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The Merchant of Venice Characters

Gratiano is a friend of Bassanio. A great talker, he is almost impossible to shut up, and can be unmannerly, to the extent that Bassanio only allows him to accompany his trip to Belmont on condition that he keep himself under control. 

He helps Lorenzo abduct Jessica, which almost makes him late for the departure to Belmont. He falls in love with Nerissa, Portia’s lady-in-waiting, who agrees to marry him on condition that Bassanio succeeds in the task of the caskets. He has no compunction about admitting to the mercenary nature of Bassanio’s choice of bride. He returns to Venice with Bassanio on his mission to rescue Antonio, and gives his tongue free rein during the trial, spitting out invective against Shylock, and then mercilessly mocking him once the carpet is pulled out from under him. Like Bassanio, he is willing to prefer Antonio’s life to his newly-acquired wife’s. The law-clerk manages to convince him to give his wedding ring as a gift of thanks in return, which leads to some problems on his return to Belmont, as he had sworn to Nerissa that he would never remove it. He gives away that Bassanio has done much the same. On it being revealed that Nerissa and the clerk were one and the same, he is much relieved to discover that he has not in fact been cuckolded, and closes the play on a bawdy pun.


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