The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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How is the friendship of Antonio and Bassanio depicted in The Merchant of Venice?

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In "The Merchant of Venice," Antonio and Bassanio's friendship is depicted as a deep bond marked by loyalty and mutual affection. Despite their differing financial situations, with Antonio as a wealthy merchant and Bassanio often in financial strife, they maintain a strong relationship. Antonio even risks his own life to secure a loan for Bassanio's pursuit of marriage. Meanwhile, Bassanio reciprocates Antonio's loyalty, dropping everything to support Antonio in times of crisis. Their relationship, while complex, is a testament to their mutual respect and deep friendship.

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Antonio and Bassanio are very close friends who have a great deal of loyalty to one another. They are both well-respected members of Venetian society. That being said, it is worth noting that their relationship is not entirely an equal one. Antonio is a rich and successful merchant, whereas Bassanio is regularly faced with financial difficulties (which he is trying to escape from). It is this context that shapes much of The Merchant of Venice's plot.

With that in mind, there is an element to which Antonio is both a friend and patron to Bassanio, and Bassanio himself is reliant upon his friend's continued generosity. That being said, you should not underestimate the strength of their relationship: Antonio takes on significant personal and financial risk for Bassanio's sake. Bassanio, as the play begins, seeks to marry the heiress Portia, and to do so, he goes to Antonio, requesting to borrow funds to assist him in this goal. However, at this point, all of Antonio's resources are tied up in various commercial ventures, leaving him unable to support his friend. For this reason, Antonio borrows the money from Shylock (a loan which includes potentially fatal consequences for Antonio himself).

Meanwhile, Bassanio returns Antonio's genuine friendship and loyalty. Note that when he receives news of Antonio's plight, he drops everything else to be at Antonio's side. While it is ultimately Portia's intervention that saves Antonio, the depth of their friendship and mutual regard should not be underestimated.

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The two men share a very deep bond and seem to have a deep affection for one another. It has been suggested by many commentators that the melancholy that Antonio experiences at the beginning of the play is due to the fact that he realizes that he might lose his companion to another, for Bassanio wishes to travel to Belmont and try his luck in the lottery to win Portia's hand in marriage. Others are of the opinion that the two men share more than just a brotherly affection for each other and are romantically involved.

Whatever the case may be, it is obvious that they are very close. The depth of their relationship is mirrored in the closeness shared between Portia and her hand-maiden, Nerissa. They are not only just friends, but are confidantes as well.

It is clear that there is a relationship of trust between the two men because Bassanio approaches Antonio to ask him for a huge loan so that he may visit Belmont and compete against Portia's many other suitors. Having money will not only enable him to travel there but also make him look the part, since all Portia's suitors are gentleman with titles and status.

It is also obvious that Bassanio, who comes across as a wastrel, has grown dependent on Antonio's generosity, as he himself declares in Act 1, scene 1:

'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance:...

...To you, Antonio,
I owe the most, in money and in love,

Antonio has no qualms in helping his friend. At this juncture, though, he is unable to help his desperate companion since he has no ready cash available. All his merchant ships are at sea. He, however, does urge him to seek a loan from a moneylender in Venice, a task he will also undertake. He will then stand surety for the debt.

Antonio's allegiance to Bassanio is more than evident when he enters into a risky agreement with the Jewish moneylender, Shylock. He is more than willing to sign a bond with the Jew so that Bassanio may realize his dream. The bond conditions are harsh and require that Antonio should sacrifice a pound of his flesh to Shylock if he should forfeit. The agreement is for three thousand ducats to be paid in three months. Antonio signs the bond against Bassanio's advice.

Antonio's remarkably philanthropic gesture clearly denotes the love he has for the reckless Bassanio. The loan is granted and Bassanio soon sets off for Belmont. Once there, he is fortunate enough to choose the right casket and wins the beautiful Portia's hand in marriage. Just before their marriage, however, he receives the devastating news that Shylock has had Antonio arrested for forfeiting on the bond. The Christian merchant had lost his ships at sea and was penniless. As he reads the letter concerning this issue, Portia sees him grow deathly pale and expresses her concern in Act 3, scene 2:

There are some shrewd contents in yon same paper,
That steals the colour from Bassanio's cheek:
Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world
Could turn so much the constitution
Of any constant man.

On her inquiry, Bassanio tells her about Antonio's troubles and confirms the intensity of their friendship. The fact that Bassanio is so distressed about Antonio's misfortune is pertinent evidence that he cares much for his older friend. He calls Antonio his 'dearest friend' and immediately decides, with Portia's permission, to go to Venice where he can assist him.

