Bassanio's love life is the first thing Antonio brings up with Bassanio when they're alone together in the play. Maybe he's just one of those guys who likes to. Free Essay: The Homosexual Relationship Between Antonio and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Tsun-Hsien Tsai. Antonio belongs in the money hungry, merchant world of Venice, as his title suggests, and his changing relationship with Bassanio makes this point clearer.
It is obvious throughout the play that Antonio and Bassanio have a great affection for one another. Antonio is willing to lend money to Bassanio even though he is likely to squander it on his lavish lifestyle. The theme of love as an economy runs throughout the play. Here the word love, rarely used in the erotic form in writing of the period, does not seem to suggest any homosexuality between the men.
There are, however, suggestions throughout the play that the love between them may be slightly deeper than it first seems. It is notable here that Bassanio does not leave of his own accord. He is certainly not the hero who valiantly goes to rescue his friend.
It seems from the text that Bassanio is free of any homosexual desire. This unequal love is implied by the fact that Antonio is willing to give up his life for his friend and yet Bassanio is willing to see him die for the financial bond. There is something exploitative in him allowing Antonio to guarantee the contract with his life.
He has childlike ideals of money and he seems somewhat controlled, even by Portia. It is, however, biased to import sexuality onto characters when there is little textual evidence to support the claim.
What does Antonio and Bassanio’s friendship reveal about their characters?
When we look at a relationship such as that of Antonio and Sebastian in Twelfth Night where the insinuation of homosexual desire is far more evident from the text alone it suggests that people often look for themes in a text which are only tenuously suggested and build an argument around them. Some critics have suggested homosexual feelings between Iago and Othello, Hamlet and Horatio and other such characters, based on the fact that they remain ladyless at the end of the play.
I feel that it is dangerous to make assertions to suit our own point of view when there is no explicit evidence within the play itself. Although the physical elements of love are not discussed by Antonio in The Merchant of Venice his actions make clear his feelings for Bassanio.
One of the main themes of the play is trade and usury. This can be seen in the interaction of the male characters. The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio reflects the economy of the play. Bassanio exploits Antonio and, to a certain extent, Portia by constantly borrowing money. Venice is the background for all the trade in the play and as such is a very male dominated area. It is here that Bassanio tells Antonio that his friendship means more than anything, including Portia.
Belmont is set in opposition to Venice, with the feminine power of Portia and Nerissa. Belmont uses the language of love and desire, whereas Venice uses the language of trade. It is no surprise, therefore, that we only see Shylock in Venice. He certainly does not fit in with the romantic imagery of Belmont. He is the biggest threat to happiness in the play. We can see this in his pound of flesh speech. Could it possibly be a strange combination of the two where Bassanio was the younger son but there was not even an inheritance to give the older son.
Bassanio becomes determined to go to Belmont to win her, but he needs money to do this. To this debate, there are three main stands.
The first is that the relationship is a homosocial one, the second that it is merely friendship, and the third is that Bassanio and Antonio are, in fact, family. To understand the homosocial stand, one must first understand what the term homosocial means.
The Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 1 – Bassanio and Antonio’s Relationship
A homosocial relationship is very much like a homosexual relationship, however, the parties involved are not sleeping with each other, therefore the relationship is not homosexual. The stand that they are just friends is perhaps the weakest of the three, as there is little evidence that cannot be refuted on that issue. The third, that they may in fact be kin, is also something of a strong argument, as the play states that the pair are kin. How does one know that the relationship is not homosexual, but homosocial?
The playgoer knows that the relationship is most likely not homosexual because there are no references to Antonio or Bassanio being suspected of sleeping together, or that either of them has been labeled homosexual.
The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio may be homosocial, and support for this stand comes from the actions of both Antonio and Bassanio.
Antonio lends Bassanio 3, ducats and puts his own life at risk so Bassanio can pay his debts and go to Belmont. Three thousand ducats was a large sum of money during that age, and the penalty for failing to pay it would be even harsher.
Shylock, whom they borrowed the money from, demanded a pound of flesh from Antonio if he failed to repay the money. Antonio willingly agrees to these terms, and Bassanio heads off to Belmont to woo Portia. After Bassanio has left, Antonio becomes somewhat upset, almost as if he misses his friend more than he should.
Antonio cannot pay these debts because his ships have wrecked, costing him much of his money. Bassanio learns this and leaves Belmont to return to Venice in the hopes that he might save Antonio. He could have just sent Shylock 3, ducats to pay the debt, as Bassanio would now have the means to do so. Also supporting the homosocial argument is the issue of the ring. Portia gives Bassanio a ring before he leaves Belmont.
Kinsmen or "Cousins"
She tells him that the ring symbolizes all the love she has for him and that he should never give it up, for if he does, he has forsaken her for another. In this age, unlike modern times, the man usually gave the woman a ring, but not vice versa.
Portia giving Bassanio the ring is more a symbol of her dominance in the relationship, but it becomes important to the argument for a homosocial relationship between Antonio and Bassanio.
Bassanio left Belmont for the purpose of saving Antonio, but his efforts seem futile. In this act, Portia also hands Antonio his revenge on Shylock, whom she proves has planned the death of Antonio. Portia declines the money, but demands the ring she gave to Bassanio. Bassanio at first refuses to give up the ring, but Antonio convinces him to give it up.
Playgoers must ask themselves the question: Does he love Portia at all? These are the questions raised by the incident with the ring. One also wonders if Antonio is jealous of Portia. One must wonder, however, if the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is just friendship. The pair seem to roam within the same social circles and have many of the same friends.
Further, if the relationship was homosocial, would Bassanio have married Portia in the first place? By his marriage, Bassanio cuts off any chance of his relationship with Antonio growing into the realm of the sexual. The few things that refute this argument are the same things that lend themselves to a homosocial relationship between Bassanio and Antonio.
There is, however, one last argument, and its roots are in an anomaly.