Synopsis of Act 5 Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice Act 5 (Scene 1) Plot Summary with Word Meanings

This is the most romantic scene of the play. There is peace and tranquility in Belmont in contrast to the legal atmosphere of Venice. In moonlit Belmont, Lorenzo and Jessica compare themselves to famous lovers from classical literature, like Troilus and Cressida, Pyramus and Thisbe, and Dido and Aeneas. Though there is a lot of romance in this scene, the scene is saved from being over- romantic when the couple starts teasing each other and their love prate is interrupted by the arrival of a messenger. The messenger comes with the news of the arrival of Portia and Nerissa from the monastery. Launcelot comes with the news that Bassanio and Antonio will arrive the next morning. Lorenzo calls for music and both, Lorenzo and Jessica sit on the grassy bank beneath the stars. Lorenzo says that the movement of the heavenly orbits creates music, which the mortals cannot hear till they are alive. The musicians arrive and music is played. Lorenzo declares that the person who does not like music deserves the world's worst cruelties and betrayals.

Portia and Nerissa arrive at Belmont and listening to the music Portia says that the music sounds even better because of the beautiful night and the candles that light up her estate enchant her. Portia believes that the worth of things largely depends upon the context in which they are experienced. Portia is greeted by Lorenzo and she requests him not to reveal the fact to her husband that she was away. Trumpets sound and Portia greets Bassanio, Antonio and Gratiano who have arrived. Nerissa chastises Gratiano for breaking his promise and parting with the ring. Gratiano tells Nerissa that he had given the ring to the lawyer's clerk as a fee. Portia confirms to Nerissa that her husband would have never done such a thing. Gratiano corrects her by saying that Bassanio has given his ring to the lawyer who saved Antonio. Portia is very upset and she tells her husband that she will never visit his bed again until he gets back his ring.

Bassanio pleads with Portia to understand that how important it was for him to part with his ring and that it was justified. Portia and Nerissa are not ready to accept anything and they argue that the rings have been given to other women. They say that as if their husbands have been infidel so will they be. Even they will part with their precious things and share their beds with other men. They then give their husbands other rings saying that these ones should be taken better care of. Gratiano and Bassanio recognize the rings as those they had given to the lawyer and his clerk. Portia and Nerissa claim to have taken the rings from those men by being intimate with them. The two men feel sad at being cuckolded. Then Portia reveals that she was the lawyer and Nerissa her clerk. Antonio receives news that some of his ships have miraculously touched the port. Lorenzo is told that he will receive Shylock's fortune. All the pairs rejoice in their own fortune.


Troilus - Trojan hero,
Cressida - Troilus' beloved,
Thisbe - beloved of Pyramus,
o'ertrip - walkover,
ere himself - before she saw the lion,
dido - Aeneas beloved queen of Carthage,
willow - a branch of the willow tree a symbol of forsaken love,
wild - barren,
waft - waved,
medea - the enchantress who loved Jason,
renew - bring back to youth,
Aeson - father of Jason,
steal – run away and rob,
unthrift love - penniless lover,
vows of faith - oaths of loyalty,
shrew - quarrelsome woman,
slander - defame,
out-night you - beat you in this game of 'in such a night',
stay about - wander,
leave hollowing - stop shouting,
post - messenger,
become - suit,
touches - sounds,
patens - small pieces of shiny metal-the stars,
quiring - singing,
vesture of decay - clothing of mortality (the human body),
diana - the classical goddess of the moon,
draw - attract,
spirits - mind,
wanton - playful,
unhandled - untrained,
fetching mad bounds - taking wild jumps,
feign- imagine,
naught - not,
stockfish - stubborn,
concord - harmony,
stratagems - plots,
erebus - a dark space in the Greek underworld,
substitute - deputy,
be by - is present,
his state empties itself - his fame and glory vanishes,
brook - stream,
bestows - gives,
attended - listened to,
wren - a song bird,
endymion - Goddess Diana's lover,
daylight sick - unhealthy,
hold day - have daylight,
heavy husband - sorrowful husband,
sort all - decide everything,
acquitted of – repaid for,
breathing courtesy - verbal politeness,
paltry - petty,
posy - words engraved on a ring,
cutler's poetry upon a knife - doggerel verse,
vehement – forceful,
scrubbed - stunted,
prating – talkative,
riveted - fixed,
aught - anything,
abate - reduce,
terms of zeal - determination,
suffer'd - allowed,
held up - saved,
beset - overcome,
argus - a monster with a hundred eyes,
to mine own protection - to look after my own honour,
mending of highways in summer - like highways do not need mending in summers similarly newly wedded women do not need lovers,
cuckolds - husbands whose wives are infidel,
manna - heavenly food,
intergatory - questions,
couching - sleeping.

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