Living… in Venice. Bassanio holds noble rank in the city, but he’s squandered his estate and needs to raise funds to go to Belmont and woo the wealthy heiress Portia. He turns to his friend Antonio, a wealthy merchant, for help in borrowing money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. It's a decision which allows Bassanio to leave for Belmont, but which also uses Antonio’s life as collateral for the loan. Shylock only made the deal if he could take a pound of Antonio's flesh if he couldn't repay the debt, and with Antonio's ships reportedly lost at sea, that might be exactly what happens.
Profession… a noble suitor of Venice, who is leaving behind his wild bachelor days to settle down. Yes, Bassanio wants love, but he mainly seeks to marry rich so he can pay off his debts, leading him to pursue Portia. He wins her handily, successfully passing the test that Portia’s dead father designed to decide her husband.
Interests... saving his friend and enjoying the good life. Once Antonio’s fortunes go south, however, Bassanio is torn in multiple directions: not only does he have to marry Portia to resume his life of luxury, he now also has to make good on the generosity of his friend. Uncomfortably, he begins to realize that his interests have been rather shallow and simple-minded, motivated by little more than hedonism and greed.
Relationship Status... engaged to Portia. Although eager to marry, Bassanio’s arrival at Belmont fills him with confusion. He is struck by Portia’s good faith in his intentions, whose trust and candor leave him “bereft of all words,” and frankly, make him question his manhood. Through her pure behavior, Portia forces Bassanio to reexamine his choices, and what begins as a manipulative ploy slowly blossoms into a genuine romance.
Challenge… gaining the girl without losing his friend. When Bassanio learns that Antonio is unable to repay Shylock’s loan, he realizes he could be directly responsible for his friend's death. Once again, he is compelled to step outside himself and act nobly. However, his cleverness alone won’t be enough to outwit Shylock. In the end, Bassanio may have to rely on his fiancée's intelligence to get him and Antonio out of their contract.
Personality… clever and charming, but addicted to pleasure. Because of his fun-first lifestyle, Bassanio suffers from both debt and great guilt. While fundamentally noble, Bassanio lacks the wisdom that comes from dealing with true hardship, and with his friend’s life hanging in the balance, Bassanio suddenly realizes the shallow nature of his own pursuits. He hopes to repay Antonio’s kindness and generosity – at least, enough to get him off the chopping block.
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