In The Merchant of Venice, how does Antonio help Bassanio, and why doesn’t he just give him the money himself?

In The Merchant of Venice, Antonio helps Bassanio by lending him money. This is to enable Bassanio to woo the wealthy Portia, the woman of his dreams. But as all Antonio’s wealth is tied up in his fleet of ships and their cargo Bassanio will have to borrow the money he needs from Shylock, on Antonio’s credit.

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Antonio helps Bassanio by allowing him to borrow money from Shylock in his own name. Anthony cannot just give Bassanio the money he needs, because all of his wealth is tied up with his merchant ships at sea, which are at risk of being destroyed by the elements or taken by pirate gangs—he cannot lend his friend the money, even though he wishes to do so. Indeed, directly lending him the money would be far preferable, given that Shylock detests Antonio and demands a pound of flesh from Antonio's own body should he forfeit the bond. Shylock is essentially asking Antonio to put his own life on the line in exchange for this service, knowing that no matter what happens, it is presumably a win-win situation for himself: he either gets revenge on an enemy or his own money paid back with interest included.

Antonio does all of this because he loves Bassanio. Even though he has neither "money nor commodity" to raise the money his friend needs, he offers up his own flesh. This gesture evokes the Christian ideal of sacrifice for the sake of one's friends, tying into Portia's later speech about mercy and love in the courtroom.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 16, 2020
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Antonio demonstrates his loyalty and love for Bassanio by allowing him to borrow three thousand ducats using his line of credit because of all of his money is tied up in his shipping ventures. At the beginning of the play, Bassanio petitions his close friend to finance his expensive trip to Belmont in hopes of winning Portia's hand in marriage. Bassanio is primarily interested in marrying Portia in order to become wealthy. Unfortunately, Bassanio admits that he is a spendthrift and does not have the money to fund the trip. Since Antonio has helped him out numerous times in the past, Bassanio trusts that Antonio will provide for him again.

Unfortunately, Antonio cannot give Bassanio the money, because his wealth is tied up in his fleet of merchant ships, which are currently out at sea. However, Antonio displays his love and friendship towards Bassanio by allowing him to make use of his credit. With Antonio's blessing, Bassanio consults the Jewish moneylender Shylock about lending him the money under Antonio's name. Shylock is aware that Antonio's money is tied up in his fleet of ships and carefully weighs the risks. Shylock acknowledges that Antonio could lose his wealth easily at sea but agrees to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats under the condition that Antonio sacrifices a pound of his flesh if he forfeits the bond.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 16, 2020
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Antonio has helped out his indigent friend Bassanio many times in the past. Antonio has something of a soft spot for Bassanio and will do whatever he can to help out a friend in need. Bassanio’s not very good at managing money, so he often comes to Antonio’s door in search of ready cash. This time’s no different. Currently in the process of wooing the wealthy Portia, he needs some money to at least give him a chance of winning her hand in marriage.

Once again, Antonio would dearly love to help out. But this time, there’s a major problem: Antonio has all his capital tied up in his fleet of ships and their valuable cargo. Under the circumstances, Antonio would be well within his rights to turn down his friend’s latest request. But being the big old softy he is, Antonio agrees to another handout.

However, as Antonio can’t get his hands on any of his own money, he can only allow Bassanio to make use of his credit line. He duly does so, borrowing the princely sum of 3,000 ducats from Shylock on Antonio’s line of credit. That’s why it’s Antonio, not Bassanio, who must forfeit a pound of flesh if the loan can’t be repaid.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 16, 2020
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Towards the end of act 1, scene 1, Bassanio explains to Antonio that he has been irresponsible with his finances but has a plan to gain money by traveling to Belmont to marry a wealthy heiress named Portia. Unfortunately, Bassanio cannot afford to travel to Belmont and asks Antonio to lend him money for the journey. Antonio is more than willing to lend Bassanio the money but cannot give him cash because his money is tied up in his ships' cargo, which is out at sea. The best Antonio can do is to lend Bassanio money by allowing him to charge all of his expenses to his credit. Antonio tell Bassanio,

Thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea. Neither have I money nor commodity To raise a present sum. Therefore go forth, Try what my credit can in Venice do—That shall be racked even to the uttermost To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia (Shakespeare, 1.1.179-184).

In act 1, scene 3, Bassanio inquires about whether or not Shylock will lend him three thousand ducats on Antonio's line of credit. Initially, Shylock is skeptical because all of Antonio's money is invested in his merchant ships, which are out at sea. However, Shylock finally decides to lend Bassanio the money after Antonio agrees that he will give Shylock a pound of his flesh if he forfeits on the loan.

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Antonio helps Bassanio by borrowing money from Shylock, the Jewish money-lender, to loan to Bassanio so that he (Bassanio) can court Portia, a wealthy heiress.  Antonio's money is tied up in his ships and trading, so he doesn't have the cash on hand to loan to Bassanio himself.  The trouble occurs when Shylock wants a pound of Antonio's flesh, rather than the money paid back and the interest he would have made on the sum.

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