Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bassinio said to Antonio, "When I was a kid playing with my bow and arrow, sometimes I lost an arrow. I would shoot another arrow in the same way, and try to watch where it went. Then I found both arrows.

"It's the same way with helping me, Antonio. You know that I've lost my own fortune by living in a showier way than I can afford. You know that you've loaned me money that I can't pay back. So I suggest you do like I did with the arrows. Loan me more money, and then I'll be able to pay it all back."

Antonio said, "Sure, absolutely."

It is available to us to think that Antonio is in love with Bassinio. It isn't required by the author, but it's very available. The whole thing works better if Antonio is in love with Bassinio, Bassinio is in love with Bassinio, and Bassinio is gorgeous in that special way that turns off other people's brains.

What Bassinio says about arrows doesn't make a ton of sense, but I imagine Bassinio as used to being believed, or used to having people act like they believe, because he's so good-looking.

Bassinio's insatiable need for money drives the plot of "The Merchant of Venice" by Shakespeare.


When Bassinio makes his pitch, Antonio, the merchant of Venice, doesn't have on hand the kind of money Bassinio thinks he needs to look good.

Venice was a commercial empire. Antonio, like many merchants of Venice, makes his money by sending out ship filled with good stuff people in far away places want. As the play begins, he has five ships out, to different parts of the world, and not much cash.

So he says to Bassinio, "I'll borrow the money you need. Let's each go out into Venice and look for someone who will loan me the money."

Bassinio comes back with Antonio's bitter enemy, Shylock, an investment banker of Venice.

So what's up with Bassinio bringing back an enemy to loan Antonio money?

Maybe Bassinio is one of those folks who likes to be the maximum drama out of any situation. Maybe he's a real meanie who thinks it's good times to not only borrow money from one who loves him to court another, but to make the guy borrow the money for the loan from an enemy.

Or maybe Bassinio doesn't know Shylock is Antonio's enemy. People as self-absorbed as Bassinio do tend to miss a lot of what's happening around them.

Question: Did Antonio also go out and look for someone to loan him money? He's a five ship guy; surely he would have more than one choice of lender.

The first line of the play is spoken by Antonio--"I don't know why I am so sad."

Depressed? Antonio has the play named after him but doesn't take the initiative hardly ever as the play goes by. Other people think of thinks to do. Can Antonio take the iniative, or is he inert through bummed-out ness.

We don't see the other side of Antonio in the play--the high energy (manic?) part, but as soon as Shylock shows up, brought by Bassinio, they talk about what can get Antonio moving.

He sometimes goes down to the Rialto, public gathering place, and spits on Shylock. He does that with great venom, and talks about it with great venom.

Maybe all the venom in his rich passive life that he can't get out he spews forth in public on a man who can't hit back. If he spit on one of his fellow merchants, he'd have a duel on his hands, but since Shylock is legally looked-down on, there's nothing Shylock can do. Til now.

His scheme to use Antonio's new loan is to go after a woman whose rich father has just died and who has to choose a new husband by her dead father's odd rules.

Bassinio wants to go there and go for her, and look good while he does it. The way to marry her is to solve a puzzle correctly, which isn't really money related. But he wants to look great when he arrives, and he needs lots of money to achieve the look he wants.

If Antonio is in love with Bassinio, borrowing more money from him to go after the rich heiress, Portia, is not prize-winningly kind. But neither Bassinio or Antonio seem bothered by this.