• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of Antonio in 'The Merchant of Venice'

Extracts from this document...


English Essay Merchant of Venice Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of Antonio in 'The Merchant of Venice'. Shakespeare's portrayal of Antonio in 'The Merchant of Venice' is decidedly open to interpretation, as his melancholic nature is revealed at the start of the play and foreshadows his later bad luck, but a specific reasoning behind it is never given. For an Elizabethan audience, Antonio provides the perfect Christian protagonist to Shylock's evil Jewish antagonist, although our modern reception of him is much more diverse and as such provides the audience with a greater sense of suspense concerning his fate, and enigma surrounding his personality. Arguably this was Shakespeare's intention as Antonio is perceived as being the eponymous merchant and much of the play revolves around his plight, yet he appears in very few scenes himself, and the only real idea we have of him is that portrayed by his admirers (friends and fellow Christians) and his rivals (Shylock); the audience is left to question his integrity. The Italian setting for the play seems typical of Shakespearian romantic-comedies, yet the inclusion of the bitter feud between the Christian and the Jew interrupts the course of love, elevating the dramatic impact of the play and making it more of a tragedy. ...read more.


This contrast of these two characters is considered throughout the play as an extended metaphor. The ambiguity of which is the more likeable may even have reached a headstrong Elizabethan audience as Shylock's characterisation changes so rapidly, perhaps as a result of his years of torment at the hands of "fawning publicans". This description of Antonio, whilst maintaining his decent and virtuous image, provides deeper insight into his character and hints at his un-Christian behaviour at the trial scene when he receives no mercy in consequence of his "rendering none". Shylock's vicious and gleeful urges of Antonio to "look to his bond" as rumours about his ships reach Venice paint him as an equally foul character, willing to go to extreme lengths to keep his pride intact; he "will have the law". His speeches rarely veer into poetic imagery as the Christian characters have a tendency to do; his sentences remain short and sharp, emphasising his physical and mental isolation from the other characters who "rate" him. At times he seems to spit out his words, especially insults of "cut-throat dog" and bitter and sardonic responses to his cruel down-sizing: "nay, take my life, pardon not that!" ...read more.


The main issue in modern society however, lies with the cruel and vicious subjugation of the Jew and his compatriots (even "gentle" Jessica finds it difficult interacting with the Christians even after her conversion) and Antonio's reasons for this deep-seated hatred. Shakespeare is purposefully vague in his presentation of the argument as whilst the Christian success is a prerequisite to satisfy an Elizabethan audience, he emphasises the humanistic side of Shylock so that we do not view him as a one-dimensional gaudy villain, but a complete human being with "organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions" just like everyone else. Antonio provides the perfect foil to this debate and as such performs a crucial role in the play. Whether viewed as a "moral and upright" Christian, or a hedonistic, lonely man "grow[ing] exceedingly strange", Antonio is certainly an intriguing dramatic device used to explore the importance of friendship and mercy; he legitimises his place in Venice at the play's conclusion and ensures that he will live a "content" life, but not without destroying Shylock's happiness first. He maintains an eerie presence which resonates throughout the play, subtly influencing the actions of others; Shakespeare's presentation of him is purposefully vague so that we make up our own minds about him. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. What is your assessment of the presentation of the character and role of Shylock ...

    But of what use is a pound of flesh? Surely Shylock is attempting to be amiable here but it is more submissive than friendly, as he is trying not to cause any more trouble. This leads to an excellent example of Antonio's attitude to Shylock, with the pun on the words "gentle Jew".

  2. Villain or victim? Discuss Shakespeares presentation of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

    The wish of his daughter's death emphasises just how bitter and twisted Shylock actually is. 'The ducats in her coffin.' This shows that Shylock doesn't really care for anything or anyone else in his life apart from himself, his money and getting revenge on Antonio.

  1. Free essay

    Belmont is a place of youth, happiness and concord, Venice a place of age, ...

    This mirrors the realism of the male domination in the Elizabethan times and it gives something for the audience to relate too. The only factor, that causes all the apparent strife and melancholy in Belmont, is one of love, not money.

  2. English - Merchant of Vencice

    Instead he uses this opportunity to show just how blood thirsty Shylock is. Tubal says to Shylock that he has traced Jessica to Genoa, where he has heard news of her but could not find her. Shylock again moans about his losses, especially about his diamonds and ducats.

  1. Merchant Of Venice - Shakespeare(TM)s presentation of Shylock

    I get the impression he doesn't really like having friends as when he goes out it is only usually on business, and he only talks to people when dealing financially with them. Shylock doesn't seem to be popular or have any friends and I think he likes to keep it

  2. to what extent can the Merchant of Venice be seen as a fairytale

    Shylock as a father is another way in which Shakespeare portrays him as a villain, because he is more concerned about gaining more wealth to be an attentive father and he sees Jessica more as a possession than a person.

  1. I will aim to explore how Shakespeare has expressed the feud between Shylock and ...

    The man is not withstanding sufficient." These feelings towards Antonio and his Christian friends are made more hostile when Shylock is invited by Bassanio to come and dine with them as Shylock replies "Yes, to smell pork, to eat the habitation which your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into.

  2. How would a modern audience respond to Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice'

    So before he died he got three caskets- gold, sliver and lead. Only one of them had a picture of Portia in it. The gold casket had a skull with a written scroll, the sliver casket had a blinking idiot and the lead casket had Portia's picture in it.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work