In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what are Antonio's and Bassanio's contributions to their friendship?

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Bassanio says, “To you, Antonio , / I owe the most, in money and in love.” Bassanio has “disabled [his] estate” by spending more money than he has. He wishes to repay Antonio, to whom he is in debt. Antonio replies that he knows Bassanio is honorable, and because of...

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Bassanio says, “To you, Antonio, / I owe the most, in money and in love.” Bassanio has “disabled [his] estate” by spending more money than he has. He wishes to repay Antonio, to whom he is in debt. Antonio replies that he knows Bassanio is honorable, and because of that, “My purse, my person, my extremest means, Lie all unlock'd to your occasions.” In fact, Antonio says it is better for Bassanio to waste all of his money than to assume Antonio needs an explanation for borrowing money from him. Bassanio’s plan is to borrow once again from Antonio in order to woo Portia, a woman who is rich enough to repay Antonio all Bassanio owes him. Antonio borrows from his enemy Shylock in order to give Bassanio this money.

Clearly, Antonio provides money and support to Bassanio. Antonio adores him. Salarino describes their parting:

And even there, his eye being big with tears,
Turning his face, he put his hand behind him,
And with affection wondrous sensible
He wrung Bassanio's hand; and so they parted.

Salanio says, “I think he only loves the world for him.” As for Bassanio, he refers to Antonio as, “The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,” comparing his sense of nobility to Roman honor. Bassanio does everything he can to save Antonio from Shylock’s wrath. He even says he will sacrifice everything, including his life and his wife’s, for Antonio’s. All Antonio wants in his final hours is for Bassanio to be by his side.

In conclusion, it is unclear what Bassanio provides for Antonio, other than youth, friendship, and a lively spirit. Antonio is a melancholy man who, as Salanio says, seems to live only for Bassanio. He gives everything he has to the young man. In return, Bassanio is grateful and loving towards him. The relationship seems like a romantic one, perhaps one in which Antonio loves Bassanio more than he loves him.

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