In the woods of Belmont, Lorenzo and Jessica are walking together, comparing themselves to the romantic couples of mythology: Troilus and Cressida, Pyramus and Thisbe, Dido and Aeneas, Jason and Medea. They also jokingly describe their own romance: a clever Christian who has stolen the daughter of a wealthy Jew. A messenger, Stefano, enters, announcing that Portia will be back in Belmont with Nerissa before dawn. Lancelot enters with a message that Bassanio, too, will be back in Belmont before dawn. Lorenzo asks Stefano to let the household know that Portia is coming, and to play some music. The messengers depart, and Lorenzo sits with Jessica on a riverbank, commending the silence of the night to the harmony of music, and explaining how the golden stars are themselves in harmony with each other, as are the souls of the two lovers. Musicians enter and begin to play. Jessica complains that music upsets her, but Lorenzo protests that she must learn to love it, since it is a heavenly power, and only animals and treacherous men are displeased by it.
Portia and Nerissa, no longer in costume, approach. Portia praises the music, which sounds best in the night's silence, and sees Lorenzo and Jessica asleep on the riverbank. Lorenzo awakes, greets her, and informs her that Bassanio will arrive soon. Portia tells Nerissa to instruct the servants not to mention that they were away.
Bassanio and his friends enter. Portia and Bassanio greet each other, and Bassanio introduces Antonio to Portia. Graziano whispers to Nerissa that he gave his ring to the judge's clerk, and that she shouldn't be so angry about it. Portia inquires, and Graziano tells all the friends what has happened, explaining that is was a cheap ring with a sentimental inscription. Nerissa scolds him for giving it to a lawyer's clerk, who, she mysteriously suggests, was actually a woman. Graziano insists it was a boy. Portia announces that she too gave her husband a ring, and she would be just as angry if he had lost his. Graziano explains that Bassanio too gave away his ring, to the lawyer who defended Antonio. Bassanio admits that this is true. Portia and Nerissa declare that they won't go to bed with their husbands until they see the rings. Bassanio pleads that the man he gave it to had well earned it, but Portia rejoinders that he actually gave it to a woman. Bassanio swears that he gave it to a man, a smart lawyer who had saved Antonio's life. Portia scornfully jokes that, since he's so generous to this lawyer, she too will be generous to him, giving him her body and her bed. Nerissa vows the same. Antonio apologizes for the troubles he's caused, and Bassanio pleads again to be forgiven. Antonio swears that if Bassanio ever breaks an oath to Portia again, his own soul will be the collateral.
Portia then gives Antonio a ring for Bassanio, which, Bassanio sees, is the same ring she gave him before. Portia claims that she got the ring back by sleeping with the lawyer. Nerissa gives Graziano her ring back, and claims she got it in the same way. Portia gives them a letter from Bellario, and explains its contents: it says that the lawyer and the lawyer's clerk were actually Portia and Nerissa, and further that three of Antonio's ships have just arrived safely in harbor. Bassanio and Graziano embrace their wives, and Antonio, who has his fortune back, thanks to Portia. Nerissa informs Lorenzo of the other news: he and Jessica will have all of Shylock's wealth after his death. Portia suggests that they all go inside, and ask each other exactly how everything happened. Graziano agrees: his first question will be whether or not Nerissa, or, as he calls her, the lawyer's clerk, wants to go to bed with him.
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Scenes 1.2 and 1.3
Scenes 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3
Scenes 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6
Scenes 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9
Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scenes 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5
Scenes 4.1 and 4.2