Thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea…
(Antonio, Act 1, scene 1, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare)
“At sea” turns out to be a vital point in The Merchant of Venice. To help finance his friend Bassanio’s courtship of Portia, the merchant Antonio borrows money, gambling on the potential gains from his various ventures. In fact,
…he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies; … a third at Mexico, a fourth for England… But ships are but boards, sailors but men…”
(Shylock, Act 1, scene 3)
Shylock loans Antonio the money. Then, in subsequent scenes, we learn Antonio’s ships have all been lost at sea. Antonio is ruined and Shylock seeks to claim the macabre bond that Antonio agreed to, if the loan couldn’t be repaid: a pound of Antonio’s own flesh.
Antonio and Shylock ultimately land in court, with the latter ready to cut…
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