Character Analysis of the Main Characters in The Merchant of Venice Essay

Submitted By alihussain9
Words: 1101
Pages: 5

Ali Hussain
English 11
February 6, 2011
Character Analysis of The Merchant of Venice What is character? Character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual and can be determined from what a person says, does or what others think of him or her. In the play The Merchant of Venice Antonio’s generosity, caring attitude and cruelty to Jew’s, Bassanio’s friendliness and good reputation, Portia’s thoughtfulness and Shylock’s manipulative nature along with generosity are understood by their actions, words and reputations in Act 1. Antonio is the merchant of Venice and according to his actions and words he is a caring and generous person. Even though he has invested a lot in his boats that are going to different places in the world he agrees to help Bassanio out. Bassanio wanted to borrow some money from Antonio because he had fallen in love with Portia and he agreed to it. Bassanio had borrowed money from Antonio before and not paid pack but still Antonio was willing to help him. Along with Antonio being a caring friend there is also a dark side to him. The lines, “misbeliever, cut-throat, dog / And spit upon [his] Jewish gaberdine” (I.iii.107–108) tell us that Antonio can also be quite cruel at times. These lines express his hatred towards Shylock and to Jewish people, in general. Shylock also says this earlier in scene 3 “But more for that in low simplicity/ He lends out money gratis and brings down/ The rate of usance here with us in Venice.” (I.iii.35-37) This provides us with some more insight into Antonio’s character and how he does not take interest in his loans, which expands his generosity. Bassanio is one of Antonio’s good friends but I feel that Bassanio takes advantage of Antonio when it comes to money. He knows that Antonio cares for him so he manipulates him. Even in the past Bassanio has borrowed money from Antonio and not paid him back but he still asks for more. This shows that he is unorganized and careless when it comes to handling money and his affairs. He never seems to save up on his own. The reason he wants to borrow money is so that he can show Portia that he is wealthy like the other suitors. He wants to be someone who he is not. When Antonio makes the deal with Shylock about giving up a pound of his own flesh if he does not repay the loan Bassanio warns him about making such a risky deal. A good friend would never let his friend make that deal because of the risk of Antonio’s investments not coming through and he would be left with no money to pay Shylock. This makes me doubt the strength of their relationship. We learn from Portia’s statement, “I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of/ thy praise,” (I. ii. 108-109) that Bassanio is a noble man, worthy of marrying Portia and has a good reputation. Portia ridiculed all the other men who wanted to marry her except Bassanio. In Scene 3 we see Bassanio’s friendly side when he invites Shylock to dine with Antonio and him. Even though Shylock refuses, the gesture reveals Bassionio’s character. Many men want to marry Portia but she does not find any of them appealing. Her father had passed away and he had decided that whoever wanted to marry his daughter would have to pick from three boxes. Whoever picked the right box with her portrait in it would marry her but if you picked the wrong box you could never marry any other woman. All of the suitors were too scared to pick a box because of the consequences of picking the wrong one. You have to give her credit though for following what her father has said because she has to marry the man who chooses the right box. She is a respectful and caring person for fulfilling her father’s wishes even though he is no longer alive and it is not what she wants. It is clear that she is frustrated and conflicted when she says, “O me, the word “choose!” I may neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I dislike—so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of