Relationships Between Men in Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice | Elliot Weeks - index-art.info
Antonio's deep friendship and the theory that Antonio is homosexual. relationship to Bassanio as paternal or similar to that of uncle and nephew. The homoerotic undertone of Antonio and Bassanio's relationship is heterosexual love cannot seperate itself from Antonio's homosexual love. There are numerous aspects which will support the presupposition that is the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is homosexuality.
It is notable here that Bassanio does not leave of his own accord. He is certainly not the hero who valiantly goes to rescue his friend. It seems from the text that Bassanio is free of any homosexual desire. This unequal love is implied by the fact that Antonio is willing to give up his life for his friend and yet Bassanio is willing to see him die for the financial bond. There is something exploitative in him allowing Antonio to guarantee the contract with his life.
He has childlike ideals of money and he seems somewhat controlled, even by Portia. It is, however, biased to import sexuality onto characters when there is little textual evidence to support the claim. When we look at a relationship such as that of Antonio and Sebastian in Twelfth Night where the insinuation of homosexual desire is far more evident from the text alone it suggests that people often look for themes in a text which are only tenuously suggested and build an argument around them.
Some critics have suggested homosexual feelings between Iago and Othello, Hamlet and Horatio and other such characters, based on the fact that they remain ladyless at the end of the play.
I feel that it is dangerous to make assertions to suit our own point of view when there is no explicit evidence within the play itself. Although the physical elements of love are not discussed by Antonio in The Merchant of Venice his actions make clear his feelings for Bassanio. One of the main themes of the play is trade and usury.
- Bassanio’s Sexuality
This can be seen in the interaction of the male characters. The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio reflects the economy of the play. Bassanio exploits Antonio and, to a certain extent, Portia by constantly borrowing money. Venice is the background for all the trade in the play and as such is a very male dominated area. It is here that Bassanio tells Antonio that his friendship means more than anything, including Portia.
Kinsmen or "Cousins"
Belmont is set in opposition to Venice, with the feminine power of Portia and Nerissa. Belmont uses the language of love and desire, whereas Venice uses the language of trade. It is no surprise, therefore, that we only see Shylock in Venice.
He certainly does not fit in with the romantic imagery of Belmont. He is the biggest threat to happiness in the play. We can see this in his pound of flesh speech. To Shylock money is the only important thing as a merchant. This perhaps sheds light on the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. Hyman makes an interesting point about the monetary bond between the men.
In doing so she prevents the spectacle of Antonio dying for his homoerotic desire, and secures her position as unrivalled wife. The difference in the relationship is obvious on their return to Belmont. Solanio, rather belatedly it seems, voices the one thing that the audience has been considering since that first scene: This one-line confirmation summarises what Antonio has hitherto been unable to convey to Bassanio.
Both instances ultimately convey an idealised portrayal of relationships, not only in terms of the affection and emotion displayed but also in language. Speak me fair in death, And when the tale is told, bid her be judge Whether Bassanio had not once a love. The audience cannot be sure of this, but equally, we cannot deny that the text allows for such a reading.
Was the Merchant of Venice gay?
In conjunction with this idea, is the issue of the value that Bassanio places on Antonio. It has been referred to in the instance of their parting, but it is not until the climactic courtroom scene, when emotions are at their peak, that Bassanio finally reveals the true meaning of his friendship, or perhaps love.
At the point when Antonio has been condemned to death, Bassanio declares: Antonio, I am married to a wife Which is as dear to me as life itself; But life itself, my wife, and all the world Are not with me esteemed above thy life. I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all Here to this devil, to deliver you. It confirms the suggestion that was implied at their parting: Furthermore, the religious semantic field of deliverance and sacrifice contribute to what is a highly emotive declaration of devotion.
The language of religion is also used in Twelfth Night at a moment of emotional intensity. Cambridge University Press,p.
At the same time, in his elevation of Sebastian to a deity, he is illustrating the physical and emotional hold that he has over him.
Yet the key difference is that Antonio is again far more open and expressive about the terms he uses. The two Antonios are somewhat strangers and out of place in the final resolution scenes of the plays. Both have endured life-threatening danger in order to reach their friends, yet neither one has any real position or place in the final resolution.
His tone echoes the melancholy of the opening scene, yet he now seems more distant from his friend than before. The idealised portrayal of love which we have seen in previous exchanges between the two has now been diminished in the conclusion of the comedy. Ultimately it must be the heterosexual relationship that prevails.
In support of this, the final scene of Twelfth Night, sees Antonio and Sebastian being reunited: O my dear Antonio, How have the hours racked and tortured me Since I lost thee! Renaissance essays in honour of C. Peter Eriksson and Coppelia Khan Newark: University of Delaware Press,p. In the end, the idealistic image of homosexual relations has been outcast by the comedic conclusion of heterosexual pairings.
The eroticism is still there, but even at the end of a physically exhausting voyage, both find themselves emotionally much further from the friends that they love. Perhaps in an ideal world — one in which Elizabethan taboo would not hinder the development of homosexual relations — Shakespeare would not be forced to leave his two melancholic characters at loose ends. What we would regard today as homoerotic language is used prevalently, in a contemporary context, in conversation between male friends.
Again, the issue of context, in this instance culturally, is the dependent factor in determining the nature of the relationship. As it is, the distance between the erotic and the idealised changes throughout the play, and is entirely dependent on the context. Private situations allow, to a certain extent, an outpouring of emotion that public ones do not, particularly in terms of declarations of love.
Having said that, situations of dire circumstance where at least one character is in danger, do also lead to less guarded instances of homoerotic emotion. Nevertheless, although such examples are erotically and romantically suggestive, Shakespeare leaves much to the imagination of the audience in terms of definite meaning. Routeledge,p.