The Merchant of Venice

Bassanio Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
A nobleman from Venice, who is a kinsman, close friend, and longtime debtor of the merchant, Antonio. Because he wants to woo the noble Portia, but cannot himself afford to do so, Bassanio borrows 3000 ducats from Shylock, with Antonio as his guarantor. His status as Portia's suitor and, later, her husband, makes Bassanio the romantic hero of the play. However, his character is deeply flawed. At best clueless, and at worst consciously selfish and manipulative, he always manages to avoid earning his own way: first, he exploits the generosity of his friend Antonio, and then he freely passes on the money and gifts that Portia gives him.

Bassanio Quotes in The Merchant of Venice

The The Merchant of Venice quotes below are all either spoken by Bassanio or refer to Bassanio. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Merchant of Venice published in 2009.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the selfsame flight
The selfsame way, with more advised watch,
To find the other forth; and by adventuring both,
I oft found both.
Related Characters: Bassanio (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.140-144
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 2 Quotes
I dote on his very absence.
Related Characters: Portia (speaker), Bassanio
Page Number: 1.2.300
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 1, scene 3 Quotes
I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
Related Characters: Shylock (speaker), Bassanio
Page Number: 1.3.35-38
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, scene 2 Quotes
If he lose, he makes a swan-like end,
Fading in music.
Related Characters: Portia (speaker), Bassanio
Page Number: 3.2.46-47
Explanation and Analysis:

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There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue in his outward parts.
Related Characters: Bassanio (speaker)
Page Number: 3.2.83-84
Explanation and Analysis:

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Bassanio Character Timeline in The Merchant of Venice

The timeline below shows where the character Bassanio appears in The Merchant of Venice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Bassanio, a relative and close friend of Antonio's, enters with his friends Lorenzo and Gratiano. After... (full context)
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Lorenzo and Gratiano announce that they must depart, but will see Bassanio again at dinner. Before leaving, though, Lorenzo notes that Antonio looks unwell. Antonio responds that,... (full context)
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Once alone, Bassanio apologizes for Gratiano's insensitivity and reveals why he's come to see Antonio. He is in... (full context)
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...for his friend and is happy to place both his "purse" and his "person" at Bassanio's disposal. Though Antonio has no cash available at the moment because he's invested everything in... (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Nerissa asks Portia whether she remembers a Venetian man who once came—Bassanio. Portia does, fondly. Just then, a servant enters. He informs Portia that the suitors who... (full context)
Act 1, scene 3
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Back in Venice, Bassanio is trying to convince Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, to lend him 3,000 ducats for three... (full context)
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Shylock then asks whether he can speak with Antonio himself. Bassanio invites Shylock to dine with them both that night, but Shylock declines. Although he will... (full context)
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...will break his personal principle in order to help his friend. Shylock agrees to lend Bassanio the money. (full context)
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Antonio agrees, despite Bassanio's nervousness about binding his friend to such a potentially dangerous contract. Talking to himself, Shylock... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
At this moment, Bassanio arrives with Lorenzo and several followers. Launcelot and Gobbo seize the opportunity and beg Bassanio... (full context)
Act 2, scene 4
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...former master, Shylock's, house, to invite Shylock to dinner on behalf of his new master, Bassanio, Lorenzo asks Launcelot to secretly bring Jessica the message that Lorenzo will not fail her.... (full context)
Act 2, scene 6
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...head out into the street, Antonio intercepts them. He scolds Gratiano for being late to Bassanio's dinner, and says that Bassanio is preparing to leave on a boat for Belmont right... (full context)
Act 2, scene 8
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
On the street in Venice, Salerio and Solanio gossip about Jessica and Lorenzo's elopement and Bassanio's departure for Belmont to woo Portia. They laugh about Shylock's desperate search for Jessica. Upon... (full context)
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Solanio says of Antonio, "a kinder gentleman treads not the earth." He adds that when Bassanio departed for Belmont, he overheard Antonio tell Bassanio not to worry about the money he... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
In Belmont, Portia begs Bassanio to delay before making his choice among the caskets. If he chooses incorrectly, she will... (full context)
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Portia instructs that music should be played so that, if Bassanio chooses incorrectly, he will at least make a "swan like end." The song commences: "Tell... (full context)
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Bassanio opens the lead casket. Inside, he finds a painting of Portia and a poem praising... (full context)
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Nerissa and Gratiano, who have been watching, express their joy. Gratiano, seizing the moment, asks Bassanio for permission to marry, confessing that he has already fallen in love with Nerissa. Nerissa... (full context)
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Lorenzo and Jessica enter with Salerio. Bassanio and Portia welcome them. Salerio explains that he is carrying a letter from Antonio for... (full context)
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Bassanio gets increasingly upset as he reads the letter. He tells Portia about the money he... (full context)
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Portia asks Bassanio whether Antonio is a dear friend. When Bassanio affirms that he is, Portia offers to... (full context)
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Bassanio reads the text aloud. In it, Antonio confesses to that there is no chance that... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
...to cut a pound of flesh from him. Then, he urges the jailer on. If Bassanio comes to see him pay his debt, Antonio says, he does not care whether he... (full context)
Act 3, scene 4
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Back at Belmont, after Bassanio's hasty departure, Lorenzo and Portia are chatting. Lorenzo reassures Portia that if she knew what... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Bassanio, who is in the gathered crowd, tries to argue with Shylock. But Antonio interrupts, telling... (full context)
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...that a messenger has come bearing letters from Bellario, and goes to get him. Privately, Bassanio urges Antonio to try to keep his spirits up, but Antonio responds that he is... (full context)
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Portia asks if Antonio has the money to repay Shylock. Bassanio responds that he has offered up to ten times the sum of money owed, but... (full context)
Prejudice and Intolerance Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Portia asks Antonio for any last words. Antonio tells Bassanio not to grieve, to send his best wishes to Portia, and to speak well of... (full context)
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Shylock, stunned, quickly backtracks, and decides to take Bassanio's prior offer of 9000 ducats. Bassanio is ready to accept, but Portia stops him. She... (full context)
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...dinner. She declines on the grounds that she must get back to Padua. Antonio and Bassanio also thank Portia. Bassanio tries give Portia the 3000 ducats he'd brought to pay off... (full context)
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
After Portia and Nerissa exit, Antonio tells Bassanio that he should value Balthazar's efforts to save Antonio's life more than his wife's orders,... (full context)
Act 4, scene 2
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Gratiano enters, carrying the ring from Bassanio. He tells Portia that Bassanio has sent the ring and asks him to join them... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...that Portia will be back before daybreak from the monastery. He asks to know whether Bassanio has returned yet. Lorenzo says that they have received no word for him. Launcelot enters,... (full context)
Human and Animal Theme Icon
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
...the music dies down, Lorenzo recognizes Portia's voice and welcomes her home. She asks whether Bassanio and Gratiano have yet returned. Lorenzo replies that they have not, but that a messenger... (full context)
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
At that moment, Bassanio, Antonio, and Gratiano enter. Portia welcomes Bassanio home; Bassanio introduces Antonio and asks her to... (full context)
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...with it, and she is sure he never would. Gratiano blurts out in protest that Bassanio did give his ring away, to a judge who had earned it, and asked for... (full context)
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Greed vs. Generosity Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Bassanio admits it is true. Portia pretends to be furious. She swears that she will never... (full context)
Law, Mercy, and Revenge Theme Icon
Reading and Interpretation Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...ring, which she pretends is a different ring, and tells him to give it to Bassanio and to tell Bassanio not to lose it. When he sees the ring, Bassanio is... (full context)