Act 4 Scene 1
In a court in Venice, the Duke expresses his regret that Antonio is ‘come to answer’ such an ‘inhumane wretch’ but Antonio says he understands that ‘no lawful means’ will help him escape. Bassanio offers to pay Shylock double the amount he lent to Antonio but Shylock refuses and claims that he just wants justice.
The Duke announces that he has sent for ‘Bellario, a learned doctor’, to judge the case. Nerissa, disguised as male lawyer’s clerk, arrives and gives a letter to the Duke. The letter says that Bellario is too sick to come, but that he is sending a ‘young doctor of Rome’ called Balthasar to oversee the trial. Portia then arrives, disguised as Balthasar. She delivers a speech on how mercy cannot be forced before stating that ‘there is no power in Venice’ which will be able to override Shylock’s bond and Shylock is delighted. However, Portia then draws attention to the fact that there is no mention of blood in the bond and that if Shylock causes Antonio to lose even ‘one drop of Christian blood’ then his ‘lands and goods’ will be confiscated by the state of Venice. Shylock realises that it will be impossible to take the flesh without blood and offers to ‘let the Christian go’ if he receives money instead. Portia refuses this deal and declares that Shylock can have his bond or nothing else.
Shylock realises that he has been defeated and wishes to leave, but Portia won't let him go. She announces that ‘in the laws of Venice’ if any alien is proved to have tried to kill one of its citizens then their goods will be seized and one half will be given to the victim and the other half will go to ‘the privy coffer of the state’. Moreover, the Duke will decide if the offender lives or dies. The Duke of Venice declares that he will let Shylock live but that half of his wealth must be given to Antonio and the other half will go to the state. Antonio says if Shylock converts to Christianity and leaves his wealth to Jessica and Lorenzo when he dies, then he can keep his half. Shylock agrees and departs.
The Duke asks ‘Balthasar’ to join him for dinner, but Portia refuses. The Duke tells Antonio that he must reward ‘Balthasar’, but Portia refuses all money, asking for Bassanio's ring as a reward instead. Bassanio does not recognise Portia and refuses to hand it over telling ‘Balthasar’ that it was a gift that he vowed never to ‘sell, nor give, nor lose’. Antonio then persuades Bassanio to give ‘Balthasar’ the ring.