What is the main message/theme in The Merchant of Venice?

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The play is full of various themes, and different readers are going to find that different themes resonate more strongly than others. For me, one of the main messages that I always gravitate toward is the thematic emphasis on friendship. Antonio is a wonderful friend to Bassanio, and I always think that Antonio is simply far too nice and forgiving. Antonio knows that Bassanio is not a wise handler of money, yet Antonio decides to take a great personal risk for his friend. To Bassanio's credit, Bassanio tells Antonio to not go through with Shylock's deal. Bassanio is willing to give up (maybe temporarily) his scheme to gain a potential rich trophy wife in order to protect Antonio. I think this deep friendship between these two then can guide readers toward a different major theme in the play—the theme of love. There is brotherly love between Antonio and Bassanio, but the play also deals with romantic love between several of the characters. The love theme is one that I really enjoy talking about with students because I enjoy asking discussing whether Bassanio is ever truly in love with Portia.

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