A couple of years ago, I went to a stage performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, in which Antonio and Bassanio were portrayed as being in a gay relationship together since before the start of the play. This correspondingly affected the romance between Bassanio and Portia, which was portrayed as being somewhat forced.

At first I didn't feel this was true to the original spirit of the play - I'd always imagined Bassanio as being merely close friends with Antonio and being in love with Portia - but I do remember some lines in the play which (assuming they weren't changed for this performance, which I think is very unlikely) seemed to fit surprisingly well with this interpretation.

Is there any textual evidence that Bassanio and Antonio were or weren't in a relationship?

  • I can't remember any quotes which state unequivocally their relationship fell one way or the other - though I've found this a theme in male relationships throughout Shakespeare - he does seem to hold the love between two men (platonic, it seems) as above the hetrosexual. A quick search throws up several articles ( eg this paper and article. The theme is to propose a relationship beyond the platonic but without undeniable proof. – Lio Elbammalf Jun 1 '17 at 21:50
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    I suppose it depends on what you mean by 'textual evidence'. Antonio is completely willing to put his life on the line for Bassanio (as I remember it). I've always read the play as Antonio being in love with Bassanio (but not vice versa) and knowing it can never be – tryin Jul 15 '19 at 7:07

There are several renditions of the play that depict Antonio and Bassanio to be lovers (though they cannot show it due to the time they are living in). They insinuate that Bassanio is just marrying Portia for her money. As for textual proof, I have nothing concrete, but at the beginning of the play, Antonio is melancholy for a reason that is never explained. In my Shakespeare class, we discussed how this may be the result of his unreturned love for Bassanio.

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    Hi Bella, welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. You write, "As for textual proof, I have nothing concrete", but textual evidence is exactly what is being asked for ... – Tsundoku Feb 13 at 19:33
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    I’d suggest including the quotes from Act 1 Sc 1 that describe this melancholy (particularly the explicit reference to “no man — no, nor woman either”), as well as the lines from the end of the play that suggest the Antonio is still melancholic. – Gaurav Mar 14 at 14:50

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