Why is Bassanio a worthy husband for Portia?

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mary2018 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's comedy The Merchant of Venice, Bassanio is one of several suitors of the central character, Portia of Belmont. Portia isn't only beautiful, she's rich: she's an heiress. It's easy to understand why so many eligible bachelors are lining up to court her. (And we're not talking about ordinary townspeople here: among her suitors are the Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Aragon.)

So why is Bassanio, who ultimately marries Portia, worthy of her hand? Some would argue that he's not: it's fair to say that he's rich and entitled but makes bad spending decisions, and he relies too much on his rich friends to bail him out.

But if you're trying to make the argument that he is a worthy husband for Portia, you could focus on the following points.

First, he has a noble rank. True, he's made some mistakes and lost his own fortune—the beginning of the play is concerned with his strategies to borrow enough money to be able to properly court Portia—but no one can take away his rank, which was important in Shakespeare's society.

Second, he's well-connected. Unlike some people, who wouldn't have a back-up plan or a safety net when they've squandered all their money, Bassanio has wealthy friends, like Antonio, a well-to-do merchant, to help him get back on his feet.

Third, he seems to have real affection for Portia. Especially considering that Portia doesn't have much of a choice in the matter—her future marriage is decided, in part, by her deceased father's wishes—the romantic rapport between Bassanio and Portia is noteworthy. Remember that in those days, plenty of marriages were arranged, and romantic love was often not a factor in the decision.