Antonio
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Antonio

The Merchant of Venice

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About Him

Living… life to the fullest, in Venice. The city’s model Christian, Antonio represents the ideal of nobility and generosity – both to his acquaintances and the poor. He still keeps a youthful spirit, even as he approaches middle age. Because of his reputation, shockwaves rock the city when Antonio's life comes in danger.

Profession… the merchant of Venice. Or one of the most prominent ones, anyway. Because he is a wealthy and successful businessman, Antonio is his friend Bassanio’s first choice when looking for a lender so he can have enough money to woo the beautiful heiress, Portia. Though Antonio is cash-poor at the time of the request because his ships and merchandise are out at sea, he agrees to cover Bassanio’s bond if he can find a guarantor. When Bassanio chooses Jewish moneylender Shylock, Shylock lends the money under one condition: if Antonio fails to repay the loan, Shylock will take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. When his ships are reportedly lost, Antonio's profession and life are consequently put in danger.

Interests... helping friends and hating Jews. Part of what motivates Shylock to set such gruesome conditions on the loan is Antonio’s history of abuse towards Shylock and other Jews. Even if he hadn't already made his dislike of Shylock publicly known, Antonio has a well-known reputation as an anti-Semite – something that doesn't bode well when he suddenly finds his life in Shylock's hands.

Relationship Status... single, though engaged in some sort of bromance with Bassanio. Antonio is boundlessly generous to Bassanio, taking Shylock's dubious offer for the sake of his good friend, and seems haunted by his willingness to help Bassanio. Part of this could be due to his feelings for Bassanio, with Antonio's lament that "I am a tainted wether of the flock" a possible reference to unrequited love.

Challenge… gaining Shylock's mercy, or else somehow maneuvering his way out of their contract. Shylock seems intent on getting his pound of flesh, and unable to sway him on his own, Antonio is now dependant on the loyalty of Bassanio and Bassanio’s fiancée, Portia. In his time of need, Antonio has to hope that the kindness he’s extended to others has outweighed the abuse he’s doled out.

Personality… depressive. Despite his wealth and generosity, Antonio is rather melancholy, radiating hopelessness and self-pity and seemingly unable to even defend himself against imminent death. In the end, the very forces that allowed Antonio to confidently take Shylock’s offer – his generosity and success as a merchant – place his life in jeopardy.

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