Who are the important minor characters of the play The Merchant of Venice?

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The important minor characters in The Merchant of Venice are as follows:

  • The Duke of Venice listens to Shylock when he complains of Jessica's abduction and when Shylock brings his suit against Antonio. He, however, does not know enough about the law to find a loophole for Antonio and winds up shocked at Shylock's insistence on upholding the contract.  He ultimately pardons Shylock once the legal tables have turned on him.
  • The Prince of Morocco is a dark-skinned, boastful, grandiose suitor of Portia. He is self-confident and dresses in white.
  • The Prince of Aragon is a pretentious, elitist Spanish prince and a suitor of Portia.
  • Solanio is one of Antonio's anti-Semitic friends.
  • Gratiano is the talkative friend of Bassanio who helps Lorenzo abduct Jessica.
  • Salerio is a merchant friend of Antonio and Bassanio.
  • Tubal is a wealthy Jewish man who lends Shylock enough money so that Shylock may, in turn, lend it to Antonio.
  • Launcelot Gobbo is a servant of Shylock who eventually follows Bassanio to Belmont in order to stick with Lorenzo and Jessica.
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The major characters of The Merchant of Venice are Bassanio, Antonio, Portia, Shylock, Lorenzo and Jessica. These are the characters involved in the main love plots of the play. As is typical of Shakespeare, the two love plots are interconnected. The other characters in the play are minor, and exist either for comic purposes or as ancillary in furthering the plot.

The minor characters can be distinguished in several ways. First, characters without names who often appear in groups and are labelled by roles (magnificoes, officers, jailer, servants and attendants) are usually minor. Friends, who support the main characters in certain scenes (Gratiano, Solanio, Salarino, Salerio and Tubal) are considerd "supporting characters". Servants are crucial for furthering the plot, and often have important roles and speeches (e.g. the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet) but because they are not protagonists of the main plot but just serve to act for the protagonists are normally considered monor (e.g. Nerissa, Lancelot Gobbo, Leonardo) The suitors to Portia only serve to show her character and popularity and have no other significant function, and thus are minor, as is the Duke of Venice.


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