CT Journal: Write a dialogue in which two people discuss conflicting points of view about one of the events, characters, or themes in Merchant of Venice. The dialogue should consist of at least ten exchanges, and aim for clarity, depth, and balance.

Brent: Believes that Bassanio giving up the ring that Portia gave him proclaiming their marriage was the least he could do for the good doctor who saved his best friend's life.

Kelly: Believes that Bassanio is a bastard for giving up something of such sentimental value. If he can't even keep Portia and his first memory of being together as husband and wife, then Portia should just leave him and find another man who is much more loyal.


Kelly: I think Bassanio is a stupid head for just parting with the ring that his wife gave him, it was their first memory as a couple. He doesn't even try to change the doctor's mind when he demands the ring.

Brent That is not true. On page 201 line 409 Bassanio says, "Three thousand ducats, due upon the Jew, we freely cope your courteous pains withal." This line shows at least Bassanio trying to reward the good doctor with something of lesser sentimental value to him. Moreover, on page 201 line 438 he says, "This ring, good sir? Alas! It is a trifle (token of respect). I will not shame myself to give you this." Here Bassanio has been asked for his ring, but HE KNOWS the value of Portia and his relationship and pleads with the doctor to take anything but this trifle.

Kelly: However he also makes another offer to the doctor. On the same page line 432 Bassanio says, "There's more depends on this than on the value. The dearest ring in Venice will I give you" "The dearest ring in Venice," right now, to the doctor, would be the one that's on Bassanio's finger. He doesn't even think through what he is saying. That just proves how much more irresponsible he is. Furthermore, looking back at the first act, we see that Bassanio has taken numerous loans from Antonio and if it had not been for his luck of meeting Portia, he might never have been able to pay them back. Do you see where I am coming from?

Brent: Yes I do, and it's a good point. But it appears from the information we are given, that Bassanio and Antonio developed a strong bond far before Portia and Bassanio ever met. Thus accordingly, Bassanio has an obligation to Antonio before Portia. In the text, Antonio convinced Bassanio to give in to the doctor's demands because he knew how much Bassanio owed him.

Kelly: But isn't the relationship with the woman you love equally or more important than a friendship that has last forever? If you have a true friendship with some one, you two should always be able to make up no matter what the situation. However, in my mind there are only a few chances for you to find true love and you must drop everything and run after it if you see it.

Brent: To answer you question I must say that it depends on your morals. In "The Merchant of Venice", if it were not for Antonio giving so much of himself for his friend Bassanio, Portia would have been won by one of the other two remaining suitors. So Bassanio owes a lot to Antonio, and I'm sure Portia would understand that.

Kelly: That's true, but if Bassanio was not so irresponsible in the way that he spent the money he borrowed, he wouldn't have had to come begging Antonio for more. Perhaps if he got a job and saved up for the journey and didn't scam off of his friends, Antonio wouldn't have been in that near death experience.

Brent: But what if Bassanio is just not capable of hanging on to one job?

Kelly: Well,if he doesn't have the ability to hang on to something containing the amount of responsibility such as a job, than what would enable you to think that he could hang on to a commitment such as marriage. It requires even more responsibility and coordination than something as simple as a job.

Brent Depending on what kind of job you have determines how much responsibility is placed on your shoulders. However, a marriage is based on teamwork and trust. Not responsibility.

Kelly: What makes you think that Bassanio has those qualities?

Brent: Well, trust is shown in the court scene. When Antonio's life was hanging in the balance, Bassanio left Portia right after they were wed to pay the three thousand ducats and even thrice that amount. This shows how trustworthy Bassanio is. He may be poor, but when you need him he'll be there right by your side all the way, ready to defend you against any challenge and together you'll face it head on.

Kelly: How touching. Not! Sure you can support the thought that he is trustworthy, but is he truly a "team" player? I don't think so. Bassanio just can't decide who he wants to become tag team partners with, Antonio or Portia.

Brent: Bassanio could learn to act as a team with everyone. But I think we are straying from our main focus. I think we should make our final statements now.

