Merchant of venice portia and bassanio relationship problems

Ties that Bind: Friendship and Love in The Merchant of Venice | Rebecca Marquez -

merchant of venice portia and bassanio relationship problems

Everything you ever wanted to know about Portia in The Merchant of Venice, and navigate relationships with men (like Bassanio) who want her for her money. This is evident in the decisions, actions, and relationships of Antonio, Bassanio, Portia, and Jessica. Although Shakespeare concludes the play on a happy note, . Get an answer for 'Describe the nature of Bassanio's relationship with Portia in Merchant of Venice. Does Bassanio genuinely love Portia or is he just after the.

An example of this tension arises when, in what is stereotypically associated with a display of romantic love, Antonio unthinkingly agrees to provide Bassanio with all of the funds he needs to reach his anticipated bride-to-be Portia, in Belmont. Interestingly, though the sentiments expressed by both men seem to be equivalent, Antonio makes a greater physical sacrifice in his demonstration of love. In his argument, Martin opines that there are three forms of friendship presented in the text that include: Although it is difficult to ascertain the presentation of friendship within this cultural and historical sphere of time, based on the dynamics of other relationships around these two men, it is apparent that their relationship is unique in its dedication and abandonment of personal safety.

In contrast, the relationship retained by Portia and Nerissa, though similar in its homosocial orientation to that of Antonio and Bassanio, is predicated on a set of socially Marquez 4 determined factors.

Although this hierarchical status division could have created an impediment in their relationship, the women seem to maintain a mutually reciprocated bond of closeness.

In their exchanges in the second scene of Act I, the women complement each other, querying and responding as if from one mind. This too, can be likened to the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in that the majority of the focus is given to Bassanio but their discussion and resulting actions are done without coercion or impetus. In this trick, Marquez 5 it is unclear what the women hope to achieve for in the refusal of payment the men would have appeared to be thankless but in giving the rings, they appear wanton to their wives.

From the perspective of the women, it seems that the trick was a mere amusement in which first one woman and then the other attempted to dispossess the men of their wedding rings. Neither woman appears to be particularly forlorn when they both succeed in retaining the rings but rather seem to take pleasure in holding the error over Bassanio and Gratiano.

Though this interpretation is by no means certain, the ring trick thusly read presents itself as a game of mischief played between female friends to confirm their womanly wiles. It is impossible to quantify the depth of the relationships shared by Portia and Nerissa and Antonio and Bassanio, both homosocial relationships do present an easy and free association with the other and an honest and natural idea of love and closeness.

In contrast to these free and loving bonds found in the friendships of The Merchant of Venice, the romantic unions Shakespeare creates are decidedly less open and arguably less loving. Although Bassanio and Portia, on separate occasions, express their love for one another, it is never as convincing as the ultimate and unconditional love expressed by Antonio. And so, where Antonio was willing to provide any possible service to aid Bassanio in an almost fervent and all-consuming display of love, Portia is calculating and reasoned in her apportionment of love for Bassanio.

A further example of this is demonstrated in the ring trick. In this, both women do not seem to be possessed of love or hurt but it merely appears as though this is a continuation of the game begun earlier. The material merely symbolizes the moral significance of friendship and is not, as Antonio wrongly thinks, the substitution of it. But after his life is spared, Antonio continues to perceive the world in contractual and commercial terms.

In revenge to Bassanio for relinquishing his wedding ring to Balthazar, Portia promises him that she will be as liberal with their marriage bed as he was with his wedding ring V. After Bassanio pleads for forgiveness, Antonio speaks in support of his friend and describes what had transpired as a series of commercial transactions: I dare be bound again, My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord Will never more break faith advisedly V.

The return of the ring to Bassanio is not from Portia to Bassanio but from Portia to Antonio who then gives it back to Bassanio. In a sense, Bassanio participates in the marital contract of Portia and Bassanio. Regardless of how one interprets these questions in The Merchant of Venice, friendship is an important good for us and something without which we cannot live.

When he believes that he is about to die, Antonio instructs Bassanio: The remark is humorous because of its implied truth: Nevertheless, both Antonio and Bassanio repeat this mistake after Antonio is saved. Back in Belmont when Portia hears that Bassanio had bestowed his wedding ring to Balthazar, she immediately chastises Bassanio for not understanding its worth: The ring symbolizes the moral relationship of love instead of contract, which Bassanio had failed to understand. In his defense, Bassanio provides a three-folded explanation of why he gave the ring to Balthazar: Bassanio omits the fact that Antonio had urged him to give the ring to Balthazar — an explicit admission about valuing friendship over marriage — and instead resorts to an argument of honor.

But Bassanio wrongly understands honor as a type of contract: But marriage and friendship are incommensurable goods: Each is valued as its own good with marriage being a superior one over friendship.

Honor properly understood would have Bassanio recognize that Balthazar should be honored as should his friendship with Antonio but not at the expense of his marriage with Portia.

But why is marriage superior to friendship? Shakespeare suggests that marriage is superior to friendship because of its procreative aspect. Traditionally marriage was the way to create and socialize children into society: Furthermore, the sexual and procreative act of marriage not only produces children but unifies the body and soul of both partners. This spiritual and physical unity is symbolized in the wedding ring which should be accorded the highest honor.

The fact that Bassanio fails to understand this, or is unable to act upon this when it conflicts with friendship, reveals his contractual thinking about relationships: It is only when he is confronted with the possibility that Portia could also see their marriage as contractual and commensurable, e. If Bassanio were to violate his oath, then his friendship with Antonio is to be forfeit.

