Antonio is the title character in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. He is a middle-aged bachelor and merchant by trade who has his financial interests tied up in overseas shipments when the play begins. He is kind, generous, honest and confident, and is loved and revered by all the Christians who know him. Even Portia, who sees Antonio as a rival for her husband’s affections, reveres his character and appreciates — with reservations — his willingness to die for Bassanio. Antonio manifests his piety by cursing and spitting at Shylock (anti-semitism was common in Europe in Shakespeare's day). Contents * 1 Highlights of Antonio’s scenes * 2 Symbolism pertaining to Antonio * 3 Antonio’s relationship with Bassanio * 4 References * 5 External links
Highlights of Antonio’s scenes
Act 1 When we first see him commiserating with his friends Solano and Salerio he is pondering the unknown source of his depressive state: In sooth I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff ‘tis made of, where of it is born, I am to learn And such a want-wit sadness makes of me That I have much ado to know myself. (MOV 1.1.1-7)'display His friends try to guess the origin and nature of his condition by questioning him. First they inquire as to whether or not he is worried about his investments. When he insists that is not the reason they ask if he is in love which he is also quick to dismiss. It is then speculated that perhaps he has a strange temperament as some people do. This pair quickly exits to make way for Bassanio who is accompanied by his friends Lorenzo and Gratiano. Lorenzo cannot get in a word for the boisterous Gratiano who makes sport of Antonio's melancholy telling him that he is too serious and that he himself would rather go through life acting foolish. After Lorenzo and Gratiano leave Bassanio tries to put Antonio at ease by saying Gratiano talks a lot of nonsense. It is in this conversation that we find a possible reason for Antonio’s sadness, the impending loss of his friend (or some suspect lover) to a woman’s affections. Antonio: Well, tell me now, what lady is the same To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage That you today promised to tell me of? (MOV 1.1.119-121) Bassanio then proceeds to tell Antonio of his depleted financial state due to his own excesses, making sure to note that he is aware he already owes him money. He laments his ill fortune but cheers at the thought of solving his problems by marrying Portia, a woman who has come into a sizeable inheritance from her father and whom he thinks is predisposed to choose him. He compares himself with Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. He beseeches Antonio to back this venture knowing he is not likely to be refused by his generous benefactor. Indeed Antonio, despite the fact that his capital is already at risk elsewhere, gives him a letter of credit and wishes him well. Later Antonio enters the rialto to assure Shylock that he will be bound for the 3,000 ducats Bassanio wishes to borrow. Antonio has belittled and harassed Shylock in public, and he loathes him because when Christian friends of his owed money to the Jews he paid off the debts, thus depriving them of their interest. Far from lamenting his ill treatment of the Jew who accuses him of spitting on him and calling him a dog, Antonio replies resolutely “I am as like to call thee so again, /To spet on thee again, to spurn thee.” (MOV 1.3.127-128) He agrees to pay with a pound of flesh if he forfeits the bond in lieu of the usual interest. Act 2 Antonio makes a brief appearance in this act in scene 6 when he runs into Gratiano and tells him he has twenty people out looking for him. He goes on to say there will be no masque and that Bassanio is at that moment preparing to leave for Belmont to woo Portia. Act 3 We hear no more from Antonio until after Bassanio wins the hand...
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