It is important to note that when asked about the lady of the secret pilgrimage, Bassanio not only responses with a discussion of his finances but that he sees the marriage to “a lady richly left” as a way to repay his debts to Antonio (I.i.161). However, this conflict between self-interest and virtue manifests itself again when Bassanio decides to value his friendship with Antonio over his marriage to Portia, when Bassanio gives his wedding ring, albeit reluctantly, to Balthazar (IV.i.452-54). But as important as it may be for the good life, friendship is ultimately subordinate to marriage in the play. Janet Spens, An Essay on Shakespeare’s Relation to Tradition (Oxford: B. H. Blackwell, 1916), 45; John Middleton Murray, Shakespeare (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1936), 155; Bernard Grebarnier, The Truth about Shylock (New York: Random House, 1962), 215-19. Portia stands poised to be transferred to the winning suitor, the portrait hidden in one of the three caskets that symbolizes her objectification (III.ii.115). In other words, Antonio longs for a friendship that is rooted in some non-contractual value, like Aristotelian or Ciceronian virtue, instead of utility or profit.. Lever, “Shylock, Portia and the Values of Shakespearian Comedy,” Shakespeare Quarterly 3 (1952), 383-86; John Russell Brown, The Merchant of Venice (London: Methuen, 1955); C. L. Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), 163-91; W. H. Auden, “Brothers and Others.” In The Dryer’s Hand and Other Essays (London: Faber & Faber, 1963), 218-37; Nevill Coghill, “The Theme of The Merchant of Venice.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of “The Merchant of Venice,” ed. I never did repent for doing good, Nor shall not now; for in companions That do converse and waste the time together Whose souls do bear an equal yoke of love, There must be needs a like proportion Of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit, Which makes me think that this Antonio, Being the bosom lover of my lord, Must needs be like my lord. IV,1,2044. In contrast, Bassanio is a young, impulsive individual, who is deeply in love with Portia. But, like Venice, this contractual foundation of Belmont also has a corrosive effect on the characters’ non-contractual relationships because they perceive all values as commensurate with one another. BASSANIO: To you, Antonio, I owe the most, in money and in love, And from your love I have a warranty To unburden all my plots and purposes How to get clear of all the debts I owe. The Harmonies of The Merchant of Venice, 1-18; Marc Shell, “The Wether and the Ewe: Verbal Usury in The Merchant of Venice,” Kenyon Review 1 (1979), 65-92; René Girard, “’To Entrap the Wisest’: A Reading of The Merchant of Venice.” In Literature and Society, ed. Lee Trepanier is a Professor of Political Science at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Both Bassanio and Portia’s father conflate Portia’s persona with the estate of Belmont in their desire to count her as property over which to have exclusive dominion. With contractual relations undergirding the city, Belmont possesses the same advantages as Venice with its welcoming of foreigners to woe for Portia’s hand: Frenchmen, Moroccans, Spaniards, Germans, English (I.ii.39-105; II.vii, ix). 51. In fact, Antonio’s own experience in commerce has trained him to view relationships solely in contractual terms. What kinds of love are there in the play?  Whereas previous studies have focused either on the contractual relationships or the non-contractual ones, this article will explore the interaction between these two types of relationships. When he says "To you, Antonio, / I owe the most in money and in love" (1.1.137-138), it becomes pretty clear that Bassanio has been sponging off his rich BFF. Bassanio's main concern is to pay back his debts, this may be one of the reasons that he wants to marry Portia, in order to inherit or wealth. The Morality of Love and Money (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Also refer to Isabella Wheater, “Aristotelian Wealth and the Sea of Love: Shakespeare’s Synthesis of Greek Philosophy and Roman Poetry in The Merchant of Venice.”. But for Shylock, justice is enough. John E. Alvis and Thomas G. West (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2000), 261-87.  Both Bloom and Torres make this point explicitly. Available at http://theater2.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/theater/reviews/01merchant.html?n=Top/Reference/Times Topics/Subjects/T/Theater&_r=0moc.semityn.2retaeht&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1348624665-6C3Joxzn81A7UMTrD+CmkA; Stephen Greenblatt, “Shakespeare & Shylock,” The New York Review of Books, September 30, 2010. Of course, the marital conflict is resolved when Portia reveals that she is in fact Balthazar; but Portia requires Bassanio to swear an oath of fidelity and “on credit’ that will be guaranteed by his friendship with Antonio (V.i.266-70). Prejudice still exists in Venice but persecution and murder do not. For good people, they would want to receive and wish virtue from and for their friends. For more about the sources that influenced Shakespeare’s understanding of Venice, refer to Bloom’s first footnote as well as endnotes eight, nine, seventeen, twenty-nine, and thirty of this article. (I.i.145-146) After Bassanio approaches Antonio with his plan to get out of debt, Antonio tells him that he would sacrifice anything to help before even hearing the details of Bassanioâs plan.  