The Merchant Of Venice - Antonio

1008 WORDS

The Merchant Of Venice - Antonio

Antonio is a wealthy merchant in the city of Venice. Although
central to the play, Antonio is portrayed by Shakespeare as an'outcast'. It seems that Antonio is chronically depressed and is not
involved in the social atmosphere that is thriving in Venice. -

"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, whereof it is born,

I am to learn:"1

Along with Shylock, both men seem bitter and have difficulty
in expressing their emotions. On many occasions friends, such as

Salerio and Bassanio have questioned his sadness, trying to find an
explanation for their great unhappiness with themselves and with the
world. -

Salerio: "But tell not me: I know Antonio

Is sad to think upon his merchandise.2

Antonio: "Believe me, no: I thank my fortune for it,

My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,

Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate

Upon the fortune of this present year:

Therefore, my merchandise makes me not sad."3

Salanio: "Why, then are you in love."4

Antonio: "Fie, fie!"5

The mystery of Antonio's sadness remains, as he dismisses the
prospect that his sadness is related to his ships or a lost love.

Uninterested in the 'world' of suitors and marriage, Antonio is left
without his lifelong companion, Bassanio after he travelled to Belmont
to woo Portia.

Early in the play another side of Antonio is revealed. Antonio
is displayed as a hard cruel man, although a Christian, he displays
hatred and contempt towards the Jewish race, usurers and especially
towards Shylock. After kicking and spitting upon Shylock, Antonio
shows no remorse or sympathy for the man he has abused. Antonio even
goes to the point of saying that he would once more spit upon him and
kick him like a stray dog. -

"I am as like to call thee so again,

To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.

If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not

As to thy friends, for when did friendship take

A breed for barren metal of his friend?

But lend it rather to thine enemy;

Who if he break, thou may'st with better face

Exact the penalty."6

Many people would ask the question, why would someone in

Shylock's position want to give anything to a person who has treated
them as badly as Antonio? However, under the interest free bond that

Shylock has created with Antonio lies a need for revenge so great that

Shylock will do anything to take the life of Antonio.

At the beginning of Act 3 the bad news of Antonio's ships,
lost at sea is spreading around Venice. Jessica confirms that Shylock
will be maintaining the bond that was created now that Antonio has no
way of paying back the bond. -

"When I was with him, I have heard him swear

To tubal and to Chus, his countrymen,

That he would rather have Antonio's flesh

Than twenty times the value of the sum

That he did owe him; and I know, my lord,

If law, authority, and power deny not,

It will go hard with poor Antonio."7

With the realisation that Antonio's death is imminent,

Antonio, like someone with a terminal illness gives up all hope of
survival. Most people would fight literally for their lives against

Shylock, but Antonio had progressed beyond sadness and had lost his
will to live. Antonio's immediate acceptance of Shylock's bizarre bond
signals the secret 'death wish' that Antonio holds very close to his
heart. Antonio's sudden wish to die, brought about through great
sadness and loneliness is affecting Bassanio greatly, who takes
responsibility for what has happened. -

"Antonio, I am married to a wife

Which is dear to me as life itself;

But life itself, my wife, and all the world,

Are not with me esteem'd above thy life:

I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all,

Here to this devil, to deliver you"8

A moment of comedy is brought out after this speech through Portia
(Bassanio's wife), posing as a Doctor of Laws. -

"Your wife would give you little thanks of that,

If she were by to hear you make the offer."9

During the courtroom scene Portia and Nerissa undertake their
daring plan to save Antonio. As Shylock is preparing to cut Antonio's
heart from his body, a death which by this time Antonio freely excepts

Portia reminds Shylock of the intricacies of the bond he made with

Antonio. Shylock must cut exactly a pound of flesh from Antonio, not
an ounce less, not an ounce more. He

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