The Merchant of Venice Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton Shakespeare edition.
O my Antonio, had I but the means
To hold a rival place with one of them (1.2.180-181)
Bassanio thinks Portia is the answer to his financial problems, but he's worried that he's too broke to court her. (Apparently, dating in the 16th century was pretty expensive, and Bassanio doesn't think ordering off the dollar menu is an option when you're trying to hook up with an heiress.) If only there were a solution to poor Bassanio's problem....
Thou know'st that all my fortunes are at sea;
Neither have I money nor commodity
To raise a present sum. Therefore go forth:
Try what my credit can in Venice do;
That shall be racked, even to the uttermost
To furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia.
Go, presently inquire, and so will I,
Where money is, and I no question make
To have it of my trust, or for my sake. (1.1.184-192)
Wow, the wealthy Antonio sure does love his BFF. Here he says he'd loan Bassanio the money he needs to woo Portia in style, but he can't because all his dough is tied up "at sea." As an alternative, Antonio says Bassanio can use his (Antonio's) good credit in order to secure a loan. (Basically, Antonio's going to be a kind of co-signer.) This is a really generous and risky offer for Antonio to make because, as we know, Bassanio is terrible at managing his money, which is why he's always sponging off his friend.
I hate him for he is a Christian,
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls 'interest.' Cursèd be my tribe
If I forgive him! (1.3.42-52)
Here Shylock says he hates Antonio because the guy is 1) a Christian and 2) he lends out money free of interest, which has a negative impact on Shylock's money-lending biz. As we know, one of the biggest bones of contention between Christians and Jews in this play is the practice of usury (lending out money and charging interest). The Christian characters think it's wrong to charge interest and make money off of loans, which is a reflection of 16th century English attitudes about usury.
The Church believed that interest should never be charged when one Christian loaned money to another Christian. This idea comes from Deuteronomy 23:19-23: "You shall not lend upon interest to your brother, interest on money, interest on victuals, interest on anything that is lent for interest. To a foreigner, you may lend upon interest, but to your brother, you shall not lend upon interest." Christians in England were allowed, however, to borrow money (with interest) from foreigners. Since Jews were classified as "foreigners" in England, they were encouraged to set up banks when they arrived in England.