I would like to thank referees, Richard Avramenko, Brianne Walsh, and the University of Wisconsin Political Theory workshop for their criticism of this article. And that which you did swear to keep for me. Sylvan Barnet (Englewood Cliffs: NJ: Prentice Hall, 1970), 11-32; Shell, “The Wether and the Ewe”; William Chester Jordan, “Approaches to the Court Scene in The Bond Story: Equity and Mercy or Reason and Nature,” Shakespeare Quarterly 33 (1982), 45-59; Donna M. Kish-Goodling, “Using ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in teaching monetary economics,” The Journal of Economic Education, 29.4 (1998), 330-39; Suzanne Penuel, “Castrating the Creditor in “The Merchant of Venice,” Studies in English Literature 44 (2004), 255-75. First, I am curious to learn more about the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio, and if there is something major that has happened between them that would have made Antonio so devoted to helping out Bassanio. His companions, Solanio and Salerio, suggest that commerce or love as possible causes of his sadness, but these options are dismissed by Antonio (I.i.41-45, 47). 'To you, Antonio, I owe the most, in money and in love,'. David Seipp, “The Concept of Property in Early Common Law,” Law and History Review 12 (1994), 29-91; Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1993); B. J. Sokol and Mary Sokol.  Because “Our house is hell,” Jessica decides to join her lover, along with converting to his religion: “O Lorenzo, / If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, / Become a Christian and thy loving wife” (II.iii.19-21). Therefore, I am going to discuss the homosexual relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in terms of their extremely close finance implications. Antonio and Bassanio have a very strong relationship in Act 1 and we can infer that they have been friends for a long time as Bassanio says that he already owes Antonio âthe most in money and in loveâ (1:1). Finally, there are those who believe that Antonio’s melancholy is motiveless. What Antonio does not understand is that perfect friendship is not grounded in the absolute repudiation of contract for the needless sacrifice of oneself but rather is rooted in a type of reciprocity based on moral values like virtue. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1975), 333-60; Blair Worden, “Classical Republicanism and the Puritan Revolution.” In History & Imagination: Essays in Honor of H.R. The contract is fulfilled as guided by Portia’s song to a conclusion that both Portia and Bassanio desire. Do all men kill the things they do not love? This article was originally published with the same title in Perspectives on Political Science 43:4 (2014): 204-12. Nicomachean Ethics. , Bassanio fares better than Antonio but it is not clear whether he has learned to value marriage and friendship for their own sake. The homoerotic undertone of Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship is easily discussed by analyzing the dedication and declarations of love by Antonio because he does not have a heterosexual romantic relationship to counteract against his love for Bassanio. The leaden casket that Bassanio chooses is the one that contains the portrait of Portia, which in turns symbolizes his right to marry her. As the betrothed of Bassanio, she then offers many times the value of the three thousand ducats to ransom the life of Antonio (III.ii.299-302). Prior to Jessica’s betrayal, Shylock detested Antonio but was this hatred was moderated by practical motives; after Jessica’s unfaithfulness, Shylock has become monomaniacal in his quest for revenge (I.iii.160-70; III.i.116-30). Antonio's Love for Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice Antonio feels closer to Bassanio than any other character in The Merchant of Venice. On winning Portia, Bassanio immediately becomes indebted to his new wife, who has positioned herself as a creditor rather than as a prize to be handed over. It is visible that Bassanio is less a friend and more a brother to Antonio.  Harp makes a comparison of risk-taking in business and love, but he does not explore the origins or how these parallel activities are related in the play, while Sharp believes that gift-giving rather than contractual consent is the dominant relationship among the characters, thereby severing the connection between non-contractual and contractual relations. That I have much ado to know myself (1-7). In response to Bassanio’s victory, Portia sets about the task of assessing her worth: A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich, I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends. Bassanio told him he would make some speed Of his return. Love is regulated, sacrificed, betrayed, and generally built on rocky foundations in the play. A. Bryant, Jr. “’The Merchant of Venice’ and the Common Flaw (For C.T.H. The Merchant of Venice indeed accumulates an amount of homoerotic