In "The Merchant of Venice," why are Salerio and Lorenzo so eager to leave Antonio alone with Bassanio in Act 1?Act 1, Scene 1, lines 61-62, and 69-70

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good question - and it depends how you read the text.

The innocent explanation might be simply because they know of the importance of what Bassanio has to ask Antonio: he tells him, remember, about Portia, and the money he needs to be able to go and try to woo her. It's a big issue, and the two men need to be able to talk alone.

Far more likely, I would suggest, is because Bassanio and Antonio are embarked on some sort of homosexual relationship. For evidence I would refer you to the flirtatious, teasing tone of the two quotations you mention:

Fare you well
We leave you now with better company.

and

My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,
We two will leave you

Interpretation too is necessary of what Bassanio says to Antonio in the scene that follows:

To you, Antonio,
I owe the most in money and in love;
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburthen all my plots and purposes,
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.

If you think, as I do, that Bassanio's trip to Belmont is simply because - as he states here - he needs the money, not because he loves Portia, the whole play (and the dynamic of the trial scene) becomes rather more interesting.

Well done though for excellent close-reading in picking up these little details!

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The Merchant of Venice

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