# "Neither a borrower nor a lender be," is not from The Merchant of Venice, but it could have been. Antonio, the merchant, lends money to his friend Bassanio, to go to the town of Belmont and win the hand of the lovely Portia. Antonio doesn't have the money, but he has ships coming in and will have money soon. He borrows from Shylock, a Jew. Only Jewish people can lend money with interest. To be a Usurer is against Christian doctrine. Shylock says he will not charge Antonio interest - but if he is late with payment he will have to pay with a pound of his flesh. No problem, Antonio's ships are due any day. Bassanio sails to Belmont and wins the hand of Portia. Then word comes that Antonio's ships have sunk and that Shylock is demanding the pound of Antonio's flesh. Bassanio rushes back to Venice to plead in court for Antonio, but to no avail. Shylock is bitter and unrelenting. His only daughter has stolen his money and run off with another friend of Antonio's. Shylock states that Antonio has mocked him cruelly in the past. Portia, disguised as a man, a lawyer, enters court to plead Antonio's case. She entreats Shylock to be merciful with familiar words - "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath, it is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes." Shylock refuses to be merciful. Portia proclaims Shylock the winner. He can take the pound of flesh. Antonio agrees. As Shylock is about to cut the flesh from Antonio - Portia reminds Shylock that he was not promised a single drop of blood. If Antonia does bleed, Shylock will have to forfeit his own life. Case over. "Merchant" is one of the most debated of Shakespeare's plays. Was Shakespeare anti-Semitic? It is doubtful he had ever seen a Jewish person. Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and were not re-admitted until 1655, 39 years after his death. If he was prejudiced, why did he have Shylock speak eloquently about the commonalities of human experience? "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?" If we go to Shakespeare, do we not enjoy? We do!