Venice was an exciting centre of business in Shakespeare's time. The rich merchants of Venice bought and sold things from all the countries round the Mediterranean. The Merchant oj Venice tells the story of Antonio, a merchant; his friend Bassaiiio; the beautiful and clever Portia, and their friends. It ends happily for Antonio and Bassanio, but not for Shylock, the moneylender. But probably nobody in Shakespeare's time liked Shylock or felt sorry for him.