How does "Fortune shows herself more kind" to Antonio in Act 4, Scene 1 of "The Merchant of Venice"?

3 Answers | Add Yours

robertwilliam's profile pic

robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

Give me your hand, Bassanio: fare you well!
Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you;
For herein Fortune shows herself more kind
Than is her custom: it is still her use,
To let the wretched man out-live his wealth,
To view with hollow eye, and wrinkled brow,
An age of poverty; from which lingering penance
Of such misery doth she cut me off.

Antonio believes he has come to the end of his life, and is saying his final farewell to his friend Bassanio. He tells him not to be upset that he (Antonio) is dying for Bassanio's sake (because Bassanio needed the money for which Antonio made the bond with Shylock).

It's nothing to be upset about, he says, as Fortune is being kind to him. By killing him off early, Fortune is not making him, a "wretched man" (meaning "unhappy", or "unlucky") "out-live his wealth": live until he has no money. Moreover, he will not have to view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow (signifying old age) the day when he has no money. From that penance (punishment) and misery, Fortune has freed him: as she is "cutting him off" - killing him - early.

Hope it helps!

parul11's profile pic

parul11 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

ANTONNIO SAYS THAT THE CUSTOM OF FORNTUNE IS TO TAKE AWAY THE WEALTH OF THE PERSON AND LEAVE HIM TO LIVE IN POVERTY BUT FORTUNE WAS MORE KINDER TO HIM AS IT WILL NOT LET HIM LIVE IN POVERTY BUT GIVE HIM DEATH.

frizzyperm's profile pic

frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Fortune shows herself more kind
penance
Of such misery doth she cut me off.

Antonio is talking about the difficulties and unpleasantness of old age. He says generally Fortune lets people get old, sick and poor before she lets them die. But Fortune is being kind to Antonio by killing him quickly before he is old. 

We’ve answered 318,911 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question