Dramatic Contributions of the Character Antonio The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

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Dramatic Contributions of the Character Antonio The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Antonio is the namesake of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, but in addition to contributing to the title, his constant search for emotional martyrdom adds an air of depth and drama to an otherwise lighthearted and laughable play. Like many of Shakespeare's best characters, Antonio could easily be overlooked as a mere plot-device. However, upon further inspection, he's more than just two-dimensional; he has a history, a personality, and a raison d'être. Entering with complaints of phantom depressions, Antonio explains his woes to two of his friends, Salerio and Solanio. ANTONIO: In sooth, I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you. But how I caught it, found it, or came by it What stuff 'tis made of, whereof 'tis born I am to learn. And such a want-wit sadness makes of me That I have much ado to know myself (I.i.1-7). The audience never does learn the cause of this depression. Nor, it seems, does Antonio. Many speculate it is foreshadowing of his melancholy to come, while others say it is just a display of Antonio's default attitude: romantic sadness. His emotions are not those of a cell-bound manic-depressive, but rather those of a large hearted person doting ceaselessly for the unattainable. Why does this open the play? Shakespeare often cleverly manipulated his characters' actions for the sake of plot revelations. For instance, Shakespeare uses his depression to let Salerio and Solanio question him about his affairs, thus introducing him to the audience. Throughout the play, the repercussions of many adventures fall upon Antonio; his 3,000-ducat debt, and Shylock's subsequent rancor, as well as... ... middle of paper ... ...f further sadness. So Antonio, the established "dose of drama", acknowledges that he is best (and most useful plot-wise) when sad, and perhaps subconsciously does what he can do to keep himself this way. And he does: by yearning for a man he can never have, digging himself into debt with Shylock (even when aware of the dangers), and dramatically lamenting, even without a good reason to. While most characters change from beginning to end, Antonio only gains in his gloom. He begins sad, and ends unfulfilled. Portia mentions briefly that his ships have returned safely, but this somewhat artificial (and all too convenient) relief is not what he wants. He wants to remain himself: to remain dejected, forlorn and inconsolable. For if he remains himself, than the play has authentic drama and emotion. Bibliography: Shakespeare, William. "The Merchant of Venice"

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