The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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How does Bassanio plan to demonstrate his worthiness to marry Portia financially?

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Bassiano plans to borrow the money to woo Portia from his older friend Antonio. He knows that Antonio is a wealthy merchant. Bassiano also knows that the older man feels a great deal of affection for him and is not likely to turn down his requests.

Bassiano is right to expect that Antonio will lend him the money. Antonio tells hims that he should use Antonio's credit lines, saying,

Try what my credit can in Venice do—
That shall be racked even to the uttermost
To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.
Antonio has drained all his cash putting three merchant ships out to sea. When at least one of them comes back with cargo, Antonio will be a wealthy man again, but at the moment, he is cash poor. This leads Antonio to approach Shylock for a loan, which sets the plot of the play in motion.
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In this status-conscious society, money is everything. Bassanio may be an aristocrat, he may be head over heels in love with Portia, but he knows that's not enough. If he's to keep her in a style to which she's become accustomed, he's going to need to get his hands on some ready cash. In Venice, wooing a lady—especially one of such wealth and social standing as Portia—requires money, and lots of it.

Unfortunately, Bassanio doesn't have much money of his own, so he goes to borrow some from his old friend Antonio. Antonio's a bit of a soft touch and has lent money to Bassanio in the past. Although all his money's currently tied up in his investments, Antonio agrees to help out Bassanio once again. Only he won't be able to lend him money out of his own pocket this time; he'll have to borrow it from Shylock, the moneylender, at very disadvantageous terms.

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