Kelly: Sure, it's time to end. You're just giving up something that means so much to you so easily and quickly just like Bassanio did. You can't seem to find a way to win and so you give up.
Brent: Be quiet. Just give a final statement.

Kelly: In ending, I believe that Bassanio's choice in giving u~p the ring that Portia gave him was a bad one because if she hadn't been at the court disguised as the doctor Bassanio's marriage might have been in jeopardy. His irresponsibility when it comes to promises proves that he can't be known as a trustworthy person. By looking at his history with money my point will be proven. He also is unable to be called a "team" player because of his inability to give back all that he receives. Finally, I think that Portia's openness to situations that arise is the main force that will keep Bassanio and her marriage together.

Brent: In conclusion, I think that because Bassanio and Antonio were friends far before Portia ever came into the picture, Bassanio had responsibility to Antonio first. Thus his choice in giving up his ring was not a bad one and Antonio's influence in Bassanio's decision to do this was not an evil one. Any wife should understand this and if they don't give in to the fact that your devotion to your friend is very important, than they are too self-centered.

Kelly: Are you saying that women are self-centered? You want to say that again?

Brent: Yes, well I believe. . .

- Randahl M.

Erin: Hey Gavin, what is the social status of Salerio and Solanio? Are they merchants like Antonio? Do you think they are wealthy like him?

Gavin: Well...My first impression of Salerio and Solanio was that they were middle class citizens. I didn't think that they were rich merchants like Antonio, but I didn't think that they were poor either.

Erin: Really? I thought that they were rich like him. I mean, why would Antonio hang around with middle class citizens? Back in Shakespeare's time, people only associated with those in their social class. The rich stayed with the rich. The poor stayed with the poor.

Gavin: Well, that about Bassanio? He isn't exactly rich. He had to borrow money from Antonio all the time.
Erin: What are you talking about? Bassanio has his own servants like Launcelot. He has to be at least upper middle class.

Gavin: Okay, you may have a point, but I don't like the way our discussion is headed. Why don't we use a process of elimination to figure this out. Arguing solves nothing.

Erin: All right. I think that we can assume that Salerio and Solanio aren't poor. In line 12 of Act 1 Scene 1 Salerio remarks that Antonio's ships "do overpeer the petty traffickers." His attitude is one of superiority, thinking that other small ships are nothing compared to Antonio's great merchant ships. That kind of contempt for lesser ships could not come from a poor person.

Gavin: Yes, but they aren't merchants like Antonio either. In line 15 of Act 1 Scene 1 Solanio remarks that he would be worried about his ships if he had some. In line 1517 Solanio says, "Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth, the better part of my affections would be with my hopes abroad. This shows that Solanio doesn't have ships at sea like Antonio does.

Erin: So they're not really poor or really rich. That still leaves a lot in the middle. They could be middle class or they could be upper middle class.

Gavin: Assuming of course that both of them are around the same social status.

Erin: What do you mean?

Gavin: Well, where does it say that Salerio and Solanio are both rich or both poor? Maybe one is rich and the other is poor. Maybe Salerio is haughty because he's rich and Solanio doesn't have ships because he's poor.

Erin: I thought that both of them were the same social status because both of them are almost always together in the play. If they hang around each other and there names sound similar like "Tweedle-Dee" and "Tweedle-Dum" doesn't that imply that Shakespeare intended for us to see them as similar.

Gavin: I agree with you in the thought that both of them are the same social status but that doesn't mean that it's true. There is no real evidence that says that the two have similar social status.

Erin: But it's hinted, and we both agree on it right? Let's just assume that they're both similar in social class.
Gavin: Okay, but that still doesn't answer our question. Are Solario and Solanio middle class or upper middle class? I think our observations narrowed it to one of these two classes.

Erin: Actually Gavin, I think that your first idea that Salerio and Solanio are middle class may be right. In the story Salerio and Solanio are portrayed as comical figures, right?

Gavin: Well, not exactly comical like Launcelot or Old Gobbo, but I guess they're not exactly serious. They're more like silly or playful characters.

Erin: Right. Have you ever seen a playful, rich character?

