William Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice is both a witty comedy and a moving exploration of bigotry and stigmatization. Bassanio, a noble but impoverished Venetian, asks his friend, the merchant Antonio, for a loan to impress an heiress. Antonio agrees, but is forced to borrow the sum from a cynical Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who coerces him into a chilling contract, which stipulates he must honour the debt with a pound of his own flesh. But Bassanios beloved is not as demure as she seems, and disguising herself as a lawyer, Portia proves herself one of Shakespeares most cunning heroines in a witty attack on Shylocks claim. A complex and controversial comedy, The Merchant of Venice explores prejudice and the true nature of justice.