In The Merchant of Venice, how do I compare and contrast Shylock's and Bassanio's attitudes towards money?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Money, and the attitudes of various characters towards it and how they respond to it, are at the forefront of this play. What is interesting about the two characters you have picked is that you seem to have selected the two characters with the most opposite of views. From his very first introduction in the play, Bassanio shows that he is a spendthrift individual who has no sense of financial management and uses his resources wastefully in order to show off and present an image of largesse and nobility that is undercut by the way that he exploits Antonio to get more money:

'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance...

Some productions have Bassanio deliberately using Antonio's love for him (homosexual or otherwise) as a pawn for receiving more money, showing the way that Bassanio treats money as something to be spent. His plan on having more wealth so that he can immediately spend it as part of his plan of gaining Portia's hand identifies how he thinks of money.

Shylock, by contrast, is shown to be a miserly individual who treats his daughter the same way that he treats any money he possesses: as something to be clung on to for dear life and locked away from the sight of anybody else. The terms he strikes with Antonio and the habit he has of successfully usuring for profit indicates that he definitely does not share Bassanio's spendthrift ways and that he zealously guards every ducat he gains.


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