The characters Antonio, the merchant of Venice, and Bassanio, his
friend who lives beyond his means, have already been introduced by
Shakespeare in the first scene. Here Bassanio has asked his friend to
lend him money so that he might woo the rich and beautiful Portia.
Antonio has expressed his willingness to lend the money but, as his
trading ships are all away at sea, he does not have funds readily
available. However, he comes up with a plan to seek out a loan
elsewhere so that Bassanio can borrow money in Antonio's name.
The third scene sees the two friends visiting a Jewish money lender
named Shylock. Bassanio has arrived first and has made preliminary
enquiries about the possibility of borrowing money. At the start of
the scene we first see the relationship between Shylock and Bassanio
is one of uncertainty. Bassanio is very cautious and tries to make
sure that Shylock understands exactly what he wants; their
conversation gives the impression that maybe they are working out
terms, though not in the same way that Shylock and Antonio do later.
"Antonio is a good man",
Bassanio instantly thinks he is insulting Antonio
"Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?" Act 1 scene 3 line 11
Almost as if to say "what are you trying to say". This implies that
Bassanio is not a trusting character, or least he is distrustful of
Shylock, agrees to loan Bassanio three -thousand ducats for a term of
three months. Bassanio assures Shylock that Antonio will guarantee the
loan, but Shylock is doubtful because Antonio's wealth ...
... middle of paper ...
...of this abuse, he is bitter and anxious to avenge himself for
past wrongs, real or imagined.
In contrast, Antonio is a wealthy merchant, rich and well known in
Venice. He seems to be a loyal friend to Bassanio for whom he is
willing to go against his principles and borrow money from a
moneylender. But there is a darker side to him; he has racially abused
the Jews simply because he can and his anti-Semitism makes him appear
a bully who is willing to be led by the law, whether or not it is a
bad law, rather than by his religion which preaches love thy
Bassanio is a bit of a 'good time guy' who has wasted his own money
and is prepared to marry a rich heiress for her fortune. He is also
willing to let Antonio borrow money on his behalf even though he is
suspicious of the terms offered by the moneylender.
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