Both Antonio and Bassanio fall short in participating in meaningful relationships: Although Antonio aspires for perfect friendship, he was not able to achieve it because his companions, including Bassanio, behave out of self-interest, utility, and profit rather than out of moral values like virtue. As a result, Antonio mistakes money as the essence rather than as a symbol of non-monetary values like friendship and engages in irrational behavior to the point of literally risking self-annihilation as proof of these moral values.

At the end of the play, it is unclear whether Antonio has learned how non-contractual relations like friendship and marriage should be understood and valued. Bassanio agrees that his friendship with Antonio will be the collateral to guarantee his marital oath and therefore his friendship will be subordinate to his marriage; otherwise, Portia will be unfaithful. However, this understanding is explained and agreed to in the contractual language of Venice in the supposedly non-contractual place of Belmont.

There is no evidence in the play, particularly in the final act, that Bassanio has actually learned the value of marriage, or even friendship, on moral grounds; or, that he knows their value but lacks the social tools to participate in a meaningful relationship. This trial requires suitors to solve a riddle that filters out those who want to marry Portia for the wrong reasons. Although Belmont appears to have a different set of values when compared to Venice, it is actually governed by the same laws of contract.

This moral deterioration is most evident in the marital relationship between Bassanio and Portia, with especially the latter relinquishing his wedding ring so easily.

Contract, Friendship, and Love in The Merchant of Venice

An examination of this marriage will show how contractual Belmont leads both characters to think and act out of self-interest. Portia stands poised to be transferred to the winning suitor, the portrait hidden in one of the three caskets that symbolizes her objectification III. On winning Portia, Bassanio immediately becomes indebted to his new wife, who has positioned herself as a creditor rather than as a prize to be handed over. I would not trebled twenty times myself, A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich, That only to stand high in your account, I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends Exceed account III.

In other words, Portia presents herself as type of investment that appreciates value over time and can be redeemed at some point in the future. Although Portia initially trusts Bassanio with her house, servants, and herself, she later changes the terms of the contract where she becomes both owner and possessor of Bassanio III. This inversion of the usual situation, which the husband typically imposes fidelity on the wife, is not only a demonstration of feminism but a form of feminism that conceives and explains the non-contractual relationship of marriage in contractual terms.

Bassanio can only offer his blood as collateral to ratify the nuptial bonds between him and Portia. Like Portia, Jessica is bound to her father; but unlike Portia, this bond is also religious as well as paternal.

Jessica has a choice to honor the bond with her father, Shylock, or follow her desires to flee with Lorenzo.

The Merchant of Venice - Wikipedia

Both women also are associated with caskets and wealth: While Jessica has recklessly spent their stolen money, Portia has carefully conserved her wealth to make her husband a debtor in their relationship. Except Shylock, those character who conceive and act in contractual terms are successful, while those who do not, such as Antonio and Jessica, fare less well.

Because both Venice and Belmont are cities founded upon contract, the regimes make those who act non-contractually, whether agreeing to unreasonable loans or breaking paternal bonds, melancholic without knowing the motive behind it.

Only those who are able to calculate correctly like Bassanio and Portia will be content in such a regime. Values incommensurate with contract must either be re-conceptualized in contractual terms to be successful or face failure in a world governed by self-interest, utility, and profit.

Conclusion The pattern of exchanges enforced by contracts is one, if not the, dominant theme in The Merchant of Venice. The leaden casket that Bassanio chooses is the one that contains the portrait of Portia, which in turns symbolizes his right to marry her. Portia interprets that right as a right of possession over her property and person as symbolized by the wedding which she gives to her new husband.

As the betrothed of Bassanio, she then offers many times the value of the three thousand ducats to ransom the life of Antonio III. A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, Uncapable of pity, void and empty From any dram of mercy IV. By tempering justice, mercy blesses both the giver and receiver of the contract, thereby making both participants divine-like. But for Shylock, justice is enough. Ultimately, Shylock retains his life but loses his fortune and religion, as he is forced to convert to Christianity IV.

Later in Belmont, Portia demands to see the ring and feigns jealousy at its loss, accusing Bassanio of giving it away to another woman and threatening to sleep with the lawyer, to whom Bassanio gave the ring V. Thus, The Merchant of Venice reveals the moral limitations of a commercial regime based on contract and the corrosive effects it has on non-contractual relationships like friendship, love, and marriage.

This is evident in the decisions, actions, and relationships of Antonio, Bassanio, Portia, and Jessica in the play: Although he ends the play on a happy note, Shakespeare has given us a cast of characters who break paternal bonds, fail to understand friendship, and perceive marriage in contractual and commercial terms. The conclusion one can reach is that, in spite of its advantages, regimes based on commerce and contract ultimately fail to create the conditions for non-contractual relations to flourish.

Among early modern writers, Venice had enjoyed mythical status because of its political institutions and ideals of republicanism. How the Venetians were able to accomplish this feat was of interest to the English and perhaps even to us today.

Merchant of Venice - Act 3 Scene 2 - I pray you tarry

It would seem that this is the price that the citizens of any commercial and contractual republic must pay for in exchange for these goods. Notes [1] I would like to thank referees, Richard Avramenko, Brianne Walsh, and the University of Wisconsin Political Theory workshop for their criticism of this article.

merchant of venice portia and bassanio relationship problems

Most critics have focused on the themes of justice and mercy as respectively represented by the character Shylock and the city Venice and Portia and Belmont.

Methuen, ; C.

merchant of venice portia and bassanio relationship problems

Princeton University Press,; W. Sylvan Barnet Englewood Cliffs: For other themes in the play, refer to Barbara K. Scholars also have looked at the role of women in the play.

Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, ed. Finally, there are commentators who believe there is no coherent plot or theme in the play.

University of Chicago Press,; David N. Basic Books,; Paul N. A Reading of The Merchant of Venice.

merchant of venice portia and bassanio relationship problems

Contemporary Critical Approaches, ed.