Shylock's penalties

Alternative ending?

Argument in favour

Relevant play text

Alternative ending

Four Strangers

The Merchant of Venice — An Alternative Ending

Shylock's penalties

Bassanio can't afford to woo Portia, so he asks Antonio for a loan. Antonio, the merchant, has no cash, but owns ships at sea. He borrows 3000 ducats for three months from Shylock, a very rich Jewish moneylender. In default of repayment, Antonio agrees to Shylock having a pound of his flesh.

Bassanio then woos Portia and marries her, and simultaneously his friend, Gratiano, woos Portia's maid, Nerissa, and marries her. Another of Bassanio's friends, Lorenzo, elopes with Shylock's daughter, Jessica, but only after they, helped by Gratiano, have stolen a large amount of Shylock's money and jewels. They spend or waste all of this wealth.

After three months, Antonio's ships are reported wrecked or lost and he cannot repay the loan. Shylock takes him to court to legitimise taking the pound of flesh. Portia, disguised as a male lawyer, successfully defends Antonio and proves Shylock's action to be a crime. Gratiano, who earlier had helped Lorenzo and Jessica to steal Shylock's wealth, jeers and gloats in his downfall.

Shylock's penalties are: Death, but the Duke of Venice pardons him his life. One half of his wealth is to go to the state, although Shylock can keep that half by paying a fine. The other half is to go to Antonio, but Antonio is content that Shylock's payment of the state fine is enough, and so he doesn't want ownership of any of Shylock's wealth, only the use of it with the proviso that Shylock sign a deed of gift that upon his death all he is possessed of will go to Lorenzo and Jessica. One other condition is that Shylock has to change his religion and become a Christian. Relevant text

With the winning of the case, the scene moves to Portia's home. Portia tells Antonio that three of his ships have suddenly come safely into port. The various pairs of lovers are reunited and, presumably, they all live happily ever after.
Could the play have ended differently?