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?