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Antonio
Antonio-TheMerchantOfVenice

Real Name

Antonio

First Appearance

The Merchant of Venice

Created by

William Shakespeare

Origin

Antonio is a Venetian merchant and the titular character in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (first published in 1600, but known to have been performed before 1598). He is noted as a generous man and extremely devoted to his good friend Bassanio. Some of his other friends include Gratiano, Lorenzo, Salarino and Salanio.

When Bassanio is in need of money, Antonio offers to help him by borrowing from Shylock the local moneylender, promising Shylock full guarantee of return. Since Shylock hates Antonio - which is due to the fact that Antonio is distrustful of Jews in general and Shylock in particular, and once insulted him and spat on him - he makes Antonio sign a contract, ensuring that Shylock is entitled to take a pound of flesh from Antonio should he fail to pay his fee. Knowing that his latest ventures overseas had been successful and his ships are to arrive soon on Venice, Antonio agrees without worrying.

Tragically, however, a torment seemingly causes Antonio's vessels to sink and he loses all his chances to pay the debt on time. In order to save him from Shylock's murderous intents, Bassanio's wife Portia disguises herself as a male judge and sets up a trial in which she invalidates the contract via a loophole and forces Shylock to pay a large sum to Antonio (due to the fact that he basically tried to murder him) which essentially restores part of Antonio's wealth and ruins Shylock. The next good news come when Portia also informs Antonio that his ships had arrived on the port after all.

Throughout the play, Antonio comes across as a gentle and honest man, extremely loyal to his friends and even willing to die for them. However, he seems to be prone to occasional periods of melancholy which even he can't explain. He's also a good businessman. His main negative trait appears to be his antisemitism, although even that might be partially a reaction to Shylock's mean behavior and questionable business practices.

Notes

  • He is one of four Antonios featured in the works of Shakespeare, the others being from Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest.

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