SCENE 1- Act 4 opens in a court room in Venice with the Duke, Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Salerio, and others present.
The Duke expresses sympathy for a having an enemy that is as empty of mercy as Shylock. Antonio states that as the law is on Shylocks side he is ready to pay the price. The Duke requests that Shylock enter the court room. The Duke strongly requests Shylock to relent. Shylock refuses and gives no excuse for his unwillingness to bend on the terms of h their agreement. He states that he will not accept payment but wants Antonio's flesh because he hates him. Bassanio asks if all men are so cruel to kill the things they do not love. Antonio tells Bassanio that it is a waste of time to argue with Shylock, and that no logic will soften his heart. Bassanio offers six thousand ducats and Shylock refuses. Shylock draws on the fact that Christians have slaves to explain his point that he "owns" Antonio's flesh and he shall have it. The Duke states he will dismiss the court unless the Doctor Bellario comes to decide the case. Just then a messenger from Bellario arrives. As they wait for the messenger Bassanio attempts to cheer up Antonio saying that he will die before he lets Shylock have Antonio's flesh.
Nerissa enters dressed as a lawyer's clerk. Nerissa states that she comes from Bellario with a letter from the doctor. The letter requests that the Duke allow a young doctor of law to attend the case. The Duke readily agrees. Portia enters dressed as a doctor of law. She attempts to get Shylock to relent. She portrays mercy as an attribute of a king and God. Shylock still refuses. Bassanio offers money twice more as Shylock states he will only be satisfied with flesh. Portia finally states that Antonio must make ready to have the flesh removed. She asks Shylock to allow a surgeon to come to stop the blood. Shylock refuses this mercy as it is not written in the bond. Antonio asks Bassanio to tell his new wife of him. At the last minute Portia tells Shylock that while he may have the flesh he cannot have a drop of blood as it is not written into the bond. Shylock realizes he cannot have his flesh and so states he will take the money. Portia tells him that because he has already refused it Shylock can only have the flesh. In fact, she states, he cannot even have the principal, and cannot leave because he has attempted to murder a Venetian citizen. The price of Shylock's crime is death and the loss of his estate. The estate should go half to Antonio and half to the city of Venice. The Duke spares Shylock's life but he must still forfeit his estate. Antonio states that he should give half his money to his daughter and her Christian husband upon his death. Additionally, Shylock must become a Christian. Shylock agrees but states he is too ill to sign the papers at that time and requests the papers be sent to him. Shylock leaves. The Duke invites the doctor of law to have dinner with him, but Portia states she must return home immediately. The Duke leaves.
Bassanio offers the "judge" the three thousand ducats that were to go to Shylock but is refused. Bassanio insists that the judge should take something and Portia takes Antonio's gloves and asks Bassanio for his ring. Bassanio refuses stating that it was a gift from his wife. Portia leaves saying that Bassanio's wife would have said she deserved the ring.
Antonio convinces Bassanio that he should have given the judge the ring and so Bassanio takes it off and asks Gratiano to take the ring to the judge.
SCENE 2- During this scene Portia and Nerissa are in a street in Venice.
Portia is sending Nerissa into Shylock's house to deliver the papers he promised to sign. Gratiano catches up to them to deliver the ring and invites them to dinner. Portia refuses stating she must bring the clerk to Shylock's house. Nerissa thinks it would be fun to trick Gratiano out of his ring as well.