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The opening scene of the play is set in Venice. Where Antonio appears to be troubled for some reason. His friends try to guess the reason for his sadness, but Antonio denies all of them.
Salerio then suggests love as a reason for his anxiety, which he even denies. Antonio's friend conclude that his melancholy is due to some strange reason as he neither worried for his fortune nor he is in love.
Later on Antonio's friend, Bassanio, Gratianio and Lorenzo get together after Salerio & Solanio depart.
In this gathering the talkative & light hearted Gratianio remarks on Antonio's mood. Gratianio believes that Antonio is sad as he attaches more importance to the world to appear as a wise man.
He even ties to play a fool to pacify the saddened heart of Antonio but nothing uplifts his spirit.
After Lorenzo and Gratiano leaves, Antonio asks Bassanio about his sacred pilgrimage to a lady. This gives Bassanio an oppurtunity to tell Antonio about his financial problems.
Bassanio tells Antonio that he loves Portia a rich heiress of Belmont. He needs to borrow money from Antonio so that he can compete with the rich suitors who came to win her hand. But Antonio denies that he has no money to lend as his ships were at sea.