At the beginning of the play, Antonio expresses sadness. He does not know “What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born.” His friends entertain and talk with him, wondering if his “mind is tossing on the ocean” with his goods. One even says that Antonio is in love. Gratiano arrives and attempts to cheer him, but Antonio concludes that he is simply meant to play a sad role in the world. Bassanio might be the only one to raise his spirits. Antonio says to him, “My purse, my person, my extremest means, / Lie all unlock'd to your occasions.” Bassanio asks for money, and Antonio immediately determines to borrow money to lend him.
In the court scene, Antonio owes Shylock a pound of flesh (and thus his life) for the money he borrowed for Bassanio. He is surprisingly resigned, “arm'd / To suffer, with a quietness of spirit.” He refers to himself as weak and tainted, and urges Bassanio to live on, write his epitaph, and tell Bassanio’s wife Portia of his love for him. We see Antonio is as depressed as he was in the first scene. Death will rid him of his depression and save his beloved Bassanio. All Antonio wants is for Bassanio to be by his side during death. Salanio commented, “I think he [Antonio] only loves the world for him [Bassanio].” Now that Bassanio has married the woman of his dreams, Antonio can no longer have him. He plans to die and gain peace.