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"Foreigner is a friend with whom you still not succeed to become acquainted" - M4hl3r

Character of Antonio

  • Date Submitted: 03/23/2013 11:21 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 60.2 
  • Words: 1846
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Finding Emo
While Hamlet may be Shakespeare's mopiest character, Antonio sure gives him a run for his money. When the play opens on the streets of Venice, Antonio appears onstage and tells his buddies that he's totally bummed out but doesn't know why: "In sooth, I know not why I am so sad. / It wearies me, you say it wearies you" (1.1.1).
So why's this guy so emo? Solanio suggests that Antonio's "mind is tossing on the ocean" because all his money is tied up in various mercantile ventures (1.1.1). But Antonio gives a pretty detailed explanation of why that's not true and declares, "my merchandise makes me not sad" (1.1.2). When Solanio says, "Why then, you are in love" (1.1.2), Antonio's response seems half-hearted. "Fie, fie" (1.1.3), he says, which isn't exactly convincing. So is it possible that Antonio is lovesick?
His depression certainly suggests that he is. In the 16th century, people thought love really could make a person sick, or "melancholy." This, by the way, is why in Hamlet, Polonius thinks Hamlet is acting like a madman. Ophelia's dad is convinced that everyone's favorite Danish prince is "mad for [Ophelia's] love" (Hamlet, 1.2.8).
Bromance
If Antonio is in love, who's the object of his affection? For a lot of audiences and literary critics (like W.H. Auden) the answer seems to be his BFF, Bassanio. As soon as Antonio has a chance to speak to his friend privately, the first thing on his mind is the woman Bassanio is wooing. It becomes clear that Antonio has asked about it before and has been promised an answer this day. One might clearly draw a link between Antonio's sadness and the weight of Bassanio's impending courtship – Antonio is suffering because he is about to lose his friend.
The question in the subtext is whether the feelings Antonio has for Bassanio go well beyond the bounds of friendship and cross over into the territory of romantic love. This might explain Antonio's sadness, his willingness to do anything for Bassanio, and most...

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