In Venice, the epicentre of consumption, speculation and debt, Bassanio borrows money from his friend Antonio to finance his attempt to win the hand of Portia, a wealthy heiress. Antonio, in turn, takes out a loan from the moneylender Shylock. The loan will be repaid when Antonio's ships return to the city. But if they should fail, and the money cannot be repaid, Antonio shall give to Shylock a pound of his own flesh. And they do fail. And Shylock will have his abonda.
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