In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what is the reason for Antonio's sadness?

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The play opens with Antonio speaking of his sadness, and claiming he doesn't know why he feels this way. He is with two friends, and when three other friends come along (Lorenzo, Gratiano, and Bassanio , who is Antonio's dear friend), the first two friends depart, making comments that suggest...

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The play opens with Antonio speaking of his sadness, and claiming he doesn't know why he feels this way. He is with two friends, and when three other friends come along (Lorenzo, Gratiano, and Bassanio, who is Antonio's dear friend), the first two friends depart, making comments that suggest they think they are somehow less worthy of Antonio's company than the friends who have just arrived. All of the men present joke about trying to make Antonio happy but not being able.

Some productions of the play have explored the theme of homosexual love that may explain Antonio's sadness; he has an unrequited love for Bassanio, and Bassanio is in love with Portia, who he wins by taking part in a mysterious contest for her affections. Antonio understands he cannot have more than a friendship with Bassanio, but when he believes he may die at Shylock's hand, he tells Bassanio:

Commend me to your honorable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio's end;
Say how I lov'd you, speak me fair in death;
And when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love.

The suggestion here is that the love between the two men is deep and abiding, the source of their strong friendship, but Antonio suggests there is romantic love as well, by using the term "a love" to refer to himself, as opposed to a friend. 

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