The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

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Bassanio

Extended Character Analysis

Bassanio is the merchant Antonio’s “intimate friend” and the wealthy heiress Portia’s favored suitor. A young nobleman of Venice, Bassanio admits to living beyond his means. This has forced him to borrow money from Antonio on numerous occasions. At the start of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Bassanio asks Antonio to lend him money so that he can travel to Belmont and court Portia as a man of means. Antonio instead suggests that Bassanio secure a loan through a moneylender and offers to be the guarantor for the loan. Antonio indebts himself to the Jewish moneylender Shylock on Bassanio’s behalf. Using the money, Bassanio travels to Belmont and successfully wins Portia’s hand in marriage.

Though impulsive and financially irresponsible, Bassanio is kind and loyal to his friends. Despite needing the loan to pursue Portia, Bassanio says that he would “rather dwell in [his] necessity” than let his friend Antonio accept such a dangerous bond. During Antonio’s trial, Bassanio offers up “[his] hands, [his] head, [his] heart” in place of Antonio’s pound of flesh. Though he is reckless enough to gamble with money, Bassanio is not willing to gamble with his friend’s life. Ultimately, though he is immature, Bassanio’s better qualities win him the affections of Portia and Antonio.

At the start of the play, Bassanio is an immature, opportunistic man who pursues Portia for her beauty and money. A spendthrift by his own admission, Bassanio has accumulated many debts in Venice. By marrying the wealthy Portia, he hopes to pay off those debts. He describes her in terms of “value” and “worth,” treating her as more of an investment than a wife. Furthermore, he approaches his marriage to Portia as though it is a legal contract rather than a bond of love....

(The entire section is 451 words.)