Antonio A wealthy Venetian merchant who occasionally lends money, but never charges interest. Since his main source of income is from his merchant ships, he is the "merchant" of the play's title.
Bassanio He is a typical Elizabethan lover and nobleman who is careless with his money; hence, he has to borrow from Antonio so that he can woo Portia in style.
Portia As one of Shakespeare's most intelligent and witty heroines, she is famous for her beauty and for her wealth, and she is deeply anguished that she must marry only the man who chooses the single casket of three which contains her portrait.
Shylock Shylock is an intelligent businessman who believes that, since he is a moneylender, charging interest is his right; to him, it makes good business sense.
The Duke of Venice He presides as judge over the court proceedings in Shylock's claim on Antonio.
The Prince of Morocco One of Portia's suitors; he loses the opportunity to marry her when he chooses the golden casket.
The Prince of Arragon He chooses the silver casket; he is another disappointed suitor for Portia's hand in marriage.
Gratiano He is the light-hearted, talkative friend of Bassanio, who accompanies him to Belmont; there, he falls in love with Portia's confidante, Nerissa.
Lorenzo He is a friend of Antonio and Bassanio; he woos and wins the love of Shylock's daughter, Jessica.
Jessica She is the young daughter of Shylock; she falls in love with Lorenzo and, disguised as a boy, she elopes with him.
Nerissa Portia's merry and sympathetic lady-in-waiting.
Salarino He is a friend who believes that Antonio is sad because he is worried about his ships at sea.
Salanio He is another friend of Antonio; he thinks Antonio's melancholy may be caused because Antonio is in love.
Salerio A messenger from Venice.
Launcelot Gobbo He is a "clown," a jester, the young servant of Shylock; he is about to run away because he thinks Shylock is the devil; eventually, he leaves Shylock's service and becomes Bassanio's jester.
Old Gobbo The father of Launcelot, he has come to Venice to seek news of his son.
Tubal He is a friend of Shylock's; he tells him that one of Antonio's ships has been wrecked.
Leonardo Bassanio's servant.
Balthasar The servant whom Portia sends to her cousin, Dr. Bellario.
Dr. Bellario A lawyer of Padua.
Stephano One of Portia's servants.