feeling, and has dealt with Antonioâs extreme love for Bassanio. John von Heyking and Richard Avarmenko (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), 53-83; John von Heyking, “’Sunaisthetic’ Friendship and the Foundations of Political Anthropology,” International Political Anthropology 1 (2008), 179-93. Instead of excluding or killing Jews, Christians seek to make a profit with or out of them and vice versa. In spite of its watery depth, Venice’s commercial and contractual foundations make human relationships superficial and merely transactional. Whether Antonio means his “life and living” only literally – his pound of flesh and ships – or metaphorically is unresolved in the play, thereby leaving open the question whether moral values like friendship can exist in Venice. When Portia finally relents and returns Bassanio his ring, she gives it first to Antonio who in turn gives it back to Bassanio, thus renewing her wedding vow with Bassanio on the collateral of her husband’s friendship with Antonio. Bassanio is a male. In a sense, Bassanio participates in the marital contract of Portia and Bassanio. Both women also are associated with caskets and wealth: Portia with the casket trial and Jessica with the “caskets” she throws to Lorenzo that are stolen from her father (II.vi.35).  Sigurd Burckhardt, “The Merchant of Venice: The Gentle Bond,” English Literary History 29 (1962), 239-62; MacKay, “The Merchant of Venice: A Reflection of the Early Conflict between Courts of Law and Courts of Equity”; Robert Hapgood, “Portia and the Merchant of Venice: The Gentle Bond,” Modern Language Quarterly 28 (1967), 19-32; John P. Sisk, “Bondage and Release in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Quarterly 20 (1969), 217-23; E. F. J. Tucker, “The Letter of the Law in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Survey 29 (1976), 93-101; Jan Lawson Hinely, “Bond Priorities in The Merchant of Venice,” Studies in English Literature 20 (1980), 217-39; William Chester Jordan, “Approaches to the Court Scene in the Bond Story: Equity and Mercy or Reason and Nature,” Shakespeare Quarterly 33 (1982), 49-59; Lars Engle, “’Thrift is Blessing’”: Exchange and Explanation in The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Quarterly 37 (1986), 20-37; Charles Spinosa, “Shylock and Debt and Contract in The Merchant of Venice,” Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 5 (1993), 65-85; “The Transformation of Intentionality: Debt and Contract in The Merchant of Venice,” English Literary Renaissance 24 (1994), 370-409; Frederick Turner, Shakespeare’s Twenty-First-Century Economics. But the money he has received from Antonio was gratis. The relationship between Jessica and Lorenzo therefore is treated sympathetically in The Merchant of Venice, yet there are uneasy undertones that mark Jessica’s breaking of her paternal, and perhaps religious, contract with her father. She describes how her feelings of love overpower negative feelings like jealousy or fear. Shirley and Kerrigan look at the use of promises and swearing in Shakespeare’s play, which is similar to contracts but lack their binding force. Except Shylock, those character who conceive and act in contractual terms are successful, while those who do not, such as Antonio and Jessica, fare less well. Only those who are able to calculate correctly like Bassanio and Portia will be content in such a regime. Furthermore, married women were not considered property and a woman’s interest in property could not be entirely denied. In effect, Portia’s father has bound his daughter by a contract that transcends his own death. However, these studies have neglected the effect that contractual relations in a commercial republic have on non-contractual ones like friendship, love, and marriage. The return of the ring to Bassanio is not from Portia to Bassanio but from Portia to Antonio who then gives it back to Bassanio.  For example, some like Lars Engle and Fredrick Turner argue that the play is about patterns of exchanges, purchases, and pledges that range from the physical to the abstract, while other critics look at the use of bonds – natural, emotional, commercial – as the theme that unities the play.  At his trial Antonio twice places his friendship with Bassanio as something to be valued higher than Bassanio’s marriage.  For interpretations of the court scene as a conflict between law and equity or justice and mercy, refer to endnote one as well as Maxine MacKay, “The Merchant of Venice: A Reflection of the Early Conflict Between Courts of Law and Courts of Equity,” Shakespeare Quarterly 15 (1964), 371-75; Andrews Mark E. Law versus Equity in The Merchant of Venice (Boulder: Colorado University Press, 1965); George W. Keeton, Shakespeare’s Legal and Political Background (London: Pitman, 1967), 132-50; Ruth M. Levitsky, “Shylock’s as Unregenerate Man,” Shakespeare Quarterly 28 (1977), 243-63. By contrast, Portia and Bassanio re-pledge themselves to each other, with using Antonio’s friendship with Bassanio as collateral, and seem to be headed towards future happiness. Values incommensurate with contract must either be re-conceptualized in contractual terms to be successful or face failure in a world governed by self-interest, utility, and profit. Subsequent citations are in-text. In act 1 scene 1, Bassanio had come to Antonio to borrow money (3000 ducats) once more which will furnish him with the necessities required to go to Belmont to woo Portia.  