Further proof of the strong bond between the two men is found in Bassanio's desperate attempts to have Shylock withdraw his claim for a pound of Antonio's flesh. He tries to negotiate with him, but the recalcitrant moneylender is not moved, even when he is offered twice the amount of the original loan.

In the end, though, Antonio is released because of Portia's intelligent intervention, and Shylock is severely sanctioned. On their return to Belmont, Antonio once again displays loyalty to his friend when he offers up his soul to vouch for Bassanio's loyalty to Portia. He says in Act 5, scene 1:

I once did lend my body for his wealth;
Which, but for him that had your husband's ring,
Had quite miscarried: I dare be bound again,
My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord
Will never more break faith advisedly.

To copy Shakespeare's style in Romeo and Juliet, one can only say:

Never was there a greater tale to make all know
about the depth of friendship between Antonio and his Bassanio.

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Discuss the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. What does their friendship reveal about their characters?

The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is one of deep love and respect. These two characters have a bond that is unshakeable. As Act I of The Merchant of Venice begins, Antonio, the titular merchant, is engaged in conversation with Salarino and Solanio, two friends with whom both he and Bassanio are close. An early indication of the closeness of the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is provided at the outset. As Antonio, Salarino, and Solanio speak, the latter two prepare to depart—but not without noticing that Bassanio approaches, prompting Solanio to remark, "Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman...." 

That something is troubling Antonio is apparent to all of his friends. Solanio and Salarino remark upon their friend's demeanor, and, now, Gratiano and Lorenzo, who accompany Bassanio, similarly notice Antonio's depression:


You look not well, Signior Antonio;
You have too much respect upon the world:
They lose it that do buy it with much care:
Believe me, you are marvellously changed.


I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.

So we know that Antonio is much loved by his friends, but these well-meaning gentlemen are mistaken in assuming that Antonio's worries center around the burden of his business ventures. As the audience soon learns, it is not business that is currently on Antonio's mind so much as it is his dearest friend Bassanio's situation. Bassanio is in love with Portia but needs money, which he usually borrows from Antonio, in order to properly woo her in this exceedingly class-conscious environment. It is his friend's romantic yearnings that propel Antonio into the fateful arrangement with the Jewish moneylender Shylock. Unable to raise the requisite funds Bassanio needs from his heavily leveraged business arrangements, Antonio borrows money from Shylock, despite the latter's unconventional condition:

In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.

What do we learn about the natures of Antonio and Bassanio from their friendship? We learn that these two individuals are passionate about their lives and that they are more than a little loyal to each other.  So loyal to Bassanio is Antonio that he agrees to a business transaction with Shylock that involves the mutilation of his body in the event he is unable to repay the loan--a serious gesture even with his confidence that such drastic measures will not prove necessary. We learn that Bassanio is a true friend to Antonio but one who is financially irresponsible and, as a consequence, abusive, perhaps, of his friend's munificent nature. It is, after all, Bassanio's irresponsible conduct that results in Antonio's dangerous business arrangement with Shylock. We also learn that these gentlemen are anti-Semitic, and that the anti-Semitism that permeates the culture in which they exist will, ultimately, save Antonio from having to make good on his debt.

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Discuss the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. What does their friendship reveal about their characters?

Bassanio and Antonio have a very close friendship. When Bassanio needs money to court Portia, he goes to Antonio. Even though Bassanio already owes Antonio a great deal of money, the merchant agrees to help his young friend with very little persuasion. Additionally, since Antonio's fortune is all tied up in his ships, the merchant must risk his life to insure a loan with the moneylender, Shylock, by promising a pound of his own flesh in the event that the money is lost at sea. This shows an intense dedication that very few people have for their friends.

Experts have wondered what makes the relationship so strong. Does Antonio see himself as a mentor figure to the young man? Are they simply dear friends? Because of these dedicated actions and frequent exchanges of affection, some have even suggested that the two men might be lovers. While this is an interesting notion, it is important to also note that men in these times tended to be much more expressive of their platonic love than is common in the West today.

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In The Merchant of Venice, how does Shakespeare use literary devices to create a vivid image of Antonio and Bassanio's friendship?

Act 1, Scene 1 is the first time we see Antonio and Bassanio interact, and in this scene we also see several literary devices that show us they are very good friends.  

Antonio's first words are to ask,

Well, tell me now what lady is the same / To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage, / That to-day you promised to tell me of.

From this we see that Antonio and Bassanio trust one another with their secrets, and that Antonio really cares to hear the latest news about his friend's life.  

Bassanio does not immediately tell Antonio about the lady, because he has a large favor to ask of Antonio, and he wants to make sure that he is free to ask it.  Antonio assures him:

... be assured / My purse, my person, my extremest means / Lie all unlocked to your occasions.

