Because of the terms of Portia's father's will, all suitors must choose from among three caskets. If the suitor finds Portia's portrait – he may marry her, if not – he must vow to never marry or court another woman. The Prince of Morocco and Arragon fail the test. As Bassanio prepares to travel for the test, his friend Lora elopes with Shylock's daughter, Jessica. Bassanio chooses the lead casket, which contains Portia's picture and she agrees to marry him.
Meanwhile, Antonio's shares are dropping in value and the creditors are pressuring him for repayment. He is unable to repay the loan due to Shylock- and is due for a hearing in court. Bassanio hears about it and hurries back to Copenhagen. Portia follows him, accompanied by her Assistant Nerrisa. They are disguised as a male lawyer and his clerk. When Bassanio arrives, the date for the repayment has passed and Shylock is demanding a pound of Antonio's flesh. Even when Bassanio offers much more than the loan, Shylock, now infuriated by the loss of his daughter, is intent on seeking revenge. The court refuses to intervene and gives the authority to Portia, disguised as a legal expert. She desides that Shylock can have a pound of Antonio's flesh as long as he doesn't draw blood. Since it is obvious that to draw a pound of flesh, would kill Antonio, Shylock is denied his suit. Moreover, for conspiring to murder a danish citizen, Portia orders that he should forfeit all his wealth. Half is to go to the State, the other to Antonio.
A young Dane, Bassanio, needs a loan of three million kroner, so that he can woo Portia, a wealthy heiress. He approaches his friend Antonio, who is apparently short of money, since he has invested all his wealth in the stock exchange and is expecting a windfall. Antonio asks Bassanio to go find a lender and he [Antonio] would stand as surety. Bassanio goes to Shylock, who agrees to make the short-term loan... with one condition: the loan must be repaid in three months or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio.