The Merchant of Venice opens with Antonio’s speech about his own sadness, with the explanation of it escaping him: But how I caught it, found it, or came by it. The only medium Bassanio has at his disposal to seal the deed is not funds, as these are borrowed from Antonio, but “Only my blood speaks to you [Portia] in my veins” (III.ii.176). Essay on The Merchant of Venice 2952 Words | 12 Pages. Finally, sealed bonds that dictated a daughter’s marital choice would have been unusual during Shakespeare’s period, as daughters had some say in their choice of a husband. A. Bryant, Jr. “’The Merchant of Venice’ and the Common Flaw (For C.T.H. Antonio is a male. Portia interprets that right as a right of possession over her property and person as symbolized by the wedding which she gives to her new husband. In other words, Portia presents herself as type of investment that appreciates value over time and can be redeemed at some point in the future. John D. Hurrell, “Love and Friendship in The Merchant of Venice”; Lawrence W. Hyman, “The Rival Lovers in The Merchant of Venice”; Walter F. Eggers, Jr., “Love and Likeness in The Merchant of Venice”; Alice N. Benston, “Portia, the Law, and the Tripartite Structure of The Merchant of Venice”; Cynthia Lewis, “Antonio and Alienation in ‘The Merchant of Venice’”; Michael Zuckert, “The New Medea: On Portia’s Comic Triumph in The Merchant of Venice.”. This article will remedy this inattention, although it is indebted to these previous studies that have tangentially touched upon this topic: the effect of contract and commerce on friendship, love, and marriage and their social and political ramifications. 'To you, Antonio, I owe the most, in money and in love,'. Jessica has a choice to honor the bond with her father, Shylock, or follow her desires to flee with Lorenzo. Subsequent citations are in-text. What, man, courage yet! Portia explains that she has never regretted doing a good deed, and likewise the cost in money and time to save Antonio represents a small price to pay to help her husband’s friend. She was taught to love and to be kind and that money could not buy love and happiness. Prejudice still exists in Venice but persecution and murder do not. The âworthâ of love gets further garbled as Bassanio talks to Antonio of his intentions to court Portia; the audience expects a lover´s distracted, excited manner as he praises his lady, yet a highly rational Bassanio first and foremost exalts her wealth: âin Belmont, there is a â¦ In connection with mercy and generosity, The Merchant of Venice also explores love and friendship between its characters. IV,1,2044. Love for Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice Antonio feels closer to Bassanio than any other character in The Merchant of Venice. As Antonio observes about his bond of flesh with Shylock, who had demanded its fulfillment: Will much impeach the justice of the state, Since that the trade and profit of the city, Consisteth of all nations (III.iii.26-31).. That I have much ado to know myself (1-7). life for the people they love. The two driving stories in the play are of the love between Bassanio and Portia and the bitter hatred Shylock and Antonio have for each other. Furthermore, the sexual and procreative act of marriage not only produces children but unifies the body and soul of both partners. âWithin the eye of honor, be â¦ It is the means by which Antonio signifies something that cannot be assigned a calculated value: his love (I.i.153-60, 184-85). Portiaâs father seemed to have instilled values and love in Portia from a very young age. And that which you did swear to keep for me. Antonio and Bassanio have a very strong relationship in Act 1 and we can infer that they have been friends for a long time as Bassanio says that he already owes Antonio ‘the most in money and in love’ (1:1). Once freed from her father’s restraint, Jessica and Lorenzo spend their stolen wealth with carelessness, even trading the “turquoise,” which symbolizes the betrothal of her father and mother, for a monkey (III.i.118-23). The love Antonio has for Bassanio means that he is willing to do anything his friend asks. In a sense, Bassanio participates in the marital contract of Portia and Bassanio. Bassanio is a male. Bassanio, who appears to be Antonio’s closest companion, is not only profligate with his and his friend’s monies, but he partially, if not predominantly, sees the world in terms of self-interest, utility, and profit.. For thy three thousand ducats here is six. 57-59). Bassanio's new courtship seems likely to be the source of Antonio's sadness, as â¦ Both parties are sad but they do not know why. For thy three thousand ducats here is six. The relationship between Jessica and Lorenzo therefore is treated sympathetically in The Merchant of Venice, yet there are uneasy undertones that mark Jessica’s breaking of her paternal, and perhaps religious, contract with her father.  A recent production that emphasizes commerce in the play was Daniel Sullivan’s New York production in Central Park in 2010. But marriage and friendship are incommensurable goods: they cannot be compared and therefore cannot be traded.  Harold C. Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951, 96, 98-101; Sigurd Burckhardt, “The Merchant of Venice: The Gentle Bond,” 248. Back in Belmont when Portia hears that Bassanio had bestowed his wedding ring to Balthazar, she immediately chastises Bassanio for not understanding its worth: “If you have known the virtue of the ring, / Or half her worthiness that gave the ring, / Or your own honor to contain the ring” (V.i.199-201). In revenge to Bassanio for relinquishing his wedding ring to Balthazar, Portia promises him that she will be as liberal with their marriage bed as he was with his wedding ring (V.i.223-29). Because of its commercial ambitions, Venice makes meaningful relationships more difficult. After reading Act I of The Merchant of Venice, there are a couple things I have been left to wonder about. This overcompensation by Antonio not only leads to a failure to establish a friendship based on virtue but almost costs him his life. An examination of this marriage will show how contractual Belmont leads both characters to think and act out of self-interest.. The Merchant of Venice. BASSANIO: To you, Antonio, I owe the most, in money and in love, And from your love I have a warranty To unburden all my plots and purposes How to get clear of all the debts I owe. Harry R. Garvin (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1980), 91-105; John Barton, “Exploring a Character: Playing Shylock.” In Playing Shakespeare (London: Methuen, 1984), 169-80; Richard Arneson, “Shakespeare and the Jewish Question,” Political Theory 13 (1985), 85-111; Derek Cohen, “Shylock and the Idea of the Jew.” In Shakespearean Motives (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988), 104-18; Samuel Ajzenstat, “Contract in The Merchant of Venice,” Philosophy and Literature 21 (1997), 262-78; Martin D. Yaffe, Shylock and the Jewish Question (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1997); Jay Michaelson, “In Praise of the Pound of Flesh: Legalism, Multiculturalism, and the Problem of the Soul,” Journal of Law 98 (2005), 1-31; Susannah Heschel, “From Jesus to Shylock: Christian Supersessionism and “The Merchant of Venice,” Harvard Theological Review 99 (2006), 407-31; Gorman Beauchamp, “Shylock’s Conversion,” Humanitas XXIV (2012), 55-92. The Merchant of Venice Theme of friendship In The Merchant of Venice, the theme of friendship appears between Antonio and Bassanio.  Aristotle. For explanations of Antonio’s sadness as suppressed homosexual feelings, refer to Graham Midgley, “The Merchant of Venice: A Reconsideration,” Essays in Criticism 10 (1960), 119-33; W. H. Auden, “Brothers and Others.” In The Dryer’s Hand and Other Essays (London: Faber & Faber, 1963), 218-37; Steven Patterson, “The Bankruptcy of Homoerotic Amity in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Quarterly 50 (1999), 9-32. There is no evidence in the play, particularly in the final act, that Bassanio has actually learned the value of marriage, or even friendship, on moral grounds; or, that he knows their value but lacks the social tools to participate in a meaningful relationship. Instead of excluding or killing Jews, Christians seek to make a profit with or out of them and vice versa. While Jessica has recklessly spent their stolen money, Portia has carefully conserved her wealth to make her husband a debtor in their relationship. Because both Venice and Belmont are cities founded upon contract, the regimes make those who act non-contractually, whether agreeing to unreasonable loans or breaking paternal bonds, melancholic without knowing the motive behind it. Trevor-Roper, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, ed. Is any love held up as more valuable or enduring than another? Portia has a husband that she prefers, and Bassanio has claim to “This house, these servants, and this same myself / Are yours – my lord’s! It also requires a type of equality of exchange, for friends receive and wish the same thing from and for each other (1158b1-2). https://voegelinview.com/contract-friendship-love-merchant-venice 51. The three thousand ducats Bassanio borrows from Antonio is both the price Bassanio pays to enter the casket trial and the contractual equivalent of a pound of Antonio’s flesh as collateral for Shylock’s loan. Regardless of how one interprets these questions in The Merchant of Venice, friendship is an important good for us and something without which we cannot live. This theme of Venice as a commercial republic based on contract has been explored by other scholars and has been even presented in recent performances. Although Antonio aspires for perfect friendship, he was not able to achieve it because his companions, including Bassanio, behave out of self-interest, utility, and profit rather than out of moral values like virtue. Shakespeare, Law, and Marriage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003). Antonio seems to like Bassanio in a romantic way.  If an exception were made in this case, Shylock correctly asks why should the Duke not break other contracts, such as the purchasing of slaves (IV.i.89-103; 38-39)? If Bassanio were to violate his oath, then his friendship with Antonio is to be forfeit. Both Antonio and Bassanio fall short in participating in meaningful relationships: Antonio is still alone at the end of the play as he was in the beginning and his friendship with Bassanio has become subordinate to Bassanio’s and Portia’s marriage. For more about Aristotle’s account of friendship, refer to Stephen Salkever, “Taking Friendship Seriously: Aristotle on the Place(s) of Philia in Human Life.” In Friendship and Politics: Essays in Political Thought, ed. This trial requires suitors to solve a riddle that filters out those who want to marry Portia for the wrong reasons. This is evident in the decisions, actions, and relationships of Antonio, Bassanio, Portia, and Jessica in the play: Antonio foolishly risks his life out of friendship; Bassanio views friendship as commensurate with marriage; Portia perceives of her marriage in contractual and commercial terms; and Jessica’s breach of contract leads to unhappiness. Except Shylock, those character who conceive and act in contractual terms are successful, while those who do not, such as Antonio and Jessica, fare less well. Both Bassanio and Portia’s father conflate Portia’s persona with the estate of Belmont in their desire to count her as property over which to have exclusive dominion. From the play it is made known that Venice is a city based on commerce with its law of contract enforced – even if a pound of flesh were demanded – for otherwise the law would lose its legitimacy and all trade and justice would cease to exist. Our first clue to this is in the first scene when, in conversation with Antonio, Solanio says, "Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman, / Gratiano, and Lorenzo. Whereas Antonio acted out of a misguided sense of friendship in giving a pound of his own flesh to Shylock, Bassanio relinquished his wedding ring to Balthazar at Antonio’s urging because of the debt he owed Antonio. While this scene encapsulates a small moment between the two lovers at the start of their relationship, Jessica pinpoints an essential quality in love and relationships. Bassanio says he's sharing with Antonio because they're friends, but he makes explicit that he owes Antonio the most in "money and love." The return of the ring to Bassanio is not from Portia to Bassanio but from Portia to Antonio who then gives it back to Bassanio. What kinds of love are there in the play? Love is regulated, sacrificed, betrayed, and generally built on rocky foundations in the play. Sylvan Barnet (Englewood Cliffs: NJ: Prentice Hall, 1970), 11-32; Shell, “The Wether and the Ewe”; William Chester Jordan, “Approaches to the Court Scene in The Bond Story: Equity and Mercy or Reason and Nature,” Shakespeare Quarterly 33 (1982), 45-59; Donna M. Kish-Goodling, “Using ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in teaching monetary economics,” The Journal of Economic Education, 29.4 (1998), 330-39; Suzanne Penuel, “Castrating the Creditor in “The Merchant of Venice,” Studies in English Literature 44 (2004), 255-75. , Bassanio similarly perceives their relationship in contractual terms of debts and credits, as he correctly has identified the “gentle scroll” to “come by note, to give and to receive” (III.ii.139-140). For other interpretations of her role, refer to Robert Hapgood, “Portia and the Merchant of Venice: The Gentle Bond”; Herbert S. Donow, “Shakespeare’s Caskets: Unity in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Studies 4 (1968), 86-93; Monica J. Hamill, “Poetry, Law, and the Pursuit of Perfection: Portia’s Role in The Merchant of Venice”; Joan Ozark Holmer, “Loving Wisely and the Casket Test: Symbolic and Structural Unity in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Studies 11 (1978), 53-76; Alice N. Benston, “Portia, the Law, and the Tripartite Structure of The Merchant of Venice”; Harry Berger, Jr. “Marriage and Mercifixion in The Merchant of Venice: The Casket Scene Revisited,” Shakespeare Quarterly 32 (1981), 155-62; Karen Newman, “Portia’s Ring: Unruly Women and Structures of Exchanges in The Merchant of Venice”; Lynda Boose, “The Comic Contract and Portia’s Golden Ring”; Michael Zuckert, “The New Medea: On Portia’s Comic Triumph in The Merchant of Venice”; Barbara Tovey, “The Golden Casket: An Interpretation of The Merchant of Venice.” In Shakespeare as Political Thinker, ed.  C. L. Barber, “The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Merchant of Venice, ed.  Citations of the play are from G. Blackemore Evans et al., ed., The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974), 254-85. Although Belmont appears to have a different set of values when compared to Venice, it is actually governed by the same laws of contract. Bassanio’s sexuality can be examined and scrutinized despite his seemingly heteronormative actions and intentions. Jessica explains to Lorenzo that love looks past embarrassments or faults. But for Shylock, justice is enough. IV,1,2016. Contrast between Antonio and Bassanio. The merchant of … However, there is a deeper, almost unspoken tale linking these two stories together: the relationship between Bassanio and Antonio. Among early modern writers, Venice had enjoyed mythical status because of its political institutions and ideals of republicanism. In this moment, weâre introduced to Antonioâs unwavering dedication to Bassanio, which motivates Antonio to take a â¦ What stuff ‘tis made of, whereof it is born. Fare ye well: / We leave you now with better company" (i. i.  For example, some like Lars Engle and Fredrick Turner argue that the play is about patterns of exchanges, purchases, and pledges that range from the physical to the abstract, while other critics look at the use of bonds – natural, emotional, commercial – as the theme that unities the play. By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Shmoop and verify that you are over the age of 13. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. We know that he has already lent money to Bassanio, but even though Bassanio has not repaidthat money, Antonio is willing to lend him more. Although Portia initially trusts Bassanio with her house, servants, and herself, she later changes the terms of the contract where she becomes both owner and possessor of Bassanio (III.ii.166-67, 170-71). His companions, Solanio and Salerio, suggest that commerce or love as possible causes of his sadness, but these options are dismissed by Antonio (I.i.41-45, 47). IV,1,2150 As the betrothed of Bassanio, she then offers many times the value of the three thousand ducats to ransom the life of Antonio (III.ii.299-302).  As a successful model of a mixed constitution, Venice had developed an elaborate system of governance to reduce the influence of fraction and enjoyed an economic prosperity that appeared to follow from its political organization. Bassanio's love life is the first thing Antonio brings up with Bassanio when they're alone together in the play. The remark is humorous because of its implied truth: Antonio’s and Bassanio’s friendship is meaningful but is not amendable to be part of the commercial transaction vis-à-vis the marriage between Bassanio and Portia. It would seem that this is the price that the citizens of any commercial and contractual republic must pay for in exchange for these goods. I have come up on a hypothesis that Antonio is gay and Bassanio is a bisexual. When Portia reveals to everyone that she is Balthazar, to whom Bassanio, on the urging of Antonio, gave his wedding ring as a token of gratitude for savings his friend’s life, everyone is stunned (IV.i.452-54). , Like Antonio in the beginning of the play, Portia suffers from weariness of “this great world” in Belmont because she bound by her father’s will that decrees she wed only the individual who passes his trial of caskets (I.ii.1-2, 21-35). Bassanio replies that he would sacrifice everything he possesses – his life, his wife, and his estate – “Here to this devil [Shylock], to deliver you” (IV.i.286-87). Nor do I now make moan to be abridged From such a noble rate. Classical Humanism and Republicanism in English Political Thought, 1570-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); also refer to Nicolai Rubenstein, “Italian Political Thought 1450-1530.” In The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450-1700, ed. John Russell Brown and Bernard Harris (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961), 220-24; Allan Bloom, “On Christian and Jew.” In Allan Bloom with Harry V. Jaffa, Shakespeare’s Politics (New York: Basic Books, 1964), 13-33; Paul N. Siegel, “Shylock, the Elizabethan Puritan, and Our Own World.” In Shakespeare in His Time and Ours (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), 337-38; John R. Cooper, “Shylock’s Humanity.” Shakespeare Quarterly 21 (1970), 117-24; Lawrence, Danson. Values incommensurate with contract must either be re-conceptualized in contractual terms to be successful or face failure in a world governed by self-interest, utility, and profit. Every offence is not a hate at first. The Christian commandment of loving thy neighbor appears to have failed as a political principle to organize the city: commerce, contract, and profit have provided the path to stability, cooperation, and toleration. When Bassanio, a young nobleman whose generous habits have eaten up his inheritance, enters the scene, there is not one word about Antonio’s countenance exchanged between them.  For more about Launcelot, who breaks the master-servant contract in the play, refer to René E. Fortin, “Launcelot and the Uses of Allegory in The Merchant of Venice,” Studies in English Literature 14 (1974), 259-70. The heterosexual relationship will never stand alone. Throughout the play we see many bonds or connections between both Antonio and Bassanio as well as Portia and Bassanio. , Bassanio fares better than Antonio but it is not clear whether he has learned to value marriage and friendship for their own sake. When he says "To you, Antonio, / I owe the most in money and in love" (1.1.137-138), it becomes pretty clear that Bassanio has been sponging off his rich BFF. Traditionally marriage was the way to create and socialize children into society: friendship, for all its virtues and value, cannot do this.  For critics who disagree with this similarity between Belmont and Venice, refer to endnote one. In Act 2 Scene 8, Antonio told Bassanio not to âhurry backâ, to âstay as long as you need [he needed]â, to not âthink about my [his] bond with Shylockâ, and to âbe happy, and think only about ways of winning Portia and showing your [his] love.â Bassanio protests until Antonio suggests it is fair to give him the ring: âLet his deservings and my love withal / Be valued against your wife's commandment.â Therefore, I am going to discuss the homosexual relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in terms of their extremely close finance implications. At the end of the play, it is unclear whether Antonio has learned how non-contractual relations like friendship and marriage should be understood and valued. )” The Sewanee Review 81 (1973), 606-22; Monica J. Hamill, “Poetry, Law, and the Pursuit of Perfection: Portia’s Role in The Merchant of Venice,” Studies in English Literature 18 (1978), 229-43; David Lowenthal, Shakespeare and the Good Life (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 147-72; Henry S. Turner, “The Problem of More-than-One: Friendship, Calculation, and Political Association in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Quarterly 57 (2006): 413-42. Answer: What Antonio and Bassanioâs relationship reveal about their characters Bassanio and Antonioâs friendship is a vital piece to the foundation of the entire play, The Merchant of Venice.  For interpretations of the court scene as a conflict between law and equity or justice and mercy, refer to endnote one as well as Maxine MacKay, “The Merchant of Venice: A Reflection of the Early Conflict Between Courts of Law and Courts of Equity,” Shakespeare Quarterly 15 (1964), 371-75; Andrews Mark E. Law versus Equity in The Merchant of Venice (Boulder: Colorado University Press, 1965); George W. Keeton, Shakespeare’s Legal and Political Background (London: Pitman, 1967), 132-50; Ruth M. Levitsky, “Shylock’s as Unregenerate Man,” Shakespeare Quarterly 28 (1977), 243-63. Like Portia, Jessica is bound to her father; but unlike Portia, this bond is also religious as well as paternal. No, not my body nor my husband’s bed (V.i.223-28). Portia’s reply to Bassanio’s explanation provides a clue to answering this question: Let not that doctor e’er come near my house. In response to Bassanio’s victory, Portia sets about the task of assessing her worth: A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich, I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends. Finally, there are those who believe that Antonio’s melancholy is motiveless. Thus, the chief care of Bassanio is not the lady of Belmont but his debts and particularly the debts he owes Antonio. The pattern of exchanges enforced by contracts is one, if not the, dominant theme in The Merchant of Venice. This “note” is the bond that must be “confirm’d, sign’d, ratified” by Portia, the person who will provide him the necessary funds (III.ii.148). He assures Bassanio that âMy purse, my person, my extremest means / Lie all unlocked to your occasionsâ. IV,1,2000. Maybe he's just one of those guys who likes to gossip, or maybe Bassanio has been on his mind. As we know later in the play, the contract is enforced but with the qualification that a “if thou dost shed / One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods / Are by the laws of Venice confiscate” (IV.i.309-311). The homoerotic undertone of Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship is easily discussed by analyzing the dedication and declarations of love by Antonio because he does not have a heterosexual romantic relationship to counteract against his love for Bassanio. In contrast, Bassanio is a young, impulsive individual, who is deeply in love with Portia. Culture Education Philosophy Politics Voegelin, Biography Collected Works Excerpts Voegelin Audio Voegelin Videos Resources, About VoegelinView Announcements Archive Forthcoming Submissions Staff Donate, Rousseau and Kant’s Competing Interpretations of the Enlightenment, Jonathan Edwards and the Re-Enchantment of the Saeculum: The Puritan and Edwardsian Roots of the Idea of Social Progress, The Fall of Soul from Plotinus to Augustine, The Anabasis of Michel Serres: Hermes-Trickster Knowledge and the Ambivalences of Modern Communication Technology. Romantic way lady of Belmont but his debts and particularly the debts he owes Antonio much to... Can be examined and scrutinized despite his seemingly heteronormative actions and intentions did swear keep. Books are just a click away on BN.com and through our FREE NOOK reading apps relationship! 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