The Merchant of Venice — An Alternative Ending
How the play might have ended
Shylock, in abiding by the strict terms of his punishment, pays the fine to enable him to retain half of his wealth. The other half of his wealth is in the hands of Antonio. Having the use of Shylock's wealth gets Antonio out of a financial predicament. Without that money Antonio is flat broke! This wealth, though, is only for Antonio's use while Shylock lives and must be given to Lorenzo and Jessica upon Shylock's death.
Shylock, having been once bitten by the law, would now be twice shy and apply his mind to the law being careful, this time, to employ smart lawyer tactics.
Whilst studying Christianity in preparation for his enforced conversion, he would note that the seventh Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," applies to the thieves, Lorenzo and Jessica, and to their accomplice, Gratiano. He could put it to the courts that Lorenzo and Jessica are guilty of a crime and, at the very least, need to refund what they had stolen. Indirectly, they owe half to the state and half to Antonio. This would result in them being broke, in fact, worse than broke. They would be in debt to the amount of ducats spent in Genoa and also to the value of the turquoise ring that Jessica exchanged for a monkey. They would be punished to the full severity of the laws of Venice, and though hanging was often a punishment for theft, it is more likely their theft and bankruptcy would have only resulted in a very lengthy term of imprisonment with hard labour. Even Gratiano would get a "stretch" for being an accomplice in the theft of Shylock's ducats, a most satisfying and ironic end for his sarcastic remarks at Shylock's downfall in court.
Shylock, having disposed of Lorenzo, Jessica and Gratiano as criminals, could then turn his attention to Antonio. Once he was sure Antonio's ships were definitely lost, Shylock could have surprised all Venice by suddenly, and unexpectedly, dying! Instantly, Antonio would have to give up his use of Shylock's wealth and, after doing so, find himself to actually be the bankrupt that Shylock had named him.
The penniless Lorenzo and Jessica would suddenly be one of the richest couples in Venice,
having inherited all that Shylock died possessed of, but unable to spend even a single ducat
during their many years of imprisonment. Shylock, to his eternal credit, would never have
become a Christian.