The Merchants of Venice were the driving force behind the development and success of Venice during its early history. Venice enjoyed a unique political position, neither a city of the West or East, it enjoyed a priviliged position that it utilized to create the enormously successful Mercantile Empire of the Venetian Republic. The Merchants of Venice enjoyed a monopoly on trade between the East & West.
Venice was a nation founded on trade. It owed its incredible success to the small size of the Republic and Venice itself. Confined to such a restricted space, it created in the Venetians a unique sense of spirit of cohesion and cooperation in the handling day-to-day affairs.
You can tour the old Artisan Quarters of Venice where the notorious Merchants of Venice sojourned and conducted business on our Hidden Venice Walking Tours
Amongst the Venetian merchant aristocracy everyone knew each other, and close acquaintance led to a mutual trust of a kind that in other cities seldom extended outside the family circle. Consequently, the Venetians were unique for their capacity for quick, efficient business administration.
Trading ventures that involved great amounts of money and had several years of duration with considerable risk could be arranged in the matter of hours in the Rialto. The system enabled short-term partnerships to evolve through which any Venetian with a little money could have a share in the trade.
Known as a Colleganza, these agreements enabled Artisans, widows, the sick and aged to enjoy the possibility of high profits. It's presumed that Shakespeare based his plot for the Merchants of Venice on the collapse of one of these Colleganza.
The Rialto was the commercial centre of Venice. Where luxury goods would arrive from the East, while raw materials would arrive from northern Europe. Typical of Venetian palaces, the many that line the Grand Canal were half homes and half warehouses used to store goods in transit.