Sunday, January 30, 2011

Antonio's Relatioship with Bassanio

I have read this play in the past, but I really never paid enough attention to it. Aside from the obvious anti-Semitic views, and the ridiculousness of Portia choosing a husband by having them pick the right casket, I was really taken by the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. It's hard enough for me to lend five dollars to a friend, yet at the drop of a hat Antonio is ready to take out a loan of 3,000 ducats to lend to his friend so he can woo some girl.

There is only one reason I can think of for someone to do this, and that is love. Especially when you take in to account that if Antonio should fail to repay the bond he will pay in flesh and blood. The level of this love is what has me wondering. It is very obvious that Bassanio is Antonio's best friend. At the beginning when Antonio is sad Salerio would have stayed to help him cheer up, but at the arrival of Bassanio he says," I would have stayed till I had made you merry If worthier friends had not prevented me." (Line 60) After Bassanio explains his situation Antonio says, "My purse, my person, my extremest means Lie all unlocked to your occasions." (Line 138) This shows the level of devotion and affection that Antonio has for Bassanio, also note that he pluralizes occasions, as to say that Bassanio is welcome to all he has on all occasions, not just this once. Antonio is offended when Bassanio asks for the money as if Antonio wouldn't just give it to him anyway, "And out of doubt you do me more wrong In making questions of my uttermost Than if you had made waste of all I have." (Line 155) He is hurt that Bassanio doesn't believe that he, Antonio, will just hand over the money no questions asked. Even when Shylock says he must repay in full or in flesh Antonio is still willing to make the deal for Bassanio's sake, though there are so many dangers that can happen to his ships, as Shylock points out.

While these acts may not seem like Antonio has deeper feelings for Bassanio, I just can't help but think that there is something there, and that it is one-sided. Bassanio seems to definitely respect Antonio, but he is also using Antonio to make him seem rich so he can make Portia like him. I guess as the play goes on, and as I pay more attention maybe their relationship will show more and allow for deeper investigation.

-Stephanie Wexler


Anonymous said...

One of the things that most stuck out to me while reading this first act was the graciousness of Antonio, as well as the large amount of trust he must have in Bassanio. I was startled by his generosity; I can only imagine what bad luck this will bring Antonio in the play's future as such favors never go as smoothly as planned. While I agree that there is a very close bond between the two, Bassanio strikes me as the well-meaning but inevitably unreliable friend.

Zan Strumfeld said...

I completely agree with Stephanie here. I think the construction of the strength in the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is fascinating - they seem to have quite a deep bond and have the loyalty toward one another. Yet, like Stephanie, I do wonder if it is only one sided. Clearly Antonio is devoted 100 percent to Bassanio, when it comes to money, trust, friendship, etc., but on the realms of Bassanio returning the favor to Antonio, well I'm not sure how clear that is just yet. I guess when the play develops it'll have stronger clarification. When it comes to Stephanie's idea of their relationship on a deeper level - well I'm really not sure about this. I wasn't thinking about that while reading, so maybe if I reread their conversations I could think otherwise but I don't recall once thinking there was any sort of deeper (love, I suppose) from Antonio to Bassanio.