This early work of Shakespeare is considered to be the finest and most thought-provoking of all comedies of his time. Being so, it carries the universal theme of good triumphing over evil,as it depicts the interplay of vengeance and shrewdness.
Antonio, the merchant of Venice borrows money from the money-obsessed loan shark Shylock to help his friend Bassanio marry Portia, his lady love. He in fact offers himself as collateral for the loan, agreeing to Shylock’s terms-to cut a pound of flesh from his body- on failure to repay the loan, and now Shylock demands his flesh. Portia comes to Antonio’s rescue. How she outwits Shylock forms the rest of the story.
The play can be well studied as a commentary on the racial and religious interactions of the English society of the 16th century. In terms of themes, the play reiterates along its course, the divine qualities of mercy and compassion that lie beneath the flesh.