What are the reasons for Antonio's sadness according to his friends?    

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" opens with Antonio in conversation with two of his friends, Salarino and Salanio.  Antonio doesn't appear very happy and Salarino and Salanio try to explain the reason why he is sad. Both of them are of the opinion that since Antonio's ships are at sea he must be very anxious that they return to Venice safely. Salarino asserts,

I know, Antonio
Is sad to think upon his merchandise.

However, Antonio assures them both that there is no need to worry about his cargo or ships because he has wisely spread out his cargo in different ships so that even if one sinks the others will compensate the loss:

I thank my fortune for it,
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year:
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.

Next, Salarino suggests that the reason why he is sad is because he is in love. Antonio also rejects that reason contemptuously with one word "fie." When two other friends of Antonio, namely Gratiano and Lorenzo arrive, Salarino  and Salanio depart remarking that the cause for Antonio's sadness is due to his inborn nature.

Gratiano also remarks on Antonio's sad appearance and Antonio remarks very philosophically that fate has destined him to play the role of a sad person in this world. At once, Gratiano criticizes him by saying that he is only pretending to be sad so that he can pass off as a very wise man,

And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,

Gratiano advises Antonio against pretending to be sad and serious so that he can pass off as a wise man.

These are the reasons that Salarino and Gratiano suggest for Antonio's sadness.