A theme that stood out in this story was friendship. In Shakespeare’s comedies it is known that at the end of a comedy the lovers end up together and happy, but what seems to be standing in the shadow of the lovers is the friendships.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the end all of the couples end up together and get married and live happily ever after, but it is not just them who end up happy with other people. The craftsmen who were the friends that put on the play with in a play end up all happy together because their play goes successfully. Even though that seems to be a given in the story that the people who are friends end up happy and together, but in the play, A Merchant of Venice, the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio was a relationship that was more highlighted and interesting to see unfold in my eyes then the lovers.
In the beginning of the story the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is established and built upon when Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan to try to go and marry Portia. Even though Antonio is not in the position to lend money because he is involved in a tricky business investment, that is sailing on the ocean as they speak, he agrees to help his friend out anyway. As money and terms of the loan are negotiated to Shylock, Antonio even agrees to offer a pound of his flesh if the debt is not paid. This shocks Bassanio.
“You shall not seal to such a bond for me!
I’ll rather dwell in my necessity.” (Act 1, scene 3)
Although, Bassanio insists to his friend not to make that deal Antonio goes along with it anyway. Antonio was willing to do so much for Bassanio. The love for each other at times reminded me of lovers, but then again male friendship in early modern times seemed to have different expectations then modern friendships. These men were willing to fight and die for each other.
“Antonio, I am married to a wife
Which is as dear to me as life itself,
But life itself, my wife, and all the world,
Are not with me esteemed above thy life.
I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all
Here to this devil, to deliver you.” (Act 4, scene 1)
This quote from Bassanio is following the court scene and when Portia who is disguised as a man, and lawyer, is trying to persuade Bassanio to give up the ring to her as payment for her help. She is testing him because it is the ring Portia said if he ever took off it would not allow him have her as his lover anymore. In this quote the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio is seen. Bassanio says that he loves his wife and the world he lives in, but he would never put those loves above the love he has for Antonio.
In conclusion, the relationship between Bassanio and Antonio as friends was more talked about then most friendships in other Shakespeare plays. The duty and love to friends is shown in other plays, but with this one it seemed to be highlighted and very potent. At times these two men seemed like the “lovers.” In the end friendship was very important to these two men and together they stayed alive and it was a happy ending for them all.
– Maddie Poeta