The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare
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Did Bassanio consider the state of affairs between Shylock and Antonio? What does this tell us about Bassanio's character?

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In The Merchant of Venice, a Shakespearean drama written in 1596, an important driving force of the story is the relationship between Antonio, a wealthy nobleman and merchant of Venice, and Shylock, a Jewish moneylender.

There’s lots of hostility between the two, causing the characters to feel distrust and suspicion when engaging in business proposals. The reason for their toxic relationship is a clash of ethics—Shylock, as a moneylender, is only after the profit. Antonio, on the other hand, is generous and sees money as an additional luxury, hence his decision to help his friend Bassanio. But not only do Shylock and Antonio’s principles clash when it comes to business, they also both hate each other’s cultures and religions.

Since Bassanio needs the loan to impress a rich heiress by the name of Portia, he does not fully think through the severity of the issues in Shylock and Antonio’s business relationship. One could claim that Bassanio is blinded by love, although it seems that he does realize the gravity of the conflict between the two rivals but decides to follow through with his decision anyway.

Additionally, Bassanio’s irrational thought process is brought to light when Shylock proposes that in the case of Antonio not being able to pay back the loan, the moneylender will take a pound of his flesh. This proposal does not seem at all unreasonable to Bassanio; therefore, they write up a legal bond between the three parties.

By closing the deal, Bassanio comes across as quite reckless, although one could argue that neither he nor Antonio himself is making a rational decision. So, while the blame is for the most part on Bassanio, Antonio could have declined his request and avoided the events that follow.

Due to these factors—the conflicts between the two main characters and Bassanio’s impulsive behavior—Shylock’s lending money to Antonio results in complications for other characters as well.

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