This is the literary device of foreshadowing.  "My person" means "my body."  Although Antonio could not possibly imagine it at this point in the play, his "person" will almost be "unlocked" (opened up) for the sake of Bassanio, when Shylock comes to take a pound of Antonio's flesh. 

Even with this assurance, Bassanio remains uncomfortable asking Antonio for anything, because Antonio has already lent him money, which Bassanio has failed to repay.  So in lines 140 - 153, Bassanio engages in a long metaphor.  He talks about how, as a boy, if he lost one arrow, he would shoot a second arrow after it.  Then going after the second arrow, he was often able to find the first.  In the same way, he says, if Antonio will lend him money yet again, Bassanio is sure this loan will allow him to repay all his debts to Antonio, or at least the latter debt.  

At this point, Antonio gets a little hurt that Bassanio is trying to motivate him with the hope of getting his money back; or, as he puts it, "to wind about my love with circumstance."  Antonio thinks his love for Bassanio should be motivation enough.  It should not have to be re-enforced with other considerations, like wrapping additional string around an already sturdy rope or chain.  This is a beautiful metaphor.  

Antonio adds that Bassanio is doing him a wrong "In making question of my uttermost."  Here, for those who know how the play will go, there is more chilling foreshadowing.  At this point neither man can imagine how far to the "uttermost" Antonio will have to go for the sake of his loyalty to Bassanio. 

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In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what are Antonio's and Bassanio's contributions to their friendship?

Bassanio says, “To you, Antonio, / I owe the most, in money and in love.” Bassanio has “disabled [his] estate” by spending more money than he has. He wishes to repay Antonio, to whom he is in debt. Antonio replies that he knows Bassanio is honorable, and because of that, “My purse, my person, my extremest means, Lie all unlock'd to your occasions.” In fact, Antonio says it is better for Bassanio to waste all of his money than to assume Antonio needs an explanation for borrowing money from him. Bassanio’s plan is to borrow once again from Antonio in order to woo Portia, a woman who is rich enough to repay Antonio all Bassanio owes him. Antonio borrows from his enemy Shylock in order to give Bassanio this money.

Clearly, Antonio provides money and support to Bassanio. Antonio adores him. Salarino describes their parting:

And even there, his eye being big with tears,
Turning his face, he put his hand behind him,
And with affection wondrous sensible
He wrung Bassanio's hand; and so they parted.

Salanio says, “I think he only loves the world for him.” As for Bassanio, he refers to Antonio as, “The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,” comparing his sense of nobility to Roman honor. Bassanio does everything he can to save Antonio from Shylock’s wrath. He even says he will sacrifice everything, including his life and his wife’s, for Antonio’s. All Antonio wants in his final hours is for Bassanio to be by his side.

In conclusion, it is unclear what Bassanio provides for Antonio, other than youth, friendship, and a lively spirit. Antonio is a melancholy man who, as Salanio says, seems to live only for Bassanio. He gives everything he has to the young man. In return, Bassanio is grateful and loving towards him. The relationship seems like a romantic one, perhaps one in which Antonio loves Bassanio more than he loves him.

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In The Merchant of Venice, how does Shakespeare illustrate the theme of friendship between Antonio and Bassanio?

In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare begins establishing the theme concerning the strength and devotion of Antonio's and Bassanio's friendship in the very first scene.

In the first scene, we learn that Antonio is feeling blue and worried because he has investments in ships that are presently sailing in troubled waters, as we learn when Solanio comments to Antonio that if he, Solanio, were out there with those ships, "the better part of [his] affections would / Be with my hopes" for their safe homecoming (I.i.15-16).  When Bassanio enters the scene, we also learn that Bassanio owes Antonio a great deal of money he will not yet be able to repay. However, he discloses to Antonio his plans to court a wealthy woman who, if he marries, will solve all of his financial problems, enabling him to repay his friend Antonio. Trouble is, Bassanio will need to borrow more money from Antonio to be able to compete in courting her.

What's fascinating about this scene is just how lovingly and compassionately Antonio responds to Bassanio when the later speaks of his plight and how generously Antonio offers anything he can to Bassanio in order to help him, including his friendship, his services, and even more money:

And, if it stands, as you yourself still do,
Within the eye of honour, be assur'd,
My purse, my person, my extremest means,
Lie all unlock'd to your occasions. (141-44)

In saying "if it stands as you yourself still do, / Within the eye of honour," Antonio is asking Bassanio to tell him all about the lady and Bassanio's plans for wooing her and saying that if the plan is as honorable as Bassanio is still honorable, then Antonio will gladly do all he can to help him. In other words, Antonio is taking the opportunity to call Bassanio honorable despite his financial difficulties and the money he still owes Antonio.

