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PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

The Merchant of Venice Characters

Bassanio is a young gentleman of Venice who has squandered all his fortune and is therefore in dire need of a rich wife. 

A great friend of Antonio’s, he convinces the latter to lend him the necessary money for him to properly woo Portia. He invites Shylock to dine with them over the matter of a loan for this, allowing Lorenzo to abduct Jessica. He agrees to let his friend  Gratiano follow him to Belmont on condition that he keep himself under control. He is greatly liked by Portia and Nerissa, as well as Portia’s servants, but he insists on attempting the test of the caskets without waiting, despite Portia’s entreaties. Winning by choosing humbly, he is overjoyed to have gained the lady, though his joy is soon tempered by hearing of Antonio’s troubles, and he rushes from Portia to see what he can do to save him. He does not recognize his wife when she is dressed as a man, and refuses to give her (as lawyer) the ring he received from her (as herself) and had sworn to never part from until Antonio asks him to, at which point he immediately does. He half-hopes to hide the fact, but is unsuccessful. He is desperate to excuse himself, and greatly relieved when it turns out that the learned lawyer was actually his wife in disguise. Whether his greater love is to Antonio or Portia remains uncertain, however.

 

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