Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - Antonio, a wealthy merchant, is in love with the young Bassanio, a spendthrift who asks him for a loan in order to compete with the princely suitors chasing after Portia, a rich heiress. Antonio enters into a deadly bond with his enemy, Shylock, a Jew who he's frequently spit upon, hindered and publicly humiliated. Antonio fails to pay back the bond and has to sacrifice a pound of his flesh. Portia must prevent Shylock from seizing Antonio's life and neutralize the threat Antonio poses to her marriage with Bassanio. This is Shakespeare's most performed play, more than Hamlet, Macbeth or Romeo & Juliet, and the most misinterpreted; for several hundred years the play has been cut, rewritten, but always controversial. No straightforward comedy, the play defies categorization and every joke is a trap, hinging on the weaknesses of others- their skin color, their religion; a world full of people in fear of that which is different, grasping at straws to increase their own fortunes no matter the detriment to others.
The Merchant of Venice plays in repertory with Marlowe's The Jew of Malta.