Hence, all in all, Shakespeare establishes the theme of devoted friendship that is carried throughout the rest of the play, even to the extent that it looks like Antonio will have to lay down his life for Bassanio.

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In The Merchant Of Venice, do Bassiano and Antonio have a strong friendship?

They definitely do. At the beginning of the play, Bassanio approaches Antonio for financial assistance to aid his attempt to win the fair Portia's hand in marriage. She is a wealthy heiress from Belmont whose father determined in his will could only wed a suitor who makes the correct choice from three caskets: gold, silver, and lead. She has been approached by a number of wealthy suitors, men of status and stature. Bassanio wants to compete against them on an equal footing, and asks Antonio to lend him money so he can do so.

It is obvious from their conversation that this is not the first time Bassanio has sought such a favor from Antonio, as he himself mentions:

...if you please
To shoot another arrow that self way
Which you did shoot the first.

It is also clear that Bassanio is a wastrel, as he admits as much to Antonio:

'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance... chief care
Is to come fairly off from the great debts
Wherein my time something too prodigal
Hath left me gaged.

Bassanio is assured of Antonio's love and care for him and knows his friend will help him. Antonio guarantees as much:

Within the eye of honour, be assured,
My purse, my person, my extremest means,
Lie all unlock'd to your occasions.

The conversation between the two men is indefatigable proof that they share a very close bond. Antonio is prepared to help Bassanio by whatever means possible, even though he knows Bassanio might just waste the money he lends him. He is also obviously aware he might never be repaid. In spite of this, Antonio is prepared to help his friend. Antonio admits he does not have any ready cash, but urges Bassanio to find a moneylender in Venice and use his good name to obtain a loan for which he will stand surety. 

These actions speak of a man who is prepared to help a friend, so their relationship obviously must be more than just a shallow acquaintance. This is later proven when Antonio agrees to the harsh bond terms set by the moneylender Shylock when he loans three thousand ducats to Bassanio. Shylock sets, as a condition, that he should be entitled to cut out a pound of Antonio's flesh if he should forfeit on the bond, which has to be repaid within three months. Antonio accepts these terms despite Bassanio's request that he not, as Bassanio does not trust Shylock. 

Further proof of their close relationship lies in the fact that, when Antonio falls on hard times when his ships are all destroyed, Bassanio is prepared to leave the comfort of his new home and marriage to be with his friend. He delays the consummation of his marriage to rush from Belmont to assist his desperate friend. Shylock has had Antonio arrested because he forfeited on repaying a loan. According to the terms of their agreement, Shylock could claim a pound of Antonio's flesh.

Another indication of the depth of their friendship lies in the fact that, in Act V, Scene 1, Antonio once again vows to help his friend and sacrifice even his soul to vouch for him.

I once did lend my body for his wealth;
Which, but for him that had your husband's ring,
Had quite miscarried: I dare be bound again,
My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord
Will never more break faith advisedly.

He says this on the occasion of Portia accusing Bassanio of having given away a cherished ring that she had entrusted to him even though he vowed never to get rid of it. Antonio is prepared to give up his soul as a guarantee that Bassanio would never again break his word.  

Lastly, many commentators believe further proof of Bassanio and Antonio's friendship lies in Antonio's melancholic mood at the beginning of the play. Antonio is unable to say what is making him so sad. Some believe his depression is brought on by the fact that Bassanio is about to leave him for Belmont to try to win the hand of Portia, the wealthy and beautiful heiress. Whn Bassanio leaves, Antonio will lose a friend and confidante.

The depth of Antonio's sentiment for his friend is further proven by the fact that, in spite of the possibility of losing his companion to another, he is still prepared to ensure Bassanio's happiness and generously offers to help him. 

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In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what does Antonio and Bassanio's friendship reveal about their personalities?

Antonio and Bassanio are very close friends throughout the play The Merchant of Venice. Antonio willingly takes out a loan to fund Bassanio's trip to Belmont despite the fact that his assets are lost at sea. Antonio essentially risks his life for his friend's happiness by accepting terms from Shylock that indicate that Antonio will have to give a pound of his flesh if he defaults on the loan. Bassanio is overwhelmed with grief when he receives the news about Antonio's ships and the fact that Antonio will have to forfeit on his loan. Bassanio does not consummate his marriage with Portia and leaves Belmont immediately to return to Venice. Right before Shylock is about to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio's breast, Antonio tells Bassanio that he loves him. Bassanio responds by telling Antonio that he would gladly give up his wife and friends to see Antonio live. Antonio's willingness to risk his life for Bassanio's happiness reveals his magnanimous personality. Bassanio's loyalty is portrayed in his decision to leave Belmont to come to his friend's aid. Both Antonio and Bassanio are caring, selfless individuals who value each other.

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