Portia and Bassanio marry, as do Gratiano and Portia's handmaid Nerissa.
Bassanio and Gratiano leave for Venice, with money from Portia, to save Antonio's life by offering the money to Shylock.
Shylock has become more determined to exact revenge from Christians because his daughter Jessica eloped with the Christian Lorenzo and converted.
She took a substantial amount of Shylock's wealth with her, as well as a turquoise ring which Shylock had been given by his late wife, Leah. At Belmont, Bassanio receives a letter telling him that Antonio has been unable to repay the loan from Shylock.
Shylock refuses Bassanio's offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. The Duke, wishing to save Antonio but unable to nullify a contract, refers the case to a visitor.
He identifies himself as Balthazar, a young male "doctor of the law", bearing a letter of recommendation to the Duke from the learned lawyer Bellario.
Shylock is at first reluctant to grant the loan, citing abuse he has suffered at Antonio's hand.
He finally agrees to lend the sum to Bassanio without interest upon one condition: if Antonio is unable to repay it at the specified date, Shylock may take a pound of Antonio's flesh.
The last suitor is Bassanio, whom Portia wishes to succeed, having met him before.
As Bassanio ponders his choice, members of Portia's household sing a song that says that "fancy" (not true love) is "engend'red in the eyes, / With gazing fed"; At Venice, Antonio's ships are reported lost at sea, so the merchant cannot repay the bond.