List of Characters
Master List of Characters
Antonio—a merchant of Venice and intimate friend of Bassanio.
Salerio—friend to both Antonio and Bassanio.
Solanio—friend to both Antonio and Bassanio.
Bassanio—a young gentleman of Venice in financial difficulty; suitor to Portia and intimate friend of Antonio.
Lorenzo—friend of Bassanio and Antonio; Christian lover of the Jewish woman, Jessica.
Gratiano—friend of Bassanio and Antonio; joins Bassanio’s expedition to Belmont; romancer of Nerissa.
Portia—a wealthy heiress of Belmont; she approves of Bassanio’s suit to her.
Nerissa—Portia’s waiting woman and confidante; approves Gratiano’s advances.
Shylock—a Jewish moneylender of Venice.
Morocco—an African Prince and suitor to Portia.
Launcelot Gobbo—a clown (comical member of the lower class); ex-servant of Shylock who enters into Bassanio’s service.
Old Gobbo—Launcelot’s father; nearly blind from age.
Leonardo—servant of Bassanio.
Jessica—daughter of Shylock; Jewish lover of the Christian man, Lorenzo.
Aragon—a prince; suitor to Portia.
Tubal—a friend of Shylock; a Jew of Venice.
Jailer—holds Antonio prisoner.
Balthasar—a servant of Portia.
The Duke of Venice—the highest authority in Venice.
(The entire section is 211 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Shylock (SHI-lok), a rich Jewish moneylender. He hates Antonio for often lending money at lower interest than the usurer demands; hence, when Antonio wishes to borrow three thousand ducats to help Bassanio, Shylock prepares a trap. Seemingly in jest, he persuades Antonio to sign a bond stating that, should the loan not be repaid within three months, a pound of flesh from any part of his body will be forfeited to Shylock. Next, Shylock has bad news when he learns that his daughter, Jessica, has eloped with Lorenzo, taking with her much of his money. He gets good news when he learns that Antonio’s ships have been lost at sea. Antonio being ruined and the loan due, Shylock brings the case before the duke. He refuses Bassanio’s offer of six thousand ducats and demands his pound of flesh. Portia, Bassanio’s wife, disguised as a lawyer, claims that Shylock must have the flesh but can take not a single drop of blood with it. Further, she maintains that Shylock, an alien, has threatened the life of a Venetian; therefore, half of his fortune goes to Antonio, the other half to the state. Shylock is allowed to keep half for Jessica and Lorenzo if he will become a Christian. The character of Shylock has become one of the most controversial in Shakespearean drama. Is he a villain or a tragic figure? Does the author intend the audience to regard him as an example of Jewish malevolence or to sympathize with him as a...
(The entire section is 670 words.)
Antonio (Character Analysis)
Antonio is a merchant of Venice, perhaps "the" merchant of Venice. When Bassanio asks him for money to impress Portia, Antonio wants to give it to him but cannot because all of his money is tied up in goods that are being transported by ship to ports where they will be sold. Out of kindness to Bassanio, he agrees to secure any loan Bassanio might get in the marketplace. Bassanio requests that loan from Shylock, a moneylender with whom Antonio is not on the best of terms. Antonio has criticized Shylock for usury, and Shylock, in turn, resents Antonio's generosity in loaning money out at no interest. To get back at Antonio, Shylock proposes a bond that stipulates Antonio will forfeit ''a pound of flesh'' if he cannot repay the loan. Again, out of kindness to his friend and a certainty that his ships will have come in by the deadline, Antonio agrees to the terms of the bond. When he loses his fortune through a series of unexpected accidents, Shylock brings him to trial, intending to fulfill the terms of the bond. Antonio's reputation for generosity and kindness is such that when his friends are informed of his predicament they rally around him and appeal to Shylock to show him mercy.
Antonio is a difficult character to interpret. At the beginning of the play he expresses a troubling sadness which is the result of neither a concern for the safety of his merchandise nor a condition of love. Although the play never explains Antonio's sadness, it might, perhaps,...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Bassanio (Character Analysis)
Bassanio is a young and not very frugal friend of Antonio's. He is a spendthrift who has wasted whatever inheritance he might have had. Having heard of the fortune that will belong to the man who marries Portia, he wants to borrow money from Antonio so that he can present himself as a financially suitable suitor to her. He has met Portia before and has read amorous looks in her glances, quite probably presenting himself as having greater means than he actually has, as is his habit. With the money he receives from Antonio, he hopes to recoup his losses with Portia's estate. A good indication of his impulsive character can be found in the description he gives Antonio of a childhood procedure for finding lost arrows. It was his practice, as a child, to shoot a second arrow in the direction of the lost one, paying closer attention to the arrow's flight on this subsequent shooting. This procedure is at best foolhardy and more likely to lose a second arrow than recover the first. Knowing that Bassanio will be taking a similar gamble in the choosing of the correct casket, it is surprising that Antonio agrees to the proposal. The fact that he does agree is another indication of how ill-suited he is to the role of merchant.
