The Merchant of Venice, set against a backdrop of high stakes finance and high stakes romance, tells the tale of long time enemies, two opposing cultures, two beautiful women and one pound of flesh woven into a tale of old-worn hatreds, new-found loves, long-time friendships and family betrayals. While generally considered a comedy, The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most grippingly dramatic plays. When Antonio defaults on a loan for his friend with romantic ambitions, the bitter lender Shylock demands a "pound of flesh" in payment. The legal crisis can only be resolved by a beautiful heroine disguised as a judge. This theatrical feast is rich with intriguing characters that show us how love and forgiveness can bridge the gaps between moral ideals and their imperfect human renderings. The Merchant of Venice abounds in imagery that centers on deception, vice, and human weakness-and fittingly so. After all, the central characters in the drama are all deeply flawed or disturbed, exhibiting prejudice, hatred, greed, desire for revenge, depression, ignorance.