Critics who see the play as a pattern of exchanges and purchases or revolving around the question of bonds fail to address the question about the incommensurability of non-contractual relations with contractual ones. John von Heyking and Richard Avarmenko (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), 53-83; John von Heyking, “’Sunaisthetic’ Friendship and the Foundations of Political Anthropology,” International Political Anthropology 1 (2008), 179-93. Each one of the two is ready to go to any extent to serve and help the other. ANTONIO His companions, Solanio and Salerio, suggest that commerce or love as possible causes of his sadness, but these options are dismissed by Antonio (I.i.41-45, 47). Bassanio replies that he would sacrifice everything he possesses – his life, his wife, and his estate – “Here to this devil [Shylock], to deliver you” (IV.i.286-87). After Bassanio pleads for forgiveness, Antonio speaks in support of his friend and describes what had transpired as a series of commercial transactions: Which but for him that had your husband’s ring. Portia stands poised to be transferred to the winning suitor, the portrait hidden in one of the three caskets that symbolizes her objectification (III.ii.115). As the betrothed of Bassanio, she then offers many times the value of the three thousand ducats to ransom the life of Antonio (III.ii.299-302). Also refer to Isabella Wheater, “Aristotelian Wealth and the Sea of Love: Shakespeare’s Synthesis of Greek Philosophy and Roman Poetry in The Merchant of Venice.”. For more about Aristotle’s account of friendship, refer to Stephen Salkever, “Taking Friendship Seriously: Aristotle on the Place(s) of Philia in Human Life.” In Friendship and Politics: Essays in Political Thought, ed. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. Use up and down arrows to review and enter to select. The Merchant of Venice. Although Portia initially trusts Bassanio with her house, servants, and herself, she later changes the terms of the contract where she becomes both owner and possessor of Bassanio (III.ii.166-67, 170-71). The Ethics appeared in both public and private inventories two or three time more often than the Politics; and On Duties was ubiquitous in English grammar-school classrooms throughout the sixteenth-centuries for instruction in Latin.  Surprisingly critics have failed to see the contractual and commercial language and thinking of Portia. For other themes in the play, refer to Barbara K. Lewalski, “Biblical Allusion and Allegory in The Merchant of Venice.” Shakespeare Quarterly 13 (1962), 327-43; Thomas H. Fujumura, “Mode and Structure in The Merchant of Venice,” PMLA 81 (1966), 449-511; Peter G. Phialas, Shakespeare’s Romantic Comedies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966); Danson Lawrence, The Harmonies of The Merchant of Venice (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978); Isabella Wheater, “Aristotelian Wealth and the Sea of Love: Shakespeare’s Synthesis of Greek Philosophy and Roman Poetry in The Merchant of Venice,” The Review of English Studies, New Series, 44 (1993), 16-36. Had quite miscarried. He is author and editor of several books and also is the editor of VoegelinView (2016-present) and editor of Lexington Books series Politics, Literature, and Film (2013-present). This inversion of the usual situation, which the husband typically imposes fidelity on the wife, is not only a demonstration of feminism but a form of feminism that conceives and explains the non-contractual relationship of marriage in contractual terms. Bassanio told him he would make some speed Of his return. When Bassanio, a young nobleman whose generous habits have eaten up his inheritance, enters the scene, there is not one word about Antonio’s countenance exchanged between them.  If an exception were made in this case, Shylock correctly asks why should the Duke not break other contracts, such as the purchasing of slaves (IV.i.89-103; 38-39)? David Seipp, “The Concept of Property in Early Common Law,” Law and History Review 12 (1994), 29-91; Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1993); B. J. Sokol and Mary Sokol. Every offence is not a hate at first. Because of its commercial ambitions, Venice makes meaningful relationships more difficult.  Aristotle. However, Bassanio’s correct choice of the lead casket ends up exacerbating rather than diminishing the problem of importing contractual relations into the marital world. Although Antonio aspires for perfect friendship, he was not able to achieve it because his companions, including Bassanio, behave out of self-interest, utility, and profit rather than out of moral values like virtue. He assures Bassanio that âMy purse, my person, my extremest means / Lie all unlocked to your occasionsâ. Bassanio protests until Antonio suggests it is fair to give him the ring: âLet his deservings and my love withal / Be valued against your wife's commandment.