Gavin: No, most of the rich characters that I've seen in theater are uptight and snobbish. Either that, or their the evil villain like Shylock. Usually money means power and so rich characters would be powerful. Power and playfulness doesn't mix.

Erin: Exactly. I think that Salerio and Solanio are somewhere near middle class citizens. Maybe they're a little bit higher than middle class because they're friends with Antonio, but probably not much higher.

Gavin: Yeah, I think we finally agree. Maybe we're wrong, but at least we agree. Do you have any other questions?

- Michael C.

Speaker 1: The Merchant of Venice overtly exposes the fact that William Shakespeare was cold-hearted and prejudiced; it can be clearly seen from the text that he strongly disliked Jews simply because of that-- they were Jewish.

Speaker 2: Well that is one of the wildest presumptions I've ever heard! What on earth are you talking about? What makes you so sure? Shakespeare was only trying to expose the prejudice and stupidity of others. This play doesn't reflect his own beliefs.

Sl: Are you blind? It's so blatantly obvious; how else would you explain poor Shylock's treatment throughout the play? Not only does everyone hate him, but his daughter-probably all that is left of his family-- runs away stealing practically all of his ducats and jewels. And with a Christian, no doubt! Not only that . . .

S2 (interrupting): Of course his daughter ran away! Who wouldn't have run away after constantly being left alone, neglected and denied any of the simple joys that could actually be found at home (watching a masque, for example)? The man was a bastard! No girl would have stayed with such a father!

S1 (clears his throat): As I was saying, not only that, but at the end of the play he is utterly humiliated in public and forced to give up what little he has left-- even the religious beliefs which have been a part of his life for so long and made him who he is. He was reduced to nothing but a homeless commoner.

S2: Shylock deserved to be punished in such a manner! He was guilty of trying to kill Antonio. Furthermore, he would not yield to anyone's pleas, despite being offered great amounts of money; Bassanio was willing to give him two or even three times as much as had originally been agreed upon, but he would not take it. He continued to go after a pound of Antonio's flesh.

S1: I think that Shylock's actions were quite justified. Antonio had been constantly belittling Shylock's existence. He teased and shamed him in public, and even spat on him and called him a dog on numerous occasions. After bearing each traumatic event after the next, Shylock was driven to madness and of course sought revenge! What else would he do? Continue to let others pick on him for the rest of his life?

52: It's true that Shylock needed to stand up to Antonio somehow, but murder is never the answer! Such extreme measures should never be taken under any circumstances, unless of course one's life is at stake, but this was not such a case. Shylock had no right to take revenge to such an extent.

S1: Perhaps trying to kill Antonio was going just a bit out of line. But that merchant should not have gotten away so easily either! After treating Shylock like dirt for so long, Antonio did not suffer any consequences of his actions. He went away perfectly fine. He did not even apologize or show any remorse for what he had done. And after Shylock's punishment was announced, to add insult to injury Antonio insisted that he be converted to a Christian!

S2: You don't understand-- at that time it was seen as an act of mercy for a Jew to be given such an opportunity. By becoming Christian, supposedly Shylock's soul would be saved. Antonio was trying to do him a favor.

S1 (scoffs): Some favor. He knew perfectly well how much Shylock would suffer if he had to give up everything he stood for to become that which he most detested. Besides, even if Antonio was trying to show some mercy, he still deserved some type of punishment. And Shakespeare doesn't even tell us what happens to Shylock at the end of the play! He leaves us with some happy little love story and expects us to think that "all's well that ends well"?? I don't think so!

S2: Shakespeare probably just wanted to leave the rest of the story up to our imaginations. Also, in letting the story end this way he is painting us a realistic picture of the way things were in those days. No one would have believed it if Shylock won and Antonio was defeated. And if the story had ended that way, his audience would have been enraged. He was merely playing to the crowd; no other ending would have successfully done so.

Sl: Whatever...

- Kim H.

Mark: Although the story is called The Merchant of Venice, many events in the story are not centered around Antonio, who is the merchant of Venice, but instead are focused on Bassanio, Antonio's friend.

