Volume 71, Issue 2, Spring 2019
David N. Beauregard
Love and Friendship in The Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare, Aristotle and Aquinas
The basic argument of the essay is that in The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare represents Aristotelian-Thomistic notions of love and friendship. In the attraction of Bassanio for Portia we have the three-fold analysis of love as desire for the useful, the pleasurable and the virtuous. In the male friendship between Antonio and Bassanio we see the liberal man’s virtuous desire to give and share his wealth with his friends. Both relationships are concerned with giving and taking, a reflection of the Aristotelian-Thomistic distinction between love as desire and love as friendship. A final note is the play’s conclusion in the Aristotelian goods of happiness, gratuitous good fortune with the safe arrival of Antonio’s ships, union in friendship and marriage with Portia and Bassanio, Nerissa and Gaziano, and the wonder and delight that is to follow with Portia’s answer to all remaining questions.