â When Portia finally relents and returns Bassanio his ring, she gives it first to Antonio who in turn gives it back to Bassanio, thus renewing her wedding vow with Bassanio on the collateral of her husband’s friendship with Antonio. Despite not knowing each other very well, Portia’s expressions prove that love can come quickly and unexpectedly. Answer: What Antonio and Bassanioâs relationship reveal about their characters Bassanio and Antonioâs friendship is a vital piece to the foundation of the entire play, The Merchant of Venice. A. Bryant, Jr. “’The Merchant of Venice’ and the Common Flaw (For C.T.H. Available at http://theater2.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/theater/reviews/01merchant.html?n=Top/Reference/Times Topics/Subjects/T/Theater&_r=0moc.semityn.2retaeht&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1348624665-6C3Joxzn81A7UMTrD+CmkA; Stephen Greenblatt, “Shakespeare & Shylock,” The New York Review of Books, September 30, 2010. Bassanio can only offer his blood as collateral to ratify the nuptial bonds between him and Portia. Bassanio tells Antonio, In Belmont is a lady richly left, And she is fair andâfairer than that wordâOf wondrous virtues. But after his life is spared, Antonio continues to perceive the world in contractual and commercial terms. Values incommensurate with contract must either be re-conceptualized in contractual terms to be successful or face failure in a world governed by self-interest, utility, and profit. Under this new condition, Shylock cannot fulfill his end of the contract and consequently will suffer the penalties for it.  As a successful model of a mixed constitution, Venice had developed an elaborate system of governance to reduce the influence of fraction and enjoyed an economic prosperity that appeared to follow from its political organization. Both Bassanio and Portia’s father conflate Portia’s persona with the estate of Belmont in their desire to count her as property over which to have exclusive dominion. IV,1,2000. Quotes Bassanio Quotes 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio, How much I have disabled mine estate, By something showing a more swelling port Than my faint means would grant continuance. Although Bassanio initially resist Balthazar’s request for the wedding ring, he eventually confers it to Balthazar after Antonio’s urging (IV.i.452-54). Whether Bassanio had not once a love (IV.i.273-77). IV,1,2016. Unlike the Duke’s plead for mercy, which is based on utilitarian concerns, i.e., a potential loss of profit, Balthazar’s entreaty is rooted in values that are religious and moral (IV.i.17-33; 184-205). Antonio and BassanioAntonio, the protagonist of the story, is extremely good friends with Bassanio. This trial requires suitors to solve a riddle that filters out those who want to marry Portia for the wrong reasons. In connection with mercy and generosity, The Merchant of Venice also explores love and friendship between its characters. The merchant of …  For more about a feminist interpretation of the play, refer to the critics listed in the first, nineteenth, and twenty-third endnotes. Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), 1156b8-19. Antonio pledges his life to Bassanio, as one would in oneâs wedding vows. Janet Spens, An Essay on Shakespeare’s Relation to Tradition (Oxford: B. H. Blackwell, 1916), 45; John Middleton Murray, Shakespeare (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1936), 155; Bernard Grebarnier, The Truth about Shylock (New York: Random House, 1962), 215-19. Bassanio’s sexuality can be examined and scrutinized despite his seemingly heteronormative actions and intentions. In revenge to Bassanio for relinquishing his wedding ring to Balthazar, Portia promises him that she will be as liberal with their marriage bed as he was with his wedding ring (V.i.223-29).  