Category: UCO – Page 2

What is Love in Twelfth Night ?

Twelfth Night opens with the shipwreck between Viola and her twin brother Sebastian. She is sadden by this but find refuge as being the servant to a Duke near by, Orsino dressed as a man. Orsino is overwhelmed with his love for Olivia, a Duchess in Illyria and has sent for her love many times. A clear infatuation is what Orsino feels for Olivia, and he is drowning in his self pity and questioning love and women.

“If music be the food of love, play on.
Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again, it had a dying fall.
Oh, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odor. Enough, no more.
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe’er,
But falls into abatement and low price
Even in a minute. So full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.”

What is truly love here? Shakespeare writes it so eloquently, and his male characters fall hard into the expectation of the women around, and want love to come to them as swift as music Orsino compares. It is the wooing of his words that he sends to his now named servant, Cesario (Viola dressed asa man) That he thinks will bring Olivia out of the mourning for her brother and into his arms. However, it only brings Cesario closer to him, and he falls in love! He repeats Orisinos words of love though feeling them himself for his master, and showers her in compliments,

“Most radiant, exquisite and unmatchable beauty—I pray you, tell me if this be the lady of the house, for I never saw her. I would be loath to cast away my speech, for besides that it is excellently well penned, I have taken great pains to con it. Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn. I am very comptible, even to the least sinister usage.”

In Cesario’s words is where Olivia falls in love. She is attracted to his passion, though it is from Orsino and she likes the way Cesario articulates his feelings of love. Cesario adores Orsino’s want for love in return, and only wants to fulfill his begging heart.
Who is really in love, infatuated, or in like of whom? Cesario/Viola sees the tenderness in Orsino’s philosophy of love. Olivia is in like with Cesario’s delivery and Orsino is still convinced that Olivia is still the one. This initial standing of feeling that this man and woman have for this one man/woman, is the whole confusion to the play. What we know in the end is that, man gets woman dressed as a man and woman gets man who is actually a man but she thinks is the original man/woman from before who is actually the woman’s twin brother. Where does the love that Olivia has for Cesario go? The Shakespearan world will never know.

I would have loved to see this play out as a love triangle.

The Puppeteer in Othello

Othello is tragedy play about a black solider that falls to the societal and inner pressures of his ‘blackness’ as well as the influence from a malice villain. It is said to commonly often be the first person that speaks. A character that announces their problem and issues to gain sympathy from the audience. Iago does this first and makes further moves throughout the story to prove that he is the true villain in the story.

Othello begins on a street in Venice, in the midst of an argument between Roderigo and Iago. These two men are highly respected by the people around him, but also by military officials. Iago especially is a big main character in this play as he introduces the setting and tone of the story first as he is auguring with Roderigo. Iago informs Roderigo that the woman he is wanting is already married to Othello. We are given descriptions of Othello, that only highlight his appearances and personality. Othello is a black man who has ‘thick lips’ and his sexualized for his features, but also his new found marriage to Desdemona, a white woman who is the daughter of Brabanzio. Iago says he hates Othello, who recently passed him over for the position of lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced soldier Cassio. Because he was passed over, the motives of Iago are said to be personally against Othello. The jealously he feels fuels the rest of the story as Iago begins to stir the plot with his malice. Iago urges to. He seems almost to wink at the audience as he revels in his own skill. As entertained spectators, we find ourselves on Iago’s side when he is with Roderigo, but the interactions between the two also reveal a streak of cowardice in Iago to tell Brabanzio about Desdemona and Othello’s new marriage, saying that he has stolen Desdemona to get a rise out of Brabanzio. Although Iago is very vocal about his feelings about Othello to others, he makes it clear to the audience that he is Othello’s right hand man and fellow friend, who is suppose to serve him. This also reveals Iago’s true motives as he runs to Othello to tell him of this sudden accusation and speaks nothing of his involvement.

The moment Othello appears he confidently speaks up for himself and the love he has found with Desdemona. This is the words from a truthful honest man, and we are given this through the dialogue. However with the amount of people against him already, especially Iago, we are given the sense that he will not keep his image much longer. Othello explains that he wooed and won Desdemona not by witchcraft but with the stories of his adventures in travel and war. The duke finds Othello’s explanation convincing, and Desdemona herself enters at this point to defend her choice in marriage and to announce to her father that her allegiance is now to her husband. Brabanzio is frustrated, but acquiesces and allows the senate meeting to resume.

This is a moment of Iago’s that shows his puppeteer ways as he speaks to the audience.

