The Merchant of Venice Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Write a character sketch of Bassanio?

Bassanio is generally reckless, both with his own money and the money of others. On the surface, he is largely selfish and extravagant, initially wanting to marry Portia for her money, but eventually, we see his instead a more charming youthful enthusiasm and growing love for Portia beyond her financial means. Maybe Bassanio isn't such a bad person, but rather, he just needs to mature more.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Bassanio in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is the central instigator of all the follows and he not the most steady young man in Venice. He has considerable bad qualities but he also has considerable good qualities, although the good ones may not be of a nature that they can counterbalance the bad.

First, Bassanio is a reckless youth with no wisdom or thought for the future. He has spent whatever fortune he had instead of living within the scope of his financial means. He hasn't learned from anything that has transpired before the play opens that may have contributed to the loss of all his financial resources. We know this because he is staking his chance of recouping his lost fortune on a gamble that he will be the one to choose the right casket (a small chest or box for valuables) that will win the hand of the heiress Portia in a strange matrimonial test set up by her late father.

In these dire straits--no money; in love with a rich girl who is guarded in marriage by a casket-selecting contest--he pleads with his devoted friend Antonio to loan him money with which he can put on a show, a pretense, of wealth to impress the fair Portia. There is nothing reckless in turning to ask a friend for help, but when the friend is in tight financial straits himself it does appear reckless to press the point of a loan. To cap the picture of recklessness with an added image of arrogant audacity or blind impetuosity, Bassanio stands by while Antonio unrealistically agrees to impossible terms on a loan that is secured on a wish and a prayer instead of on material reality--as far he knows, Antonio's ship has a 50/50 percent chance of getting safely back into harbor.

What about Bassanio's good qualities? He has the energy and enthusiasm of youth. He is devoted in his admiration for Portia. He is a staunch and loyal friend. His friendship for Antonio goes beyond loyalty when he offers to take Antonio's place in the court hearing over the unfulfilled repayment of the loan taken from Shylock. Bassanio offers his own hand, head or heart in place of the pound of flesh that is due to Shylock to be cut from Antonio.

So in opposition to his bad qualities, Bassanio offers true friendship; true loyalty; true love; true devotion. It is debatable as to whether these highly laudable qualities counterbalance impetuosity, imprudence, immoderation; extravagance of idea and living; and frivolity. If these bad traits are nothing more than the scourge of youth, Bassanio has the makings of an admirable man. If, on the other hand, these qualities are character and personality traits, then pity Portia and Antonio (who isn't all that wise himself).

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In the play 'The Merchant of Venice' by William Shakespeare, the character Bassanio is Antonio's friend. He is a bit dithery about money and tends to overspend. Nowadays we would call him a spendthrift. Any money that may have been left to him to build his future has already been wasted so he casts about for someone else's. Then he gets to hear about a girl called Portia and her amazing fortune of a dowry. In those days, a woman's finances, capital and property almost always went to her husband on marriage - even if it had been left to her by her own family. However, there is one problem. He knows he will not 'look the business' as a good potential match himself as he may not even be solvent himself. So he uses people. He tries to get the money to look good off someone who is supposed to be his friend. He is also arrogant and thinks too highly of himself, thinking he has noticed admiring looks from Portia - all in all, he does need taking down a peg or two!

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rozinaakhter1768 | Student

Bassanio is a reckless youth because he has spent all his money and property with no hope for the future.He is greedy because although he has no money in his hands he desperately wants Portia.Moreover he does not see Portia in the view of a wife rather in the eyes of a rich lady to meet his own selfish needs.He genuinely does not love Portia and wants to redeem himself through her widespread fame for beauty and wealth.He is over-ambitious because he has no money after he has spent all his fatherly money and yet he thinks he can woo Portia.In counterbalance to his non-admirable qualities he also possesses god qualities like is true and loyal friend just like Antonio because first of all he does not like Shylock's bond for forfeit and tells Antonio To not agree.Second of all he tells that Shylock can take a pound of flesh from anywhere of his body.

chavara118 | Student

Bassanio is extremely reckless as others have already described .Eventhough he is loyal to his friend he's completely foolish as he  is ready to waste more money  to make up for the sum he lost as he describes in Act 1 when he talks about his childhood memories of  going in search for a lost arrow by taking a risk in losing a second arrow.His love for Portia is not genuine in the beginning of the play as he wishes to marry her just because of her wealth,fame and beauty.he wishes to redeem himself through Portia.,not for the sake of love.But as the play unravels we can see that he truly does love Portia in the  end of Act 5.If Bassanio did not love Portia he would not have been so inwilling to give away the ring he swore never to part with to the lawyer.In truth he truly is a gentleman and is sincere.