Antonio Merchant of Venice | Merchant of Venice Characters Antonio
Character Sketch of Antonio in Merchant of Venice
- the hero of the play
- melancholic by nature
- love for Bassanio
- a generous philanthropist
- passive, stoic
Antonio – The Hero of the Play
Antonio is the hero of the play and is the merchant of Venice. He is a passive character who at times seems to be unheroic. He pales into insignificance before Shylock or Portia. But he has sterling qualities of character—honesty, sincerity, freshness and humility. His love and affection for his friends deserves all out admiration. He is a rich merchant but is perhaps impractical to some extent.
Antonio – Melancholic by Nature
At the outset, he is presented as a melancholic person. He himself admits that he remains sad. His friends find his melancholy troublesome and try to find its reasons, but in vain. Some think that his melancholy is constitutional, others think that it is the sorrow of Antonio who has loved and lost, but Antonio himself says that he does not know why he is sad. It troubles him and wearies him. To him his melancholy is new. He finds it difficult to understand.
Antonio – Fond of Bassanio
The finest quality of Antonio is his boundless love for Bassanio. It is the strongest force in his life. Salanio says, “I think he only loves the world for him”. He seems to be unconsciously jealous of Portia. This is clear from his letter that he wrote to Bassanio, “If your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter”. Though he helps Bassanio to win the hand of Portia in marriage, he fears that he will be ignored by Bassanio after his marriage with Portia. The fact that Bassanio’s debt is to be paid with Antonio’s flesh is significant, showing how binding their friendship is.
Antonio – A Generous Philanthropist
Antonio is a philanthropist. He does good to others. He believes that to take interest on lent money is immoral. He has given loans without interest to some of Shylock’s debtors and saved them from Shylock’s clutches. It appears that Shylock hates him because he thinks that he spoils his business. Antonio dislikes Shylock because he earns money by way of interest on his lent money. It is because of this reason that Antonio has insulted Shylock in public in the most humiliating manner. He has abused him several times. He has called him a ‘misbeliever’.
In the trial scene, Antonio endures unbearable agony of mind patiently. He asks Bassanio not to persuade Shylock to change his mind. He is ready to accept the verdict of the court. He tells the Duke to pronounce his judgement. His attitude towards possible death in the trial scene shows calm fortitude.
Antonio – Passive and Stoic
Antonio’s passivity is his greatest weakness. He seems to accept defeat even before the fight begins. His speech in the trial scene—
“I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Meetest for death”—
confirms that he too soon yields. In short, with all his weaknesses, Antonio is a man who is generous, genial and stoic.