You Want To Do What?!?!

    In act four scene one of “The Merchant of Venice” we see around lines 112, (depending on your books) when Shylock is arguing with everyone over the bond, that Bassanio pleads to Antonio
   “Good cheer, Antonio! What, man, courage yet! The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all, Ere  thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.” 
    These lines immediately stood out the most over any other lines in the act because they just boggled my mind. Why in the world would would Bassanio offer to give Shylock his own flesh, bones, blood, and all over Antonio’s when this whole debt was over him? Not only does Bassanio offer his flesh, but he offers much more than what was due in offering his bones and blood as well. He offers his whole entire being in order to avoid Antonio any pain. By Bassanio offering this to Antonio it makes the whole journey and debt to Shylock a complete waste. After all of the traveling, gifts bought, sacrifice of having children if incorrectly picking a box, winning Portia’s love and other things, Bassanio could just throw it all away does not make any sense to me. It really makes me question Bassanio’s sanity, and his true feelings for Antonio. Could Bassanio really just be head over heals in love with Antonio? It has been discussed several times in class and in others blog posts that there is a strong “bromance” between the two characters. This quote just furthers the theories of the relationship being homoerotic.
    These lines also brought up some questionable motives of Bassanio’s character. The lines had left me wondering why Bassanio really wanted to pursue this journey in the first place. Could this whole journey have all been for the benefits of winning Portia as a wife? This seems plausible since he owed so much money to people already, and that that there was little risk in trying to guess the boxes because he already had nothing to lose. Thinking about it, Bassanio would not have had any chance of getting a wife, and having children if he had chosen incorrectly because he already had nothing to go back to. It is also possible that if  Bassanio had chosen incorrectly that his collectors would have eventually killed him if he did not own up to the money he owed them. I also thought about how I would feel if I were Portia and I knew my newlywed husband just offered his whole self in order for another man to live. I do not know if I would question their relationship entirely, or just think it was a noble act. It would bring up the thought however that I may have just been a pawn in the whole adventure. Could Bassanio really have loved Portia like he said he did if he so quickly would have killed himself and left her? 
    These lines made the character of Bassanio entirely unlikable to know that he could just let everything he went through with Portia and the sacrifice of Antonio’s money go to waste. It is understandable that he just wanted no harm to come to Antonio because of his mistake, but he did also allow Antonio to agree to the bond in the first place. So really Bassanio, what were you thinking when you took the money to woo Portia if you were going to sacrifice yourself in the end?

3 thoughts on “You Want To Do What?!?!

  1. Sam Montagna

    Bassanio is a stranger character. He obviously has no prospects of love or money in the future. All that Bassanio has is Antonio, his best friend in the whole world (or love-interest depending on how one sees it) and his debt. I can understand that Antonio wants to help Bassanio repay his debt to him and others. I think that Antonio's arrogance in repaying the debt has a lot to do with why they took the loan out. Antonio says that there will not be a problem repaying the loan and Bassanio has utter faith in him. I think if there was doubt in repaying the loan, neither of them would have put themselves on the line. I also believe that Bassanio offers himself up instead of Antonio because he knows that Antonio would not let him and that Shylock would not accept Bassanio over Antonio. Shylock wants revenge upon Antonio, not Bassanio, who only by marriage has any money at all.

  2. SamAdler

    I really like how you talked about him having nothing to lose. Bassanio is a ambiguous character who wants only to please Antonio but doesn't know how. He doesn't care for Portia as much as Antonio because he says he'll give up the ring his wife told him not to take off and give it to the lawyer as payment. The whole act is what is right morally vs. what is right lawfully. Shakespeare's lack of clear protagonist leads me to believe all the characters should be scrutinized for their actions. And even though Antonio and Bassiano are the easier to like characters, they selfishness is dumbfounding. So the "Bromance" is a apt driving force behind his whole journey but then, why take the journey in the first place? Why put all these people through this gigantic ordeal in order to make each other happy when in fact they ruin a few lives along the way.

  3. Megan Kalmes

    Nicole, I completely agree with the points that you presented. For Bassanio to offer up his own life in exchange for Antonio’s seems completely ridiculous. As you discussed, the entire purpose of Shylock and Antonio’s bond was to ensure that Bassanio received money that would be used in order to woo Portia. Therefore, for Bassanio to then offer up his own safety in return for Antonio’s life would make the agreement completely pointless. I can definitely see your point of how this action can make the readers question Bassanio’s feelings towards Antonio. Personally, it would take a very special person to convince me to give up my life, and a life with my new spouse!


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