Free Essay: The Homosexual Relationship Between Antonio and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Tsun-Hsien Tsai. Antonio and Bassanio are the closest of friends, and it is their relationship in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice that provides the foundation of the. It is clear that there is a relationship of trust between the two men because Bassanio approaches Antonio to ask him for a huge loan so that he may visit Belmont.
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. To Shylock money is the only important thing as a merchant.
This perhaps sheds light on the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. Hyman makes an interesting point about the monetary bond between the men.
In doing so she prevents the spectacle of Antonio dying for his homoerotic desire, and secures her position as unrivalled wife.
The difference in the relationship is obvious on their return to Belmont. I dare be bound again, My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord Will never more break faith advisedly. Antonio belongs in the money hungry, merchant world of Venice, as his title suggests, and his changing relationship with Bassanio makes this point clearer.
What does Antonio and Bassanio’s friendship reveal about their characters?
Although the male relationships within the play are the most crucial it is obvious that Portia is a very strong character. She understands the submissive role of a woman in Elizabethan society and gains her strength from dressing as a man to intervene in the court scene.
It is Portia who decides the outcome of all the characters through the power of disguise. She is used to having some power in Belmont and knows how to manipulate the men in Venice. The ring trick ensures that she wins Bassanio from Antonio, despite the fact that initially Antonio removes Bassanio of his physical pledge of love to Portia by convincing him to hand over the ring. Although she has to assume a male guise in order to gain the power, it is only because she is aware of the social confines of her sex within a patriarchal society.
It is clear that Shakespeare challenged the boundaries of gender with his powerful female characters. This is partly due to the fact that most of the action takes place in the male dominated realm of Venice, but also due to the cross dressing of Portia and Nerissa for their most important roles in the play. Antonio comes across and has often been staged as a father figure to the other characters as he is always serious when the other men are quipping and playing on words, even the women do this in the ring scene where they joke bawdily about their men giving their rings to other men.
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. 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.
Kinsmen or "Cousins"
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. 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.
Antonio is already more than willing to lend him. Antonio knows that his friend needs the money and clearly tells the Jew that had it not been so, he would have treated him just as he always does.
This shows his stubbornness and proves that at his heart Antonio is innocent and a little childish.
Had it not been so, he would have been able to avoid the trap Shylock had set. This is just to show that he is doing all this for his friend and he would not like to see him disappointed.
All of this shows that the two friends love and trust each other deeply and that each one of them is willing to make any sacrifice for the other. It also shows that Antonio is quite emotional about his friend and can become blinded by his love for him. Antonio loves Bassanio from the bosom of his heart and wishes to see him before he dies at the hands of the Jew.
Their friendship is not about money, but about loyalty and brotherhood. Upon being asked by Portia that who Antonio is, Bassanio replies that he is not just his best friend and the kindest man but also the most honorable person in all Italy.