In order to repay his debts, Bassanio, a Venetian nobleman, plans to marry Portia a wealthy heiress. His friend Antonio agrees to fund Bassanio's voyage to Belmont, where Portia lives, but must seek a loan from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Shylock agrees but demands a pound of Antonio's flesh if he cannot pay the loan back in time. Upon arriving in Belmont, Bassanio solves the riddle of the three caskets left to Portia by her father, and thus she agrees to marry him.
Soon after though, they learn that Antonio is unable to pay his debt to Shylock. After Bassanio fails, Portia conjures up an ingenious plan that saves Antonio's life.