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Thread: Merchant of Venice *Antonio's Homosexuality*

  1. #1
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    Feb 2007

    Merchant of Venice *Antonio's Homosexuality*

    I would like to discuss the idea that Antonio was a homosexual in the merchant of venice. Does anyone have any text to back up their argument. I personaly believe william shakespeare was attempting to portray him as one

  2. #2
    Registered Usher vili's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    here. in my head
    If you believe that Shakespeare wrote Antonio as a homosexual character, then you probably have some text to back up your argument as well. I think throwing that on the table would be a better way to start this thread than is simply asking others to do it for you.

    The idea that Antonio was homosexual has been raised a number of times in Shakespeare criticism. I also think that the recent film adaptation of Merchant of Venice by Michael Radford (starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes) seems to take this point of view, although ever so subtly.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2011


    personally i think that antonio is homosexual. Maybe its just the way i'm socialized, since it is very different from that in Venice Italy where men are very affectionate... The way Antonio refers to Bassanio is past the level of a close friendship. There is not much outright reference to their relationship sexually i think one existed. Maybe I'm wrong... but answer this could any one be so loving and naive as to give up their life freely and compromise their beliefs for a 'friend'??

    I think that even if the feelings weren't returned by Bassanio, Antonio had feelings for him beyond just friendship.

  4. #4
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    The concept of a homosexual as a type didn't exist until the 19th century.

    Early Modern's were likely to conceive of homosexual acts as simply a sign of hedonism or sinfulness. Homosexual desire without sex has an ambiguous status in the period.

    Queer revisionist readings are a tricky business, you don't want to overstep and make anachronistic readings. That however doesn't take away the validity of it as a contemporary reading that may have homoerotic resonances, which may or may not have been intended.

    Did Shakespeare write Antonio as gay? Definitely not, he didn't know what a modern conception of gay was. Is there a strong emotional relationship between Antonio and Bassanio? Yes.

    Taking Sedgwick's concept of the homosocial-homosexual continuum, we should be aware that the barrier between a homosocial platonic love and a homosexual romantic one is not clear from the outside. There is no clear line that can be drawn to say, these interactions are gay, those ones are straight. The way the play is written it makes the homosexual relationship a plausible reading, but that is different from it being something Shakespeare intended. So, there is no definite answer that Antonio is gay or straight, I think it is fair to read it either way. Performance choices will often determine how we interpret the relationship.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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