I've read some commentary that suggests that Antonio is homosexual.
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If you read the text, Bassanio is melancholy at the beginning of the play for reasons that concern his business;
Actually, Salerio and Salanio are the ones who babble about Antonio's business.
In truth, Antonio is incapable of discussing where his sadness stems from. He deeply loves Bassanio, perhaps more than platonic love, and shows this love by self-sacrificing his own happiness in order to see Bassanio happy. (Therefore, taking the bond....) Salerino and Solanio seem to know about Antonio's love for Bassanio when Antonio and Bassanio's final goodbye takes place prior to Bassanio's departure for Belmont.
One problem with reading older works is that up until the modern era, male friends frequently referred to their feelings for other men in terms of love and affection. This in no way implies that they were gay! Only a modern reader would make that interpretation. A great example of this can be seen in many of the letters written by Abraham Lincoln to male colleagues with whom he was close. This merely was how men expressed themselves in daily conversation and in letters to one another - it did not intimate anything sexual. The same is likely true with respect to Bassanio.
I agree with the last comment made by John. Yes it is true, Antonio does love Bassanio, but not in a gay sort of way. He loves him as a brother, and that being such, he wants him to be happy. So he cosigns with him for the loan...
I think it very clear antonio is gay. Consider: as a young gentleman about town, Bassanio would be unlikely to associate with merchants, plus A is clearly much older than him. He is certainly wringing Antonio dry of money. On asking him for the cash to woo Portia, A tells B to 'try my credit in the town', yet B comes back with A's mortal enemy, Shylock. So Antonio's credit must be in ruins but that doesn't stop Bassanio.
Why is antonio not married? By the extent of his fortune and the tone of his behaviour, he is not a young man and he is very rich (he can clear debts for those Shylock is foreclosing on) You'd expect him to be married.
Now, look at his mental state. He's made this wild decision to put all his fortune into very risky investments in ships cargoes: so risky, that the rumour of it has wrecked his credit. Antonio tries to deny it to Salerio and Salanio.
This is the action of a very depressed man (and we know he is 'sad', for no explained reason) who knows he can never have love and home and family, so, why not throw away his money? Who is he saving for? What dynasty is he building? May as well just make these wild investments, so what if they don't come back. And even when Shylock claims the bond, Antonio is prepared to die.
Other indications: when Bassanio asks Shylock for the 3000 ducats loan, Shylock asks if Antonio is 'good' meaning 'good for the money' but Bassanio gets very defensive about this question, making Shylock give a wry answer, like "calm down, I didn't mean anything…"
And when Shylock claims the bond, Antonio refers to himself as a sick sheep, something that is better off dead. His language and actions towards B are excessive: he weeps when B leaves for Belmont, he gives him so much money, he takes on this bond: these are lover's actions.
But does B love A? Well, he definitely exploits him and has done for years, doesnt really try to stop him signing the bond, leaves him to deal with it, insensitively tells him about Portia, even wanting money to woo her! B is very handsome, young, charming, everyone wants to be around him, it is just like Oscar and Bosie. The older man, with money and sophistication, and the younger with beauty and youth. Very ancient Greek, too.
But notice Bassanio doesnt weep when parted from A, he only really seems to appreciate him when A is in danger. And look at the letter A sends: he obviously thinks there is a very good chance Bassanio wont come to support him when Shylock takes his flesh.
Antonio's savage treatment of Shylock can be explained by his homosexuality too. It's a fact that oppressed people take out frustration on those more oppressed, as white trash farmers were the worst oppressors of blacks in the Deep South. Here's someone for Antonio to kick around and relieve his feelings. This man is a sick sheep indeed. In a better society, a man like this can find a partner and be fulfilled, but in his day, he could not live openly tho of course, it went on, and Shylock's sly "good" remark seems to say everyone knows.
So when Antonio is in true danger, Bassanio suddenly realizes what a man and friend he is and declares he loves him more than Portia. Don't suppose he means it but he is very upset and A is going to die anyway.
At the end, A is all alone on the stage. The others, in couples, have gone indoors. Shylock is shut out of his community, and A is shut out of his. They have more in common than they know….
Yes Antonio was a homosexual. You can't blame in on 14th and 15th century writing. There is clear indication in the text. It is never explained why antonio is sad in the beggining. Well the metchant of venice is a play about love amoung other things. I do not have the text infront of me otherwise I would quote specific lines, But in act 1 scene one when Antonio is first introduced. If you read closely there are numerous homosexual inuendus and hints as to his sexuality, and it dosn't stop there. Throughout the entire play there are hints as to what is going on. This question actually came up in my readings of will class and we examined the evidence. If you still don't believe me I can go through the text and find examples for you, just let me know.
The merchant of Venice