Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Mutual dictation: Antonio’s character

Antonio is the merchant of the title and the events of the play revolve around his actions (including the ring plot as he persuades Bassanio to give his ring away).

In the beginning, Antonio is portrayed as someone who is depressed and sad:

"In sooth I know not why I am so sad
It wearies me, you say it wearies you;"
(Act I, scene i, lines 1-2).

Later he is unable to help himself and acts passively when Shylock threatens to take his life. He seems resigned to his fate. Melancholy seems to be his dominant trait. 

As a merchant, his money is all at sea and his ships are vulnerable. This is not the cause of his sadness, however, as he tells Salerio and Solanio. His love for Bassanio is the only thing that sustains him and he is prepared to give everything for him (his money and his life). This noble, generous friendship acts as the complete opposite to Shylock and his grasping love of money. 

Antonio rails against Shylock in Act 1 scene iii. He calls him a "devil" and a "villain with a smiling cheek". He openly spits at Shylock and spurns his trade of usury. At the end of the play, however, Antonio refuses to profit from Shylock's misfortune. He makes Shylock convert to Christianity in order to save his soul and makes him give his money to Lorenzo and Jessica on his death. He forces Shylock to think of others. 

Overall, Antonio is a troublesome character because of his feelings for Bassanio and his anti-Semitism. He may love Bassanio as a friend or as an unrequited lover.

"Pray God Bassanio come
To see me pay his debt, and then I care not."
(Act III, scene iii, lines 35-36).

Published on: 10 Dec 2010