The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio?

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Antonio and Bassanio are the closest of friends, and it is their relationship in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice that provides the foundation of the play’s two-pronged plot. Antonio is the titular merchant whose business arrangements weigh heavily on his demeanor.  While a risky business strategy occupies his time and thoughts, however, it is his friend’s seeming predicament regarding the beautiful, wealthy Portia that most troubles him. An early indication of the closeness of these two characters is provided early in the play when Antonio speaks with two of his friends, Salanio and Salarino. Salanio and Salarino are questioning Antonio regarding the latter’s sadness when Salanio observes the approach of Bassanio, prompting his comment, “Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman.” Following their departure, as well as that of Lorenzo and Gratiano, Antonio and Bassanio engage in the conversation that leads Antonio into the fateful arrangement with Shylock, the Jewish moneylender:


To you, Antonio,
I owe the most, in money and in love,
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburden all my plots and purposes
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.


I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it;
And if it stand, as you yourself still do,
Within the eye of honour, be assured,
My purse, my person, my extremest means,
Lie all unlock'd to your occasions.

The strength of this relationship, the depth of the love these two men hold for one another, is such that Antonio will agree to pay Shylock a pound of his flesh should he fail to repay the moneylender within the agreed upon time. The purpose of the loan, of course, is...

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