Bassiano, a Venetian nobleman, hopes to woo the beautiful heiress Portia. To do so, his friend Antonio must help him to secure a loan, borrowing from the Jewish moneylender Shylock. As recourse for past ills, Shylock stipulates that the loans forfeit must be one pound of Antonio's flesh -a revenge he hopes to exact when disaster strikes. In the fierce battleground of the courtroom, Portia proves herself one of Shakespeare's most cunning heroines, her intellect as a lawyer weighed against Shylocks plea for tolerance. Viewed contradictorily as anti-Semitic and powerfully liberal for its time, The Merchant of Venice is at its core a bittersweet drama, exploring the noble themes of prejudice, justice and humanity.