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The Venice Carnival (Carnaval, in Italian) is a celebration that goes back to the Middle Ages. The Carnival celebration is usually held before Lent, about 40 days before Easter. People dress in masks and costumes and participate in public parades.


Venice (Venezia, in Italian) is old city in Northern Italy, considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is famous for its canals and rowing boats called gondolas. [Map of Renaissance Venice]

The Renaissance

The Renaissance was a period of time of great interest in learning and art. It began in Italy around the 14th century and spread to other parts of Europe by the 16th century.


William Shakespeare lived in Renaissance England. He was born in 1564. He is considered by many people to be the greatest writer in the English Language. He wrote 38 plays and over 100 poems. Though he wrote plays set in Venice, he probably never visted that city. [Shakespeare's Birthplace]

About Portia's Mask

Venice's Carnival is drawing near and teen-aged Portia is looking for a costume. While examining the mask-maker's wares, she hears people arguing in the street and realizes they are her young friends, Jessica, Nerissa, and Balthasar.

As she tries to help her friends solve their disagreement, we see a glimmer of the person Portia will later become as an adult in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.