Merchant of Venice

Winning Bassanio

Among the many and varied plotlines interwoven throughout Shakespeare’s comedy, The Merchant of Venice, the story of Bassanio’s rivalled affections for his friend Antonio and for his eventual wife Portia is one of the more significant. Bassanio begins in the story firmly in the affections and influence of his friend, Antonio, the Venetian merchant who seems to overshadow all the action done in the play. His wooing of Portia is no more than an attempt to gain her wealth and he does not intend or desire to fall in love with her. This makes the story all the more fascinating as Shakespeare shows the subtle shift in Bassanio’s affections from Antonio to his wife and the competition between the two as they attempt to gain, maintain, or reestablish his love. Antonio is firmly in control of Bassanio at the beginning of the play, but Portia triumphs in the end and wins her husband’s devotion.

Antonio is the first main character to be introduced. He is portrayed as more serious and morose than his companions: “He seems to be older than the friends who surround him, and detached from their thoughtless extravagance” (Muir 36). He only seems to cheer up when Bassanio appears. Antonio establishes himself as the most important figure in the...

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