Sooooo... to kick things off to a start in this community, I'm working on a character study of Antonio. He's my favourite character in the Merchant of Venice, despite comments I continually hear from others that he's bland and uninteresting. Well, I like him, and he also happens to be one of the most slashable characters in the Merchant :)
I've only got a leetle bit of it done so far, but I'll post that now. It just concerns the basic facts that we get from the play about Antonio. I will go on to wonder about his mysterious sadness, and his relationship with Bassanio, all heavily supported with many quotes, because this is something my English teacher has drilled into me. If anyone has any suggestions regarding this character study, I'd be DELIGHTED to hear them. :) After all, what's a writer without a critic.
(On a side note, if I get a chance I may put together of the production of the Merchant of Venice currently running in the Globe, which I thought was excellent, if a little unusual, and certainly contained plenty of Antonio/Bassanio material)
Anyway on with the character study!
Character study of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’
What do we know about Antonio?
Antonio remains one of the most mysterious characters in The Merchant of Venice, despite being the character for which the play is named. We know only a few basic facts about Antonio. We know he is a merchant, quite obviously, the namesake of the play a ‘Merchant of Venice’, which was a great port and trading town at the time. We also know he is rich. Even Shylock admits this. ‘My meaning in saying he is a good man, is to have you understand that he is sufficient.’ Antonio himself says to Bassanio ‘Within these two months… I do expect return of thrice three times the value of this bond.’ Taking Antonio literally at his word, this would come to 27’000 ducats, roughly £33750 sterling in today’s terms. Quite a lot for two months income. (Of course, we have to bear in mind, that Antonio’s income would depend entirely on the half of the year when the weather was good enough to sail.)
Besides this, we know that Antonio has enough money to invest in many ships at once, as Shylock comments ‘He hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies… he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for England.’ Bassanio also mentions that he has ventures ‘From Lisbon, Barbary’ and yet, he has not invested all of his money in these far-flung ventures. He tells Salerio and Solanio in Act I ‘Nor is my whole estate upon the fortune of this present year.’ Yet, still, we must assume that either the rest of his estate does not comprise much, or he spends it freely in the assumption that his ships will come safely in, because when all of his ventures failed, he had not the money with which to pay Shylock back his three thousand ducats.
We also know clearly that he is a Christian, from various comments throughout the play including Shylock’s ‘I hate him for he is a Christian’
Antonio does not appear to have a family, or at least, it is never mentioned in the text. In this he seems to be the loneliest character in the play. Even Shylock had his daughter Jessica until she eloped with Lorenzo, and appears to have been devoted to his dead wife.
We also know he has many friends or hangers-on. He appears to be continually be surrounded by at least some of his group of friends, which comprises Salerio, Solanio, Lorenzo, Gratiano and Bassanio.
Another minor detail we learn about Antonio, although it seems very important to Shylock is that he lent money out to people in trouble free of interest. Shylock says in his venomous soliloquy about Antonio that ‘He lends out money gratis and brings down/ The rate of usance with us here in Venice.’ Antonio also tells Solanio, ‘I oft deliver’d from his [Shylock’s] forfeitures/ Many that have made moan to me’