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Proving Shakespeare Antonios

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Par   •  10 Octobre 2016  •  Commentaire de texte  •  1 627 Mots (7 Pages)  •  447 Vues

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A recurring character across Shakespeare's plays is Antonio, a man of melancholic disposition who is desperate for love and validation. Though the five plays that feature Antonio are very different in plot, the correlation between them cannot  go unnoticed, particularly regarding the Antonios of Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice. Both exhibit common mannerisms, expressions of homosexuality, along with other factors that prove them to be the same, even concerning their role in the play.

The Merchant of Venice opens with the title character Antonio in an aloof state of mind, contemplating his depression.  He claims the source of his sadness cannot be pinpointed, but by Solanio’s chides, it can be assumed that Antonio is lonely because of his clear dismissal of the topic of love (I.1.46-47).  Eliot Weeks highlights this rebuke in his essay regarding Antonio’s homosexuality and the construction of the scene, stating that “The simplicity of Solanio’s suggestion implies that he is correct: no imagery is needed to illustrate his reasoning and Antonio's response only confirms it to be true.” During Antonio’s arrest in Act III, scene 4 of Twelfth Night, Antonio begs Sebastian for aid only to receive a response of denial and confusion, as he has mistaken “Cesario” for her twin. During this time, there is a sort of bitterness present in Antonio with his response, “Do not tempt my misery, lest that it make me so unsound a man as to upbraid you with those kindnesses that I have done for you” (III.4.366-369).  This shows that Antonio is speaking out of heartbreak, saying that to provoke his misery would cause him to regret all those deeds he had done in Sebastian’s favor, and even to put him at fault for Antonio saving him from the storm in the first place. Antonio’s comment when Sebastian arrives in Act V (“Sebastian are you?” V.1.231) also could exhibit a brackish response to emulate Sebastian’s denial of him in addition to the reveal that “Cesario” is really Viola. Antonio shows a similar  loneliness in his letter to Bassanio, asking only for him to be with him when he dies. His request concludes with “If your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter” (III.2.319-320), the tone remote and unexpectant. Antonio’s relationship with Bassanio provides more support that both Antonios are the same. In the aforementioned quotation regarding Antonio’s misery, it could very well be that he had confided in Sebastian about his previous love leaving him to court Portia. This also justifies his bitterness with the situation of Sebastian disregarding Antonio. The similar state of melancholy between the two Antonios makes it difficult to read them as separate characters in the two plays.

Another similarity between both Antonios is that they are the subject of discussion among many critics regarding implied homosexuality. Weeks’ essay uses the strong imagery in the construction of Antonio’s lines in both plays being parallel to any exchange between heterosexual lovers, emphasizing the weight of Antonio’s devotion. Antonio’s willingness to help Bassanio and Sebastian regardless of the consequences on himself shows his selfless love. He decides to follow Sebastian to Illyria despite being a wanted man, immediately after his departure. This lack of hesitation and resolve to follow are expressed in his short soliloquy, “I have many enemies in Orsino’s court…/But come what may, I adore thee so/that danger shall seem sport, and I will go” (II.1.44-47). When he does run into Sebastian, Antonio displays his feelings  with “My willing love...set forth in your pursuit” (III.3.11-13). After he and Sebastian go their separate ways with promise to meet at the Elephant Inn, Antonio finds that Sebastian had gotten into a conflict with Sir Andrew Aguecheek (of course unaware that it isn’t Sebastian but “Cesario”) and risks his safety yet again to protect Sebastian’s. The quote “If this young gentleman have done offense, I take the fault on me: if you offend him, I for him defy you” (III.4.326-328) shows more than general protectiveness over Sebastian-- he is willing to defend Sebastian to the death. This zeal is also present throughout the plot of The Merchant of Venice, Antonio essentially wagering his life for the money to clear Bassanio’s debts. Throughout the play Antonio speaks of his devotion to Bassanio, often to be matched with dismissal and less affection than what was given to him. The strongest moments that show Bassanio’s love for Antonio are in Act I scene 1, where he tells of his plans to marry Portia for the money to fulfill his debts, Act III scene 2 in which he contemplates the letter from Antonio, and during  Act IV scene 1 when Bassanio appears in attempt to save Antonio’s life. Both Antonios have a habit of falling in love with someone who can’t return it, the only difference being Sebastian’s ignorance. The audience only sees his affection for Antonio with the telling of his real name and the mourning  of his sister. Weeks also defends this in his essay, saying that the scene portrays his difficulty with his emotions and that “...Sebastian’s feelings are stronger then he would care to show.” Additionally, neither Antonio ends up in a relationship by the end of the play despite the numerous marriages that are established during the conclusion.


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