Homosexuality in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

1474 Words6 Pages
Homosexuality in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

With every great story line comes a theme. William Shakespeare created an art of intertwining often unrecognizable themes within his plays. In Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, one hidden theme is the idea of homosexuality. This theme might not have even been noticed until modern Shakespeare fans discovered them. According to Alan Bray’s book, Homosexuality in Renaissance England, “the modern image of ‘the homosexual’ cannot be applied to the early modern period, when homosexual behavior was viewed in terms of the sexual act and not an individual's broader identity.” (Columbia University Press). This difference between homosexuality as a “sexual act” and an
…show more content…
This is where the link of Antonio’s homosexual feelings towards Bassanio can be seen. In the end, Antonio is unable to pay Shylock back on his loan. Antonio, on the verge of having a pound of flesh taken, directs a speech toward Bassanio regarding his love for him. A closer look at this particular speech, which occurs in Act IV Scene I, can help the reader to better understand Shakespeare’s intricate wording that portrays homosexuality in Antonio.

The word “love” is used numerous times in this seventeen line speech given by Antonio. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “love”, as a verb, was used by Shakespeare in his plays meaning “to entertain a strong affection for; spec. to have a passionate attachment to a person of the opposite sex; to be in love” (OED). During this speech, Antonio preaches to Bassanio, “Say how I lov’d you, speak me fair in death” (4.1.271). Taking this statement and placing it against the definition provided, the reader can see that Antonio holds more than just a friendly love towards Bassanio. Before he is about to die, Antonio professes his love to Bassanio. One would think that Antonio would feel angry that he was unable to fulfill a contract that he didn’t benefit from. Instead, he chooses his last words as loving ones toward another man.

Another instance in which Antonio uses the word “love” is in noun form. According to the OED, “love”, as a noun used by

More about Homosexuality in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

Get Access