What is the relationship between Nerissa and Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice?

The relationship between Nerissa and Gratiano in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is unconventional, in the sense that they seem wholly unsuited to each other. Nevertheless, they are drawn to each other, perhaps as much by the circumstances of the relationship between Gratiano's friend, Antonio, and Nerissa's mistress, Portia, as by their own attraction for one another.

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When Gratiano first appears in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Antonio, the merchant of the title of the play, gives Gratiano an opportunity to speak about the ages of man.

ANTONIO. I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage, where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
(act 1, scene 1, lines 80–82)

Rather than offer an eloquent, poetic exploration of the stages of life, like Jaques does in As You Like It—which Shakespeare wrote about three years later—Gratiano speaks nonsense, which his friend, Bassanio, tells Antonio is part of Gratiano's fundamental nature.

BASSANIO. Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice: his reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them; and when you have them they are not worth the search.
(act 1, scene 1, lines 119–123)

When Gratiano next appears in the play, he requests that he be allowed to accompany Bassanio to Belmont when Bassanio travels...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1387 words.)

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