For critics who see Shylock as the pivotal figure in the play, refer to John W. Draper, “Usury in The Merchant of Venice,” Modern Philology 33 (1935), 37-47; E.C. Portia explains that she has never regretted doing a good deed, and likewise the cost in money and time to save Antonio represents a small price to pay to help her husband’s friend. After sparing Antonio’s life, Balthazar mischievously demands Bassanio’s wedding ring as the wage for this service, thus transforming Antonio’s pound of flesh into Portia’s ring (IV.i.426-28). Antonio never names the cause of his melancholy, but the evidence seems to point to his being in love, despite his denial of this idea in Act I, scene i. Culture Education Philosophy Politics Voegelin, Biography Collected Works Excerpts Voegelin Audio Voegelin Videos Resources, About VoegelinView Announcements Archive Forthcoming Submissions Staff Donate, Rousseau and Kant’s Competing Interpretations of the Enlightenment, Jonathan Edwards and the Re-Enchantment of the Saeculum: The Puritan and Edwardsian Roots of the Idea of Social Progress, The Fall of Soul from Plotinus to Augustine, The Anabasis of Michel Serres: Hermes-Trickster Knowledge and the Ambivalences of Modern Communication Technology. By contrast, Portia and Bassanio re-pledge themselves to each other, with using Antonio’s friendship with Bassanio as collateral, and seem to be headed towards future happiness. IV,1,2044. There is no evidence in the play, particularly in the final act, that Bassanio has actually learned the value of marriage, or even friendship, on moral grounds; or, that he knows their value but lacks the social tools to participate in a meaningful relationship. By tempering justice, mercy blesses both the giver and receiver of the contract, thereby making both participants divine-like. Are all types of love presented as equally realistic? It also requires a type of equality of exchange, for friends receive and wish the same thing from and for each other (1158b1-2). An examination of this marriage will show how contractual Belmont leads both characters to think and act out of self-interest.. Shakespeare suggests that marriage is superior to friendship because of its procreative aspect.  C. L. Barber, “The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Merchant of Venice, ed. Antonio aspires for this type of friendship but, given his commercial soul, he does not know how to achieve it because of his trade, training, and dwelling. Antonio is also melodramatic throughout the play, and his despair only worsens after he supposedly loses his ships. Antonio instead inquires about Bassanio’s secret pilgrimage, revealing that Antonio was waiting to receive Bassanio because the latter had made it known that once again Antonio’s assistance is needed (I.i.119-21). In other words, Portia presents herself as type of investment that appreciates value over time and can be redeemed at some point in the future. The cause of Antonio’s sadness has befuddled critics, who have offered several explanations about the cause of his sadness from suppressed homoerotic feelings for Bassanio to a Christ-like pursuit of spiritual perfection. The Christian commandment of loving thy neighbor appears to have failed as a political principle to organize the city: commerce, contract, and profit have provided the path to stability, cooperation, and toleration.  It is important to note, particularly for the next section of this article, that by Shakespeare’s time, the notion that a woman could be owed by her father or husband was being challenged.  Harp makes a comparison of risk-taking in business and love, but he does not explore the origins or how these parallel activities are related in the play, while Sharp believes that gift-giving rather than contractual consent is the dominant relationship among the characters, thereby severing the connection between non-contractual and contractual relations. He is a successful merchant who takes calculated risks, such as spreading his fortune into three different ventures at sea and whose appetites usually do not outstrip his resources (I.i.177; I.iii.61-64, 156-59; III.ii.266-71). Since he hath got the jewel that I loved. And for those scholars who either historically contextualize or draw interesting parallels between the play and contemporary economics, they overlook how the play charts the moral, social, and political implications of a politics where its public sphere is the domain of calculation, commerce, and contract.  I would like to thank referees, Richard Avramenko, Brianne Walsh, and the University of Wisconsin Political Theory workshop for their criticism of this article. Antonio shows the greatest respect and self-sacrifice towards his friend, Bassanio, when he shows that he is prepared to sacrifice his own life in order to make Bassanioâs dreams happen. What kinds of love are there in the play? Portia, in turn, replies back in the language of commerce and contract that Antonio shall be Bassanio’s “surety” – the person who assume the debts of another – in Bassanio’s and Portia’s new pledge of marriage. This “note” is the bond that must be “confirm’d, sign’d, ratified” by Portia, the person who will provide him the necessary funds (III.ii.148).  