However, I suggest another possibility: Antonio is sad because, on the one hand, he desires a relationship that more meaningful than one predicated on contracted; but, on the other hand, he recognizes that such a relationship is difficult, if not impossible, in the commercial republic of Venice.  Christian and Jews are able to co-exist, albeit acrimoniously, in Venice to exchange goods and services. Bassanio protests until Antonio suggests it is fair to give him the ring: âLet his deservings and my love withal / Be valued against your wife's commandment.â  For those who attribute the cause of Antonio’s sadness to religious or philosophical reasons, refer to Lawrence W. Hyman and Thomas H. Fujmura, “Antonio in The Merchant of Venice,” PMLA 82 (1967), 649-50; Allan Holaday, “Antonio and the Allegory of Salvation,” Shakespeare Studies 4 (1968), 109-18; R. Chris Hassel Jr. “Antonio and the Ironic Festivity of The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Studies 6 (1970), 67-74; J. Frances Shirley, Swearing and Perjury in Shakespeare’s Plays (London: Allen & Unwin, 1979); Ronald A. Portiaâs father seemed to have instilled values and love in Portia from a very young age. For Antonio, one can owe money but one cannot owe love, at least as he has defined it. For explanations of Antonio’s sadness as suppressed homosexual feelings, refer to Graham Midgley, “The Merchant of Venice: A Reconsideration,” Essays in Criticism 10 (1960), 119-33; W. H. Auden, “Brothers and Others.” In The Dryer’s Hand and Other Essays (London: Faber & Faber, 1963), 218-37; Steven Patterson, “The Bankruptcy of Homoerotic Amity in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare Quarterly 50 (1999), 9-32. Nor do I now make moan to be abridged From such a noble rate. Sometimes from her eyes I did â¦  Markku Peltonen shows how widely republican attitudes extended among Elizabethan writers.  They sense the corrosive effects that contract and commerce have upon non-contractual relations like friendship, love, and marriage but are unable to operate successfully outside the contractual foundations of Venice and Belmont. Will never more break faith advisedly (V.i.249-53). But to maintain this peace, impartial and enforceable justice is required. She even recognizes how overwhelming these feelings of love can seem. The âworthâ of love gets further garbled as Bassanio talks to Antonio of his intentions to court Portia; the audience expects a lover´s distracted, excited manner as he praises his lady, yet a highly rational Bassanio first and foremost exalts her wealth: âin Belmont, there is a â¦ (It turns out that Antonio has been very generous with Bassanio, who has a hard time keeping his finances in order.) âWithin the eye of honor, be â¦ E. K. Chambers, Shakespeare: A Survey (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1925), 106-17; J.W. This spiritual and physical unity is symbolized in the wedding ring which should be accorded the highest honor. Leo Salinger, Shakespeare and the Tradition of Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), 298-317; Norman Rabkin, “Meaning and The Merchant of Venice.” In Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 1-32; David N. Beauregard, “Sidney, Aristotle, and The Merchant of Venice: Shakespeare’s Triadic Image of Liberty and Justice,” Shakespeare Studies 20 (1988), 33-48; Derek Cohen, Shakespeare’s Motives (London: Macmillan, 1988); John Lyon, The Merchant of Venice (Boston: Twayne, 1988). The Christian commandment of loving thy neighbor appears to have failed as a political principle to organize the city: commerce, contract, and profit have provided the path to stability, cooperation, and toleration. 50. This theme of Venice as a commercial republic based on contract has been explored by other scholars and has been even presented in recent performances. Antonio and Bassanio are very close and Antonio does all that he can - in Act 1 Scene 1 - to help his friend. For thy three thousand ducats here is six. Every offence is not a hate at first. , Bassanio similarly perceives their relationship in contractual terms of debts and credits, as he correctly has identified the “gentle scroll” to “come by note, to give and to receive” (III.ii.139-140). Quotes Bassanio Quotes '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. Although Bassanio initially resist Balthazar’s request for the wedding ring, he eventually confers it to Balthazar after Antonio’s urging (IV.i.452-54). Good cheer, Antonio! 57-59).  