Notes on Merchant of Venice Themes

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Merchant of Venice Topic Tracking: Love

Act 1, Scene 1

Love 1: Antonio's love for his friend is so strong that he offers to go into debt to help him. This is significant because it will mean borrowing money from Shylock at Usance, something that Antonio is morally and ethically against. He is willing to set aside his beliefs in order to aid his friend.

Love 2: Although Bassanio is already deep into debt because of his failed business dealings, he is so completely devoted to Portia that he sinks himself even further into debt in order to take the chance that she might marry him. He's even willing to put his best friend in danger by lettting Antonio go to Shlyock for money.

Act 1, Scene 2

Love 3: Portia fears that if she ever does find a man to love, the chest test will prevent her from marrying him. Even worse, she fears the prospect of being forced to marry a man that she doesn't love simply because he succeeded in deciphering the mystery of the chests.

Act 2, Scene 3

Love 4: Jessica and Lorenzo love one another, but because they are from two different religions, they cannot marry each other. Their love leads Jessica to flee her father, taking with her money to pay for their marriage and the beginning of a life together.

Act 2, Scene 8

Love 5: Antonio's love for his friend is so strong that, despite his probable ruin, he's happy to see Bassanio go, knowing that he's on his way to be with the woman he loves. Antonio finds vicarious happiness through his friend's strong emotions.

Act 2, Scene 9

Love 6: Nerissa hopes that the god of love will bless Portia and bring Bassinio to her, since there is no other man who deserves her, and she can't choose him. She thinks that only the devine intervention of Cupid could possibly bring Bassanio to Portia, and ensure that he chose the correct chest, that only with the help of a god could love overcome blind luck.

Act 3, Scene 2

Love 7: Bassanio and Portia are clearly in love with one another - they want to marry, but find themselves bound by the arbitrary rule set by her father. Portia doesn't want to say goodbye to Bassanio forever, so he asks him to delay choosing a chest - if this is going to be the last time she ever sees Bassanio, she wants it to last as long as possible. Bassanio, on the other hand, can't bear delaying his choice any longer. He can't bear to live another moment not knowing if he's going be able to marry Portia and spend the rest of his life with her.

Act 4, Scene 1

Love 8: Trying to convince Shylock to let Antonio just pay off the debt, Bassanio exclaims that he loves his friend over everything else, including his own life. He goes so far as to offer his own life in exchange for Bassanio's.

Love 9: In order to give her husband a chance to prove his love, Portia tests him by demanding his wedding ring. Bassanio at first balks at the idea, having pledged that his wife is more important to him than anything else. Gratiano convinces him to part with the ring, though, assuring Bassanio that his wife will understand.

Act 5, Scene 1

Love 10: Portia and Nerissa forgive their husbands for giving up their wedding rings, and return them. Bassanio and Gratiano pledge that no matter what happens, they won't ever again make anything more important than their wives.

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