Types of Love in The Merchant of Venice

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      Different types of love and rivalry are other important topics in The Merchant of Venice. The suitors who vie for Portia's hand all represent of love. The Princes of Arragon and Morocco - the two unsuccessful petitioners - symbolize a shallow and limited form of love. Arragon, by selecting the silver casket on the basis of its inscription ("Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves"), in act 2, scene 7, reveals that his concept of love is self-serving and vain. Morocco's choice of the gold casket indicates that his notion of love is based on superficiality or physicality ("Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire"). However, when Bassanio correctly identifies the lead casket, he demonstrates a superior understanding of love, as he judges the box on the inner qualities it may possess rather than on its dull, outer appearance. This represents a deeper and more spiritual type of love.

      The issue of rivalry in love is evident in the association between Antonio, Portia, and Bassanio. Some critics argue that the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio may be a homo-sexual one, citing the merchant's unexplained melancholy at the beginning of the play as the result of Portia displacing him as the object of Bassanio's affection, as well as Antonio's desire to keep Bassanio happy by continually supplying him with money, despite the consequences. In addition, the two couples - Bassanio and Portia and Jessica and Lorenzo-represent two antithetical kinds of love in this play. Bassanio and Portia demonstrate a socially acceptable courtship; not only do they obey her father's request that Portia's suitor successfully passes the casket test, but they also uphold the legal provisions of the test as mandated in the father's will. Jessica and Lorenzo's courtship, however, illustrates a romantic love linked to the great lovers of myth, particularly in the illicitness of their elopement. Unlike Portia and Bassanio's union, Jessica and Lorenzo's defies social traditions because their aspiration to get married causes them to step out of the bounds of the accepted rules of society as well as the rules of the father.

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