This page from The Merchant of Venice features the end of one conversation and the beginning of another. The first, between Graziano, Antonio, and Lorenzo, ends with Graziano and Lorenzo leaving together after attempting to console Antonio's sorrow. The next conversation, between Antonio and Bassanio, is when Bassanio informs Antonio of his plan to travel to Belmont to ask for Portia's hand in marriage.
We've chosen to look at these conversations through a queer lens, one inspired by the potential reading of Antonio's sadness in Act 1 Scene 1 as unrequited love for Bassanio. While the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio can be interpreted as one of platonic admiration and unrequited attraction, that between Lorenzo and Graziano can be interpreted as more playful and sarcastic, as if they were on the same page.
Color is used to facilitate this interpretation. Each line is colored with respect to the character who is speaking, and any time a character is directly mentioned (e.g. 'you,' names, 'thine,' etc.) the word takes their color. The colors that represent each character also correspond to their relationships in the play. Lorenzo, Graziano, and Bassanio are written in cool colors hinting toward their commonality of getting married later on, while Antonio is the only warm color, representing how he may be othered for not getting married. Lorenzo's blue and Graziano's purple pair well, in some ways looking similar as a reflection of their relationship. Antonio's red and Bassanio's green are complementary, but still definitively opposite each other, or taking separate lines of thinking.
We've also chosen to modernize spellings and arrange the lines so each conversation has a clear delineation and the previously mentioned relationships can be visualized.
The Comical History of the Merchant of Venice
For saying nothing; when I am very sure1
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears
which hearing them would call their brothers fools,
I’ll tell thee more of this another time.
But fish not with this melancholy bait
For this fool gudgeon, this opinion:
Come good Lorenzo,
fare ye well a while,
I’ll end my exhortation after dinner.
Lorenzo. Well, we will leave you then till dinner time.
I must be one of these same dumb wise men,
For Graziano never lets me speak—
Graziano. Well keep me company but two years more
Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.
Antonio. Fare you well, I’ll grow a talker for this gear.
Graziano. Thanks i'faith, for silence is only commendable
In a neat’s tongue dried, and a made not vendible2.
Antonio. Is that anything now?3
Bassanio. Graziano speaks an infinite deal of nothing more than any
man in all Venice, his reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in
two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them,
and when you have them, they are not worth the search.
Antonio. Well, tell me now, what Lady is the same
To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage
That you today promised to tell me of?
Bassanio. 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Then my faint means would grant continuance:
Nor do I now make moan to be abridged
From such a noble rate; but my chief care
Is to come fairly of from the great debts
wherein my time something too prodigal,
Hath left me gaged. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most in money and in love,4
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburden all my plots and purposes
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.
Image credit: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library, copy G.176.16. The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. First Quarto. London: 1600.
Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, A3v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Savannah Miller and Sarah Lamodi. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16). http://cacodemonshakespeare.com/comedies/merchant/a3v/.
- This page begins in the middle of a conversation between Grazanio, Lorenzo, and Antonio. Grazanio does almost all of the speaking in this conversation, giving reason for his playful interaction with Lorenzo on this page.
- for ... vendible: Graziano states here that silence should only been observed by ox or women who cannot be married off. The word "vendible," which is financially rooted, supports the idea of marriage as a transaction that may not truly include a feeling of love. In The Merchant of Venice, most of the male characters are concerned with benefiting themselves and male characters close to them, not seeking out deals without puropose.
- In the First Quarto version of The Merchant of Venice, this line is written as "It is that any thing now." Following the decision to modernize the language through this edit, the line has been altered to reflect Antonio's meaning, essentially interpreted here as "what did he mean by all that?"
- I ... love: Here, Bassanio declares his love for Antonio by using the language of money. We can see that men wish to help their male companions through commerce, and seek to gain wealth for themselves through marriage to women.
- This catchword from the first Quarto is maintained here to signify the continuation of Bassanio and Antonio's conversation, as it is cut short by the end of the page. Following Bassanio's line that ends this page, Antonio states "My purse, my person, my extremest means / Lie all unlocked to your occasions." Antonio is prepared to do any favor for Bassanio, only asking that it be objectively honorable.