“The Merchant of Venice” is a Shakespeare play about Bassanio, an
ambitious young man of Venice, asking his friend Antonio, a merchant
of Venice, for a loan in order to enable him to woo Portia, a rich
heiress in style. Antonio approach Shylock, a Jewish money-lender, who
agrees to the loan only if Antonio undertakes to give him a pound of
his flesh if he is unable to repay the money. Each character plays an
important role in bringing out the various themes of the play.
Antonio’s opening lines “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 it is born,/ I am to
learn” immediately gives me an idea that he is a sober, serious and
rather somber character.
Antonio is a very successful businessman and extremely rich compared
to the other merchants. “Or as it were the pageants of the sea/ Do
overpeer the petty traffickers/ That curtsy to them.”
Although he is rich, he lacks any interest in women and has no serious
relationship with any. His frequent travel as a career-minded merchant
does not help. On the other hand, his friendship with Bassinio was
intense and probably is the only close relationship of his busy life.
His other relationships are those of a leading businessman with his
trade acquaintances and hangers-on. Beside from Bassinio, Antonio
seems to be leading an isolated and solitary life.
Antonio’s friendship for Bassanio is noble, self-sacrificing, generous
and brave. He even gave Bassanio permission to borrow money from
anyone, on credit for friendship’s sake. ...
... middle of paper ...
cruelty and vindictiveness. This could explain his cynicism,
spitefulness and obsession with money—he feels insecure, embattled and
embittered. On top of that, Shylock is also vehemently anti-Christian.
Hence, we see that prejudice breeds prejudice.
Generally, the three of them have very different characteristics but
share one thing in common - prejudice. Both Antonio and Bassanio are
loyal friends and Antonio “only loves the world for him” (Bassanio).
On the other hand, essentially audience sympathy is turned away from
Shylock by his hatred of Antonio (to the extent of murder) and his
ruthless pursuit of profit, but his eloquent description of Antonio’s
abusive language and behaviour redresses the balance a little in his
favour. Nevertheless, “The Merchant of Venice” is an interesting play
with a rich plot.
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