C. L. Barber, “The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Merchant of Venice, ed. Good cheer, Antonio! Nevertheless, both Antonio and Bassanio repeat this mistake after Antonio is saved. To regain his fortune, he is determined to marry Portia, a wealthy, intelligent heiress of Belmont.In order to ask for her hand in marriage, Bassanio and his best friend, Antonio enter into an agreement with the usurer Shylock. Lowenthal, Shakespeare and the Good Life, 147-48, 170-72; Joan Ozark Holmer, “The Education of The Merchant of Venice,” Studies in English Literature 25 (1985), 307-35. The merchant of … Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice has been interpreted in numerous ways that range from focusing on the roles of women and marriage to examining questions of justice and mercy to exploring the appropriate relationship between Christian and Jews. This moral deterioration is most evident in the marital relationship between Bassanio and Portia, with especially the latter relinquishing his wedding ring so easily. Essay on The Merchant of Venice 2952 Words | 12 Pages. An examination of this marriage will show how contractual Belmont leads both characters to think and act out of self-interest.. Love for Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice Antonio feels closer to Bassanio than any other character in The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio can only offer his blood as collateral to ratify the nuptial bonds between him and Portia. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Portia, in turn, replies back in the language of commerce and contract that Antonio shall be Bassanio’s “surety” – the person who assume the debts of another – in Bassanio’s and Portia’s new pledge of marriage.  It is not unreasonable to assume that some ethical presuppositions that informed the late Elizabethan period had roots in classical Greek and Roman philosophies. By examining each of these characters, I will illustrate how a world of commerce and contract has a tendency to reduce all relationships to motives of self-interest, utility, and profit. Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly? Back in Belmont when Portia hears that Bassanio had bestowed his wedding ring to Balthazar, she immediately chastises Bassanio for not understanding its worth: “If you have known the virtue of the ring, / Or half her worthiness that gave the ring, / Or your own honor to contain the ring” (V.i.199-201). For Aristotle, it is this type of friendship that is most noble, stable, and lasting as long as both parties remain good (1156b10-14).  Other references where Bassanio abstracts his body as part of his marital contract with Portia can be found in III.ii.183-85 and V.i.177-79. After Bassanio finally chooses the correct box, Portia describes her true feelings of love for Bassanio to the audience. This trial requires suitors to solve a riddle that filters out those who want to marry Portia for the wrong reasons. From the play it is made known that Venice is a city based on commerce with its law of contract enforced – even if a pound of flesh were demanded – for otherwise the law would lose its legitimacy and all trade and justice would cease to exist. In connection with mercy and generosity, The Merchant of Venice also explores love and friendship between its characters. Portia’s willingness to sacrifice for her new husband, even indirectly, demonstrates the genuine love she feels for him. Whether Bassanio had not once a love (IV.i.273-77). While this scene encapsulates a small moment between the two lovers at the start of their relationship, Jessica pinpoints an essential quality in love and relationships. Portia highlights her true love for Bassanio by describing her sacrifice to save Antonio as an act of love for Bassanio. The conclusion one can reach is that, in spite of its advantages, regimes based on commerce and contract ultimately fail to create the conditions for non-contractual relations to flourish. IV,1,2000. It also requires a type of equality of exchange, for friends receive and wish the same thing from and for each other (1158b1-2). Shakespeare leaves it open to whether Antonio will eventually understand the value of non-contractual relationships like friendship and marriage, although it is evident that Antonio acknowledges his debt to Portia, when he proclaims, after hearing his ships have safety returned, “Sweet lady, you have given me life and living” (V.i.286). He even agrees use a pound of his own flesh as collateral to Shylock, whom he clearly detests, in order to loan Bassanio the three thousand ducats (I.iii.152-81).  For more about a feminist interpretation of the play, refer to the critics listed in the first, nineteenth, and twenty-third endnotes. Most critics have focused on the themes of justice and mercy as respectively represented by the character Shylock and the city Venice and Portia and Belmont. Contrast between Antonio and Bassanio. This assessment of her relationship with Bassanio echoes her earlier statement, where she said, “when you part from, lose, or give away / Let it presage the ruin of you love, / And be my vantage to exclaim on you” (III.ii.172-74).  Tovey points out that Portia’s song contains several words that rhyme with “lead,” such as “bred” and “head.” Barbara Tovey, “The Golden Casket: An Interpretation of The Merchant of Venice”; also see Michael Zuckert, “The New Medea: On Portia’s Comic Triumph in The Merchant of Venice.”. She reveals the excitement of new love and appears to be almost bubbling over with joy and happiness. Bassanio â¦ The answer is obvious enough: chaos would result if contracts were no longer enforced, because nobody would be able to trust one another. 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