Bassanio is what some today would call a gold digger. Although he is helped along in his choice of caskets by the hints provided by Portia, his situation fits the inscription on the lead casket—"Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he...
(The entire section is 460 words.)
Portia (Character Analysis)
When we first hear of Portia, Bassanio is extolling her virtues to Antonio. Chief among these virtues, in Bassanio's estimation, is the money she stands to inherit. When we first meet Portia in Belmont, she is bemoaning the constraints her deceased father has placed on that inheritance. She must marry the man who correctly identifies one of three caskets, and Portia punningly complains, "so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father" (I.ii.24-25). Portia, however, is not a character who will allow her will to be curbed.
Bassanio may have wanted to marry Portia for her money, but that wedding would never have become a reality if Portia had not wanted him. She guides Bassanio to the correct choice by giving him hints in a song. Later, in the ring subplot, she manipulates Bassanio further. She gets his wedding ring and evokes his jealousy, telling Bassanio she has slept with the young doctor Balthazar to get it. She uses his jealousy and breach of promise to reinforce his fidelity to her. As the young doctor Balthazar in the Venetian Court of Justice, she exhibits a keen and aggressive intelligence that only her femininity prevents her from exhibiting in every aspect of her life.
Upon learning of Antonio's bind and without ever meeting Bassanio's benefactor, Portia says of Shylock's legal complaint, "Pay him six thousand and deface the bond / Double six thousand, and then treble that, / Before a friend of this...
(The entire section is 559 words.)
Shylock (Character Analysis)
A rich Jewish moneylender in Venice, Shylock is the villain of The Merchant of Venice in that the problem he initiates causes great concern in the Christian community of that city. He insists that Antonio keep his bond and forfeit a "pound of flesh" since he has failed to make good the three thousand ducats Shylock has loaned to Bassanio on Antonio's guarantee. When the case goes to trial, it presents a problem for the government of Venice. The duke, along with Antonio's friends, asks Shylock to drop the case and demonstrate mercy toward Antonio. Shylock will not do so, and we must ask ourselves why he refuses what seems to be a reasonable request.
Shylock admits that he does not like Antonio, saying at one point, "I hate him for he is a Christian" (I.iii.42). He goes on to offer another reason for disliking Antonio: Antonio lends money out without charging interest and brings down the interest rates on loans in Venice. At Antonio's trial he is asked why he persists in his hatred of Antonio, and he answers that his reason for disliking the man is as inexplicable as the reason some men cannot stand to see cats or gaping pigs or cannot stand the sound of bagpipes. None of these perhaps is the real reason he hates Antonio; it seems more likely that he hates Antonio because Antonio hates him. Antonio has spat upon Shylock and treated him like a dog in the Rialto, a public area of commercial exchange. Salerio asks Shylock what he will do with Antonio's...
(The entire section is 703 words.)
Other Characters (Descriptions)
Arragon (The Prince of Arragon)
The prince of Arragon is the second suitor to try for Portia's hand. He reveals the conditions of the trial: all those gambling to win Portia in marriage agree that if they lose they will never reveal their choice, never propose marriage to another maid, and leave immediately upon failing to choose correctly. Arragon rejects the lead casket because it is a base metal not worth hazarding all for. He reads the inscription on the gold casket—"Who chooseth me will gain what many men desire"—and concludes that he is far and above the commonplace multitude represented by the "many," his very name suggesting the arrogance of this supposition. He chooses the silver casket and finds only the picture of a fool's head and a note describing the aptness of this image to his attitude. According to the agreement, he leaves immediately saying, "With one fool's head I came to woo, / But I go away with two" (II.ix.75-76).
The princes of Arragon and Morocco are described as having trains of followers amongst whom would have been several attendants. Portia's train of followers is also referred to.
Balthazar is Portia's servant. When Bassanio leaves Belmont upon learning that Antonio is in trouble, Portia sends Balthazar with a letter acquainting her cousin Doctor Bellario with the present circumstances and urges Balthazar quickly to convey to her whatever disguises or...
(The entire section is 2431 words.)