“But love is blind, and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit;
For if they could, Cupid himself would blush
To see me thus transformed to a boy” (Shakespeare, 37).
The play The Merchant of Venice lays a huge emphasis on love and how it ultimately makes us human. Love is portrayed in many ways. There is love between family, friends and lovers. Each of the relationships in the play can teach us a lesson. We see in Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship that love may not always be returned in the same capacity. In Bassanio and Portia’s relationship we learn that love isn’t necessarily always about affection, it can just be a means of moving ahead. In Jessica and Lorenzo’s love we discover that love can be a means of escape to change a life forever. Antonio, one of the main characters in The Merchant of Venice clearly loves Bassanio. What I don’t understand is if the love between these two is shared, equal, or completely misunderstood. Antonio is willing to sacrifice his life in-order for Bassanio to be with his love. He even forgives Bassanio of his previous debt. Bassanio on the other hand, throughout the whole play is only concerned with himself. He only cares about marrying Portia and sharing in her inheritance. Antonio might see his love in competition with Portia’s love. The only place where I see any sort of affection from Bassanio is when he gets news of Antonio’s trial. This just goes to show that sometimes love is not returned in the same capacity. Portia may or may not love Bassanio. Judging from her talking about the Hercules myth, we know she knows he was using her to get to her money. Behaving, as a sensible woman, she over looks this. She convinces herself to care for him anyway. She is making the best of a bad situation. I think that the love between Portia and Bassanio is completely misunderstood. One is using the other for money; the other knows about this but continues with the relationship. This goes to show that sometimes love is about how you can move ahead. Jessica and Lorenzo’s love is very interesting. One is looking for an escape and the other could be looking for fortune. Jessica is a Jew and the daughter of Shylock. Lorenzo is a Christian and a friend of Bassanio and Antonio. Jessica runs away from her father, with his fortune to be with Lorenzo. Lorenzo accepts her hoping to convert her to Christianity. This shows that love can be a means of escape that can save your life. People in Shakespeare’s time are loyal and wise. They care about relationships and living in the present. Love is a big deal in their pursuit of humanness. Being the right kind of person will help you love and act a certain type of way. This is ultimately what Shakespeare wants us to take away from all these complicated relationships. Before you can love you have to work on yourself first.
Shakespeare, William and A.R Braunmuller. The Merchant of Venice. New York: Penguin Group, 2000.