Film Screening - The Merchant of Venice

Our department is organizing a film screening on March 23, at 5:30 pm in New Hall room 101 (NH101). We are going to watch The Merchant of Venice by the director Michael Radford. The screening is not mandatory, but we strongly advice students to be a part of this experience, and watch and discuss the film with us.

You can find the summary of the movie down below.


The Merchant of Venice combines two main plot lines in two different locations in Italy, Belmont and Venice: the love story of Bassanio, a young, ambitious, but commercially unsuccessful merchant, and Portia, a smart, beautiful, and rich heiress who lives in Belmont; and a story hatred, enmity, and revenge between Antonio, the merchant of Venice of the play’s title, and the Jewish moneylender Shylock. At the beginning of the play, Bassanio asks his older, wealthy friend Antonio to lend him 3000 ducats so that he can equip a ship and sail to Belmont to win Portia’s hand in marriage. Portia, it turns out, cannot just marry whomever she wants. Instead, she is bound by her late father’s last will, which says that each suitor must choose between three caskets, one made of lead, one of silver, and one of gold. Whoever chooses the right casket containing Portia’s portrait may make her his wife, and Portia must marry him. Antonio, who cares deeply for Bassanio, agrees to lend his friend the money. But even though Antonio is wealthy, as a merchant, all his wealth is currently tied up, invested in various business ventures, in ships travelling along international trade routes, carrying valuable cargo like spices and silks from port to port. Because this is so, Antonio must himself borrow the 3000 ducats that he wants to loan to Bassanio. He borrows the money from Shylock, a professional moneylender whom Antonio hates, and who hates Antonio in turn. The contract between them says that Antonio must repay the money within three months. If he does not manage to do so, Shylock will be legally allowed to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. No one seems to take this stipulation quite seriously when it is made, because no one doubts that Antonio will be able to pay the money back in time. Meanwhile, Shylock’s daughter Jessica elopes with the young Venetian Lorenzo, taking some of Shylock’s wealth with her. Shylock, enraged, disinherits Jessica. Then, what seemed unthinkable does in fact happen: news arrives in Venice that all of Antonio’s ships have sunk so that, when the due date arrives, Antonio is unable to repay Shylock’s loan. Shylock insists on his pound of flesh, and the law is on his side, or so it seems. Antonio is arrested, and it looks like Shylock is about to get his will. Then, news of Antonio’s arrest reaches Bassanio, who in the meantime has won Portia’s hand, in Belmont. Bassanio travels back to Venice to try to help his friend. Unbeknown to Bassanio, Portia also travels to Venice. Disguised as a male lawyer, Portia appears in the courtroom where Antonio’s fate will be decided. In her role as legal expert, Portia confirms that Shylock has the right to take one pound of Antonio’s flesh, but she points out that Shylock must do so without spilling a single drop of Antonio’s blood, because the contract mentions only flesh, not blood. If Shylock does spill a drop of Antonio’s blood, the blood of a Christian and a Venetian citizen, all his wealth will be legally confiscated by the state of Venice. Shylock realizes that he cannot collect the pound of flesh without being ruined himself. When he tries to secure the original sum of money instead, Portia points out that Shylock must be punished for threatening the life of a Venetian citizen. The law says that Shylock must give half of his property to the Venetian state, and the other half to his intended victim, Antonio. Whether Shylock lives or is executed for his crime is for the Duke of Venice to decide. The Duke spares Shylock’s life. Antonio offers to return his half of Shylock’s property on the condition that Shylock convert to Christianity and restore his daughter Jessica to his will, so that she and her new husband Lorenzo will inherit Shylock’s wealth upon his death. Defeated and left without a choice, Shylock agrees. After some romantic confusion caused by Bassanio’s inability to recognize the lawyer who saved his friend’s life as his wife Portia, the play concludes with the couples — Portia and Bassanio, Jessica and Lorenzo, and another pair of lovers, Gratiano and Nerissa — reunited at Belmont, along with Antonio. Everything is resolved, the play ends happily, and news arrives that even Antonio’s ships, which had earlier appeared all to have sunk, have in fact safely returned to harbor.