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Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Merchant of Venice: Character of Antonio

Antonio is not the hero of The Merchant of Venice but if we look at the opening scene then the readers may get the idea that he is the most important character in the drama. He is indeed the Merchant of Venice but not the hero of the play. It is true that he is directly or indirectly related to all the events of this drama. It is Antonio who entered into bitter feud with Shylock about lending money. He borrowed some money from Shylock because he wanted to help his best friend Bassanio to sail to Belmont. He somehow failed to repay the loan in due time and Shylock wanted to have a pound of his flesh as agreed in the contract of the loan. Then the trial scene happened and Portia came to save him from danger. In the end, he gets back everything including his life.

The first impression we get about Antonio in the Merchant of Venice is that he is a different kind of wealthy businessman. We know him as the rich merchant but he has hardly any of the qualities of a merchant. He is not a greedy rich man. Instead, he loves to share his wealth. He does not mind lending money to others without interest. Thus, he saved many people from becoming the victim of Shylock. That is why, Shylock is very annoyed and angry with him. Shylock hates Antonio as much as he can.

Antonio is shown in the drama as a generous friend. He is generous with all of his friends. He is rich but he does not show off. He is not a proud man infront of his man. Instead, it is clear that he treats his friends just like his equals. This is something that really should attract many readers. In our own lives, we have some friends who are extremely rich. I guess that most of the time, we find these friends as quite the opposite of Antonio. They are not generous and they show off a lot in front of their not so well off friends. It is a common disease among many rich men and women. That is why, Antonio looks to be different than other rich merchants. He cares for the condition of the ordinary people. He happily helps them without any expectation.

Antonio values friendship a lot. He likes Bassanio and they are best friends. Bassanio is not a rich man. He is infact a fortune seeker and he wants to go to Belmont to try his luck about getting married Portia, a very rich heiress. At that time, women could not own property after marriage in Europe. So, whoever gets married to Portia would get the princess and full kingdom. Antonio did not have enough cash in hand as most of his wealth were spread in his merchant ships. Still, he went to Shylock, lowered his head and agreed to a fatal contract about the repayment of the loan.

So far, I just talked about good sides of Antonio. Now, let us focus on not so good sides. I don’t think that he was a bad or evil character. It is true that Antonio sometimes abused Shylock with his words. Well, there are two sides to this matter. First of all, you can say that Antonio abused Shylock because Shylock was a Jew. On the other hand, you can say that Antonio disliked Shylock because he was a money lender and very few people are fan of a money lender who charges high interest. Anyway, his treatment of Shylock castes a dark shadow on Antonio’s character in The Merchant of Venice. If you want to identify him as an evil person for this matter, I will not debate with you.

Antonio is a naïve person. I cannot understand why he agreed to such a contract that if he failed to pay the loan to Shylock in due time, a pound of his flesh would be taken away by Shylock. Antonio knew very well that Shylock did not like him and Shylock was capable of doing bad things.

If signing the document was a shocking thing, still more shocking was that he was totally inactive when it came to repay the loan of Shylock. He did not try to appeal to his friends, relatives and other merchants to loan him some money even in interest and this way, he could have easily repaid the money to Shylock. It was not a huge amount of money. He helped many people in the past. So, at least, some people would love to help him in his time of distress. This is something that I cannot understand about Antonio in the Merchant of Venice.

Antonio’s inactivity might have come from his melancholy. He is sad most of time but we can find hardly any information about the cause of this sadness.

John Bunyan and The Pilgrim’s Progress

The Pilgrim’s Progress is a masterpiece not only of John Bunyan but also of the 17th century England. John Bunyan wrote it in sometime after 1660 and it was published in 1678. Since then, this book has never gone out of print and it has been translated to around 200 languages. This shows that The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most popular books written ever in any language. It is a classic book.

I read it when I studied English Literature (I did my BA or Bachelor in English Literature) in University of Dhaka. I liked the book the first time I read it. Well, to be honest with you, anything related to the Civil War of England (of the 17th century) and related to conflicts among the Anglicans, Catholics and Puritans attracted me a lot when I was a student of English Literature. I like to study about politics and history a lot. The Pilgrim’s Progress is more than a literary work and novel (if it is indeed a novel). In fact, I like to take it as a book on History, Religion and Politics of England of the second half of the 17th century.

In the last few days, I again read The Pilgrim’s Progress. I reread the book after 12 years. English is not my mother tongue and 12 years ago, I was not so skilled in English like now. Yet, I remember that I did not have that much problem reading and understanding The Pilgrim’s Progress a decade ago. It is a large book but I enjoyed reading the book and I could finish it in just 3 days.

Have you read The Pilgrim’s Progress? What is your idea about this book?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What you want to have in this Blog?

I am sorry that I could not update this blog for the last few weeks. Well, I am preparing some materials for the blog. I like to thank all of you who have subscribed to the feed.

What do you want to have this blog? Please, let me know and I will try to write the things that you like to be featured here.