Merchant of Venice Essay: The Depression of Antonio

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The Depression of Antonio in Merchant of Venice

In the Merchant of Venice, we see a truly anti-Semitic play by Shakespeare.  However, we also see a tale of money (greed and generosity), love (heterosexual and homosexual), and emotion (joy and sadness). 

The play revolves around Bassanio's love for Portia.  Bassanio needs money to play the suitor to Portia in "style".  His friend who loves him, Antonio, agrees to give him the money, but, because all of his money is invested in his merchant ships he must take a loan from the greedy Jew Shylock.  Shylock loans him the money in exchange for a pound of his flesh if he does not pay the loan back on time.  Bassanio wins Portia's hand, but, before they are joined together, Portia will disguise herself in order to win the freedom of Antonio when his ships meet with ruin and he cannot repay Shylock.  Shylock ends up losing half his wealth and must convert before Portia is through with him.  Antonio is a fascinating character study when it comes to psychology because he is such a sad but noble character.  He is world-weary and life's material things do not bring him joy.  He is also confused about his sadness.  As he says in the opening speech of the play, "In sooth, I know not why I an 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 it is born, I am to learn;/And such a want-wit sadness makes of me/That I have much ado to know myself" (Shakespeare  203). 

Antonio explains he has scattered his investment risks quite adequately, so it is not his "merchandize" that makes him sad.  Yet, he does admit that he feels it is his nature to be sad, as if he has a chemical imbalance that classifies him as cl...

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...nificance with those of the Jewish faith who might befriend him, and it gives him a cynical, negative perspective of the culture around him.  However, at the end of the play Antonio does seem to find some small measure of happiness when he comes to understand how much Portia has done on his behalf.  This shows him that his perceptions of her understanding may have been limited because he more than likely did not expect his strongest ally to be the wife of the man he loves, "Sweet lady, you have given me life and living;/For here I read for certain that my ships/Are safely come to road" (Shakespeare  228).  Thus, Antonio could be recommended for therapy because his depression has the potential to be ameliorated with a deeper understanding and acceptance of his thinking regarding life.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, W.  The Complete Works.  Random House, NY:  1975.  

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