Merchant Of Venice

Auditions for “The Merchant of Venice” will be held December 16 and 17 at ACP at 7:00 p.m.


A young Venetian, Bassanio, needs money so that he can appear worthy to woo Portia, a wealthy heiress from Belmont. He approaches his friend Antonio, a well to do merchant, for a loan. Antonio is temporarily short of cash as he waits for his ships to return from abroad; but because he cannot say no to his friend, he agrees to use his credit in the marketplace to borrow the money. The two find a willing lender in Shylock, a wealthy Jew, who has been badly treated by Antonio and Bassanio both because of his religion and because his business is lending money at interest, a practice Antonio finds abhorrent.

Despite the poor treatment he has suffered, Shylock agrees to make the short-term loan at no interest but, as collateral for the loan, suggests that Antonio put a pound of his flesh on the line if the loan is not repaid in three months time. Antonio agrees, fully confident that his ships will return well before the appointed time. Meanwhile, Shylock's daughter (Jessica) is bored living in her widowed father's house and yields to the attentions of a young Venetian, Lorenzo, a friend of Bassanio. She elopes with Lorenzo and converts to Christianity in order to marry him, but not before stealing as much of her father's wealth as she can carry with her.

Bassanio sets off to compete against other suitors for Portia, who (unfortunately) has no say in her choice of husband. Under the terms of her father’s will, a lottery has been established under which Portia must marry any suitor who chooses correctly from among three caskets, one of which contains her portrait. The suitors are put at some risk in that If they fail to choose correctly, they must vow never to marry or court another woman so long as they live. The risk is too great for some, but the Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Arragon make the attempt, both failing. With some “coaching” by Portia, Bassanio chooses correctly, and Portia (who finds him attractive) happily agrees to marry him.

Several of  Antonio’s ships (according to rumor) have been lost at sea and he is in danger of having to put up a pound of his flesh as payment. Word comes to Bassanio about Antonio’s predicament, and, after quickly marrying Portia, hurries back to Venice leaving Portia behind, but taking enough of her wealth to pay back the loan. When Bassanio arrives, the date for the repayment to Shylock has unfortunately passed and Shylock is demanding his pound of flesh. Even when Bassanio offers much more than the amount in repayment, Shylock, now infuriated by the loss of his daughter and the money she has taken, is intent on seeking revenge against Antonio. The Duke refuses to intervene on Antonio's behalf, worried that doing so would break the law upon which Venice's reputation is built,  but he seeks assistance from Bellario, a brilliant legal mind, to find a way resolve the issue in Antonio's favor.

Portia, who is related to Bellario,  secretly follows Bassanio to Venice, accompanied by her maid, Nerissa. They disguise themselves as a young male lawyer and “his” clerk “sent” by Bellario to advise on the case.

Portia arrives in her disguise to defend Antonio and is given the authority by the Duke to resolve the matter. Portia decides that Shylock can indeed have the pound of Antonio's flesh as long as he doesn’t draw blood.  Since it is obvious that to cut a pound of flesh would kill Antonio, Shylock is denied his suit. Moreover, for “conspiring to murder a Venetian citizen,” Shylock is sentenced to death, unless he is willing to forfeit all his wealth and convert to Christianity.  A broken Shylock accepts his sentence.

Meanwhile, news arrives that Antonio’s remaining ships have returned safely and, at least on the surface, it appears that all (except Shylock) will live happily ever after. Appearances are deceiving, however, and audiences must judge for themselves what the future may bring.


Auditions for “The Merchant of Venice” will use monologues spoken by key characters from the digital text of the play compiled by the Folger Shakespeare  Library ( . Monologues are posted below and will also be available in the office.

Please use “formal” speaking voice (i.e., good diction ) for the auditions.... I am not seeking British accents. Preparation for auditions may wisely include listening to how professionals have performed in these roles, although I am certainly open to your own interpretation of speeches. Cold reads of Shakespeare never go well, however... so understand the situation (context) and blow me away.

Characters include: (many of the non-speaking roles will be double or triple cast as needed)

PORTIA, a wealthy heiress of Belmont

NERISSA, her waiting-gentlewoman

BALTHAZAR and STEPHANO, servants to Portia

Prince of MOROCCO and Prince of ARRAGON (suitors to Portia)

ANTONIO, a wealthy merchant of Venice

BASSANIO, a Venetian gentleman, suitor to Portia

SOLANIO, SALARINO, GRATIANO, and LORENZO, companions of Antonio and Bassanio

LEONARDO, servant to Bassanio

SHYLOCK, a Jewish moneylender in Venice

JESSICA, his daughter

TUBAL, another Jewish moneylender

LANCELET GOBBO, servant to Shylock and later to Bassanio

OLD GOBBO, Lancelet’s father


SALERIO, a messenger from Venice


Magnificoes of Venice


Attendants and followers