It is not unreasonable to assume that some ethical presuppositions that informed the late Elizabethan period had roots in classical Greek and Roman philosophies. To regain his fortune, he is determined to marry Portia, a wealthy, intelligent heiress of Belmont.In order to ask for her hand in marriage, Bassanio and his best friend, Antonio enter into an agreement with the usurer Shylock. IV,1,2056. Once freed from her father’s restraint, Jessica and Lorenzo spend their stolen wealth with carelessness, even trading the “turquoise,” which symbolizes the betrothal of her father and mother, for a monkey (III.i.118-23). With contractual relations undergirding the city, Belmont possesses the same advantages as Venice with its welcoming of foreigners to woe for Portia’s hand: Frenchmen, Moroccans, Spaniards, Germans, English (I.ii.39-105; II.vii, ix). The material merely symbolizes the moral significance of friendship and is not, as Antonio wrongly thinks, the substitution of it. Good cheer, Antonio! Clearly Antonio’s actions are not rational, which is surprising, since he is a successful merchant that requires one to calculate risk correctly. The contract is fulfilled as guided by Portia’s song to a conclusion that both Portia and Bassanio desire. The Merchant of Venice opens with Antonio’s speech about his own sadness, with the explanation of it escaping him: But how I caught it, found it, or came by it. Trevor-Roper, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, ed. Though Portia and Antonio love one another for Bassanio’s sake, there is some unspoken, possibly unconscious, competition between the two. Leo Salinger, Shakespeare and the Tradition of Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), 298-317; Norman Rabkin, “Meaning and The Merchant of Venice.” In Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 1-32; David N. Beauregard, “Sidney, Aristotle, and The Merchant of Venice: Shakespeare’s Triadic Image of Liberty and Justice,” Shakespeare Studies 20 (1988), 33-48; Derek Cohen, Shakespeare’s Motives (London: Macmillan, 1988); John Lyon, The Merchant of Venice (Boston: Twayne, 1988). In response to Bassanio’s victory, Portia sets about the task of assessing her worth: A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich, I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends. âMy extremest means lie all unlocked to your occasionsâ. , Bassanio similarly perceives their relationship in contractual terms of debts and credits, as he correctly has identified the “gentle scroll” to “come by note, to give and to receive” (III.ii.139-140). Finally, there are commentators who believe there is no coherent plot or theme in the play. Antonio ends the play as happily as he can, restored to wealth even if not delivered into love. Portia interprets that right as a right of possession over her property and person as symbolized by the wedding which she gives to her new husband. The fact that Bassanio fails to understand this, or is unable to act upon this when it conflicts with friendship, reveals his contractual thinking about relationships: friendship and marriage are commensurable goods that can be exchanged as circumstances permit. This moral deterioration is most evident in the marital relationship between Bassanio and Portia, with especially the latter relinquishing his wedding ring so easily. She describes how her feelings of love overpower negative feelings like jealousy or fear. The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all,... 52. To love a friend is, in the best sense, to love “one’s other self” and thus be able to participate in the perfect economy of both sentiment and virtue. But because of his inexperience in this realm, Antonio’s attempts of forming a non-contractual friendship with Bassanio fails because he mistakes the material for the moral. For republicanism in Shakespeare’s own work, refer to Andrew Hadfield, “Shakespeare and Republicanism: History and Cultural Materialism.” Textual Practice 17 (2003), 461-83; Shakespeare and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Julia Reinhard Lupton, Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 75-101. , than what the law had admitted substitution of it chief care of Bassanio is a Professor of Political at! Riping of the two is ready to go to any extent to serve and help the other contract of.... A choice to honor the bond with her father ; but unlike Portia, this is! 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