Erin: Yes, I agree. Bassanio's relationships with Antonio and Portia are very important and large aspects of the story. I don't think it is possible for Bassanio to love Antonio and Portia equally. He will love one or the other more. Which person's friendship do you think Bassanio values more?

Mark: Well before I answer your question, I think that Bassanio is sort of caught in the middle of two relationships. His friendship with Antonio appears to be dear, and one that has been built over the years. However, his newly found friendship with Portia further complicates things for Bassanio. Bassanio loves Portia and is very interested in developing a wonderful relationship with her, but will it be at the expense of his friendship with Antonio? I think Bassanio values Antonio's friendship more than Portia's. Antonio has been part of his life for a while it seems, and I don't think Portia can change that. Antonio will always be loved by Bassanio.

Erin: Bassanio is deeply in love with Portia. I think Bassanio's new life with Portia will distance him from Antonio, and it will weaken Bassanio's friendship with Antonio. Bassanio is so eager to win Portia's hand in marriage that he takes advantage of Antonio to get the money needed for him to sail to Belmont. He loves Portia even before he gets to know her.

Mark: Bassanio may find new love, such as Portia, but his friendship with Antonio can never be surpassed. Bassanio doesn't take advantage of Antonio. He only turns to Antonio for help, and being good friends, Antonio doesn't hesitate at all to help. Bassanio is there later to save Antonio in court with thrice the amount owed, and that shows how Bassanio would also help Antonio.

Erin: In the play, the only information about Bassanio's and Antonio's friendship is always given to us by Antonio. Remember that part when Antonio is saying goodbye to Bassanio? Antonio truly expresses his love for his friend. It is rather heartwrenching. Antonio speaks throughout the play about how he cares for Bassanio. Antonio is even willing to lose a pound of flesh so that Bassanio has the money to marry Portia. Antonio is so willing to give his life in exchange for his friend's happiness. What gratitude and kind words does Bassanio ever express for Antonio?

Mark: Still....I think Bassanio's friendship with Antonio runs deeper than you think. Why do you think Bassanio doesn't want Antonio to agree to risking a pound a flesh at the beginning when Shylock and Antonio first make an agreement? Bassanio doesn't want his friend to suffer for something that is Bassanio's problem to begin with. He is reciprocating his duty as a friend to Antonio. Also, how else can you explain the pain that penetrates Bassanio as he reads Antonio's letter explaining how Antonio will soon lose his life to Shylock?

Erin: Bassanio may have been good friends with Antonio, but at the end of the story, he loves Portia more. And the whole mess with Shylock and the bond would not have even occurred if it weren't for Bassanio's love for Portia.

Mark: But Bassanio gives his ring from Portia to Balthazar because he is grateful that he saves his friend, Antonio. That ring is symbolic of Bassanio's commitment to Portia, yet he is persuaded to give it to Balthazar in appreciation for what he did to save his friend. Although Bassanio does hesitate at first when asked to give up the ring, he feels more compelled to break his promise to Portia if it will demonstrate to Antonio how grateful he is to Balthazar for saving his friend.

Erin: Yes, even though Bassanio feels bad about giving up the ring, he reasons with himself and decides that Portia will be understanding about him giving up the ring. Portia loves Bassanio so much. Among all of the suitors Bassanio stands out to her the most. Bassanio and Portia share a mutual love, unlike Antonio and Bassanio. It seems to me that Antonio loves Bassanio much more than Bassanio loves Antonio, despite all the things you have mentioned to me earlier. This mutual love between Bassanio and Portia makes it apparent that Bassanio loves Portia more than he loves Antonio.

Mark: Hey, but you have to take into consideration that Portia is a female, and men like Bassanio will seem to be more attracted to females like Portia. Two men who are friends may not display their love for each other, but when one of the men encounters a woman, it is normal for him to want to love the woman.

Erin: Bassanio loves Portia more than Antonio, I think because he is looking forward to having a wonderful future ahead of himself with Portia. Bassanio gets to start a new life. That is a main reason for his intense love for Portia. Antonio is in Bassanio's past. Bassanio has already moved on, and he has begun to leave his past, and he is now building a future.

Mark: Who says you get to have the last word?

- Jade S.