How Does Wealth Affect the Relationship Between the Characters in the Merchant of Venice?

How does wealth affect the relationship between the characters in the play?

“Money is like water. It flows in and out of our lives”
      The theme of wealth plays a very important role in The Merchant of Venice. Though it may not be surprising because Venice is an exciting, cosmopolitan setting for the play as well as a heart of european business in the Renaissance. Most character relationships in the play reflect on the theme of love and friendship. Yet, there are still many images of money portrayed in these relationships. One of the examples is Bassanio and Antonio’s boundless friendship and the demanded pound of flesh. While in Bassanio’s relationship with Portia, Portia is presented like the object of wealth because every man wants to win her, just like in a lottery.

Bassanio and Antonio’s relationship can be interpreted as being deeply reliant on the fact that Antonio is a very wealthy merchant. Antonio has a lot of money or even power while Bassanio is weak and has no money. Bassanio falls in love with Portia and instantly wants to marry her. That’s when the audience may get a little bit confused about Bassanio and Antonio’s friendship when Bassanio says “You shall not seal to such a bond for me; I'll rather dwell in my necessity” (1.3.11), because even though he makes an objection against Antonio's offer to put up a pound of flesh, he then later lets Antonio take the risk anyway. Here it might seem as if Bassanio is a user or he wants Portia not just for love but for the money, so then he can be equally as strong as Antonio. The audience might especially come to this conclusion when Bassanio says “To you, Antonio, I owe the most, in money and in love;” (1.1.4). Shakespeare makes Bassanio say the word “money” before “love” because according to this context, love could be even treated as just another form of wealth.

Their relationship can also be viewed as a matter of business. Though Antonio seems less interested in money because he is so...