The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton Shakespeare edition.
'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance:
Nor do I now make moan to be abridged
From such a noble rate; but my chief care
Is to come fairly off from the great debts
Wherein my time something too prodigal
Hath left me gaged. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most, in money and in love,
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburden all my plots and purposes
How to get clear of all the debts I owe. (1.1.4)
Uh, oh – looks like somebody is really bad at managing his expenses. Here Bassanio reveals that he's not just broke but in serious debt – he's living way beyond his means. When Bassanio says he owes Antonio "the most, in money and in love," we also learn that Bassanio has been more than happy to sponge off his wealthy merchant friend. But Bassanio's got a plan for getting himself out of the financial mess he's created. Gee, we wonder what that could be. . . .
In Belmont is a lady richly left,
And she is fair, and, fairer than that word,
Of wondrous virtues [...] (1.1.6)
Oh, of course. Bassanio's going to get himself out of debt by going after a rich heiress who lives in Belmont (that would be Portia). Keep reading...
Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued
To Cato's daughter, Brutus's Portia;
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth;
For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks
Hang on her temples like a golden fleece,
Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strond,
And many Jasons come in quest of her. (1.1.6)
When we read this passage, we can't help but notice that when Bassanio talks about wooing Portia, he tends to speak about her "worth," as if her only "value" comes from her money. When Bassanio compares Portia to Jason's Golden Fleece, he reinforces this notion. He seems to see his quest for Portia as a quest for fortune rather than love. Portia is reduced to the status of a meal ticket for her potential husband.