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Write your impression on 3 of the characters (Antonio, Bassanio and Shylock) based on Act 1 and Act 2.

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Introduction

Tan Ye Li Felicia (29) Sec 2sy Write your impression on 3 of the characters (Antonio, Bassanio and Shylock) based on Act 1 and Act 2. "The Merchant of Venice" is a Shakespeare play about Bassanio, an ambitious young man of Venice, asking his friend Antonio, a merchant of Venice, for a loan in order to enable him to woo Portia, a rich heiress in style. Antonio approach Shylock, a Jewish money-lender, who agrees to the loan only if Antonio undertakes to give him a pound of his flesh if he is unable to repay the money. Each character plays an important role in bringing out the various themes of the play. Antonio's opening lines "In sooth I know not why I am so sad./ It wearies me; You say it wearies you--/ But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,/What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,/ I am to learn" immediately gives me an idea that he is a sober, serious and rather somber character. Antonio is a very successful businessman and extremely rich compared to the other merchants. "Or as it were the pageants of the sea/ Do overpeer the petty traffickers/ That curtsy to them." Although he is rich, he lacks any interest in women and has no serious relationship with any. His frequent travel as a career-minded merchant does not help. On the other hand, his friendship with Bassinio was intense and probably is the only close relationship of his busy life. His other relationships are those of a leading businessman with his trade acquaintances and hangers-on. Beside from Bassinio, Antonio seems to be leading an isolated and solitary life. Antonio's friendship for Bassanio is noble, self-sacrificing, generous and brave. He even gave Bassanio permission to borrow money from anyone, on credit for friendship's sake. "My purse, my person, my extremest means/ lie all unlocked to your occasions". ...read more.

Middle

His latent racialism comes out into the open. Our impression of this unpleasant side of Antonio is reinforced by Shylock's account of Antonio's previous barbarous treatment of him. Antonio scolded and insulted Shylock in front of all the merchants in Rialto, called Shylock 'misbeliever', 'cut-throat dog' and even spit upon Shylock's "Jewish gaberdine". Although Antonio -The Merchant of Venice- does not appear much in the play, he is certainly an important and prominent character in the play. He strongly portrayed the nobility of friendship as well as Christian's prejudice against the Jews, two of the most important themes in the play. Bassanio is a completely different character from Antonio. His opening lines portray him as a cheerful, fun-loving chap. He is very materialistic and as a result, is in great debts. He "disabled mine estate/By something showing a more swelling port". He lives above his means but is frank and self-critical to admit that he is a spendthrift. As soon as he gets the money he needs, he busily organizes another expensive evening's entertainment for himself and his friends! His extravagance is again shown when he spends a lot of money on his servants' uniform. Bassanio rash character can be seen from the way he agrees to help ("You have obtained it") immediately when Gratiano "have suit" to him, without knowing what is the favour. He is self-centered as well. Being such a good friend of Antonio, he fails to realize that Antonio "look not well", whereas Gratiano managed to observe that. However, to view him as a shallow, mercenary socialite is not only unfair but also inappropriate given both his role and the general atmosphere of the play. Bassanio has many positive qualities: in many respects he is a typical romantic hero who is chivalrous and gallant. Although part of Bassanio's motive for wooing Portia is to pay off his debts, we cannot doubt the fact that Bassanio is romantic and affectionate towards Portia. ...read more.

Conclusion

A ruthless and hard-hearted man, Shylock hates deeply and is unforgiving. He hates Antonio so much that "cursed be my tribe if I forgive him!" Therefore, we can see that prejudice is mutual-"I hate him for he is a Christian." Shylock's devious, vengeful nature is best demonstrated in the way in which he cunningly entraps Antonio to 'feed his revenge'. He likes the idea of "Antonio shall become bound-well", and hypocritically, he told Antonio "I would be friends with you and have your love, of usance for my moneys, and you'll not hear me. This is kind I offer." Antonio was tricked to sign the ill-considered bond as a result. Generally, Shylock is a vindictive, wicked and evil man. He is so cruel that he wants Antonio "of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken"; he wants a person's life. His hunger for Antonio's flesh can again be shown in his speech after Antonio agreed to "seal unto this bond"-"Then meet me forthwith at the notary's." Shylock really wants to profit from Antonio death as he will be able to charge higher rates of interest when Antonio can no longer undercuts him. In conclusion, Shylock is an "alien" in Christian society-a social outcast treated with scorn and devision, insulted for his meanness, cruelty and vindictiveness. This could explain his cynicism, spitefulness and obsession with money-he feels insecure, embattled and embittered. On top of that, Shylock is also vehemently anti-Christian. Hence, we see that prejudice breeds prejudice. Generally, the three of them have very different characteristics but share one thing in common - prejudice. Both Antonio and Bassanio are loyal friends and Antonio "only loves the world for him" (Bassanio). On the other hand, essentially audience sympathy is turned away from Shylock by his hatred of Antonio (to the extent of murder) and his ruthless pursuit of profit, but his eloquent description of Antonio's abusive language and behaviour redresses the balance a little in his favour. Nevertheless, "The Merchant of Venice" is an interesting play with a rich plot. ...read more.

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