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Friday, January 10, 2020

Character Sketch of Antonio in Merchant of Venice

Antonio is virtually the titular hero of the play "Merchant of Venice" by William Shakespeare of which he is the source and centre of main actions in the play. Though Antonio is not the main character of the comedy, interest of the main plot turns on his escape from the clutches of the Jew and the impending danger.

Character Sketch of Antonio Merchant of Venice
Character Sketch of Antonio 

Character Sketch - Antonio 

It is against Antonio that Shylock gathers his forces for the battle of the bond story. Antonio incurs the danger for his generosity. 

Certain defects in Antonio's character made certain critics to call in question the aptness of the title of the play. His passivity, lack of self-assertion, and initiative, his indifference and pessimism and force of character, and his calm resignation make him a weak character.


If we are to  understand by the word hero, the most interesting person dominating the whole action in the play is, undoubtedly, Shylock. The play should have been titled as the "Jew of Venice". 

Shylock is towering figure dominating the whole actions; Antonio is but a pygmy. But in spite of the forceful personality of Shylock, he remains the villain of the play, being not a perfect and good man. 

If the Jew is the more important individually; the merchant Antonio is dominating without charging interest than Shylock. Merchant of Venice is a comedy which ends on a happy note of Antonio's reunion with his friend. It is the comedy of Antonio that is the main motif of this romantic drama.

The keynote of Antonio's character is his melancholy; it clings to him through out the play. In spite of the efforts of his friend to argue it out, Antonio is a conformed pessimist. He considers the world as a stage wherein men and women are called upon to act their part and his own part is a sad one.

Under the stress of this melancholy, Antonio stands to act most unnaturally. Sometimes, his manner or behaviour is quite inconsistent. He authorises the simple and easy going. 

Bassanio borrows money in his name from anybody. It is this passivity of his nature that we must attribute his unprofessional conduct in not keeping any money to meet emergency. He cares more for Bassanio's happiness than for his own life. 

Antonio choice is to remain silent till it is too late for Bassanio to do anything for him. In the trial scene when Shylock refuse to respond to Portia's appeal for mercy, Antonio is satisfied in that Bassanio will survive after his death ti write epitaph.

Antonio is generous friend ever ready to do anything for his friend by his intervention. He has saved many people out of the clutches of Shylock. His benevolent nature impelled him to lend money gratis and to fight for usury.

Thus, incurring the hatred of Shylock the only blemish we perceive in him is his treatment of Shylock. But this can be explained away by the general behaviour of the Christian towards the Jews of the middle ages.

But Antonio's treatment of Shylock is as ungenerous that nemesis soon overtakes him and the wheel of justice come full circle, when Antonio's life is totally at the mercy of Shylock. 

In spite of these limitations Antonio has many virtues for which he is justly held high in the estimation of all except Shylock. He is the royal merchant devoted to commercial enterprise and yet he is actuated by an unselfish spirit.

Antonio is considered as an important man, the first citizen in Venice because of his good qualities like kindness, generosity and thoughtful consideration for others, but the most attractive feature of his character is his friendship and love for Bassanio. He only loves the world for Bassanio and he is always at Bassanio's disposal. 

Shakespeare portrayed Antonio as a typical picture as a martyr to generous friendship. Such a nobility of self sacrifice is very rare in the commercial world, which is usually associated with gross materialism and selfishness.   


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