A discussion of the idea of love that appears in the play's subplots. Examines how love exists in many forms, and looks at how Shakespeare clarifies the importance of romantic vows and the nature of the marital relationship. The sentimental storylines in The Merchant of Venice often get lost amid the play's more prominent themes. Although the idea of love appears only through the play's subplots, Shakespeare does make the theme prevalent enough to warrant attention. The play demonstrates that love exists in many forms, and is selfless and not self-serving. It also clarifies the importance of romantic vows and the nature of the marital relationship. The first idea of love that is presented in the play is that it comes in many forms. Antonio demonstrates his love for his kinsman Bassanio throughout their relationship and even before the action of the play begins. From Bassanio's exposition in Act I, scene i, it is clear that Antonio has often assisted Bassanio in the past, and Bassanio owes Antonio a great deal of money, which he has not been asked to repay. Antonio does this because he loves Bassanio and is willing to sacrifice his fortune for his kinsman. It is this love that motivates Antonio to enter into the agreement with Shylock that will jeopardize his life: Give me your hand, Bassanio. Fare you well!
Grieve not that I am fall'n too this for you;
Repent but you that you shall lose your friend,
And he repents not that he pays your debt (ll. 263-277).
Antonio is willing and ready to sacrifice everything that he has, including his life, for the benefit of Bassanio. Bassanio's love is equally strong—he immediately responds with a desire to sacrifice everything that he has, including his love Portia, to save Antonio. This deep love between friends was seen by the Elizabethans as a precursor to romantic love. If a man could demonstrate love for his friends, then he was capable of maintaining love for a woman. Romantic love also appears in the Jessica/Lorenzo...
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