wherever he pleases in the city, but never lets his prisoner out of his sight.Copyright ©2005-2017 by PlayShakespeare.com.Visit http://www.playshakespeare.com/license for details.

You Might Also Like