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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 at 7:07
  • side note, all the antonios I've found in shakespeare's work (MoV, 12th night) are very, VERY easy to read as gay. Coincidence? I think not... – tryin Jul 15 at 7:17

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