“Thus do I ever make my fool my purse,
For I mine own gained knowledge should profane
If I would time expend with such a snipe
But for my sport and profit.” (Act 1 Scene 3)

He uses the audience to understand his next moves, but also explain how everything unfolds from here on out. Like a puppeteer Iago maneuvers his way into different situations. This can be seen in the conflict of Desdemona and Othello, Cassio’s fall from his position, and the messy Roderigo. His first plan to get rid of Cassio, as he think he is truly unfit for his job. Iago is a jealous being who is spiting others on the things that he is lacking, higher ranking position, love, and consideration for others. Othello is these things, a high ranking official, a lover, and offers consideration for others throughout the story before madness slips in. Iago targets on Cassio goes through, showing that he is an oppurtunist at best who sneaks his way into situations to manipulate them his way. He plants the seed of the adultery in Othello’s eyes, knowing that Desdemona’s attempt to save Cassio’s job is innocent. Iago turns this into an issue for Othello, as Othello becomes suspicious of Desdemona and Cassio. The constant whispers in Othello ears by Iago his supposed trusted friend makes him insecure and start to question his worth with everyone. It begins with himself, as he is unsure of what he is hearing or seeing when he sees Desdemona with Cassio. The doubt that he feels looms over his head, causing him to see her as untrustworthy. This is a complete shift of Othello”s behavior, which knocks him off his game. However this is going perfectly in Iago’s favor, as he seemings to control the outcomes of his targets. He masterfully feeds his self-alienated ways onto Othello, making him feel the quick change of madness in the matter of three days. This hysterical way of influencing someone seems fast, but Iago does it quick and harshly, ending the play with lots of death and a lots of realization. It is Iago’s talent for understanding and manipulating the desires of those around him that makes him both a powerful and a compelling figure.At the end Iago sees his revenge plan complete, each person he manipulated in down from their position of power. As much as he was not rooting for death, a tragedy is a not a tragedy without death. At that finale moment, Iago says nothing. He does not pride in his success. He tries to defend himself to the end, but ultimately cannot as everyone realizes the hand that he has dealt in this dangerous game. It is the tension between Othello’s victimization at the hands of a racist culture and his own willingness to torment himself that makes him a tragic figure and  that makes him Iago’s ridiculous puppet. Leading the story to end with death and a questions of who is really to blame for everything and everyone. All signs can be pointed to Iago. Our Puppeteer Villain.*MTHS5qX43JW7iJylIHPLOA.jpeg&


An in-depth analysis of Portia in ‘The Merchant of Venice’

When you think of Portia in, “The Merchant of Venice”, you would probably think of her to be a polished young woman that lived in a secluded mansion away from the impoverished citizens of Venice. These ideas may hold some truth to it but they do not fully represent who Portia is as a supporting character. When you really analyze the characterization of Portia, you can begin to see that she is a lot more than a one dimensional character. Examples that point to this claim is the scene with the suitors and the three caskets, the courtroom scene, and her willingness to help Bassanio in his times of need.

Bassanio had set his eyes on Portia before she decided to put together her test of the three caskets. Whichever suitor chose the casket that had a portrait of her inside, that person would be suited to be her husband. With this test, Portia was able to observe and judge the suitors’ nobility. Although, when you think about it, her test could have gone incredibly wrong if Morocco or Aragon chose the casket with her portrait in it. She trusted Bassanio with her future marriage with the casket test. Given the historical elements of the play, the story of the three caskets is not a common rite of passage for suitors to be wed with their spouses. However, Portia is put into a different position. The wealth she possesses is sacred and the test of the three caskets (at least to her) was one of the best tools to sort out her future spouse that would honor her and their marriage.

Act II, Scene 7

Portia : Go, draw aside the curtains and discover the several caskets to this noble prince. – Now make your choice.

Morocco : This first of gold, who this inscription bears : “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” The second, silver, which this premise carries : “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt : “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” How shall I know if I do choose the right?

Portia : The one of them contains my picture, Prince. If you choose that, then I am with yours withal. (Pg. 300-301, lines 1-12)

Portia could have easily set her mind on only Bassanio instead of inviting two strangers to take part in a challenge that she devised. She knew her worth and knew that many men were willing to fight for her hand in marriage (as well as her wealth).


Linton, James Dromgole; The Casket Scene from the Merchant of Venice; Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery;



In Act IV, Portia truly shines as the deal breaker and the communicator to persuade Shylock to change his verdict on Antonio’s punishment. The courtroom scene is the probably the best scene in the entire play that really highlights how multi-faceted Portia is. She disguised herself as Balthazar in order to have a say and persuade the court. One of the main reasons why she disguised herself as a man was to help her husband. Portia truly sympathized with Bassanio and saw how beside himself he was about the situation between him, Shylock, and Antonio. This is quite telling of Portia’s character. She is not a ‘damsel in distress’ by any means and is very capable.


Act IV, Scene 1

Portia : Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh. Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more but just a pound of flesh. If thou tak’st more or less than a just pound, be it but so much as makes it light or heavy in the substance or the division of the twentieth part of one poor scruple – nay, if the scale do turn but in the estimation of a hair – thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate. (Pg. 325, l. 322-330)


Shylock : Shall I not have barely my principal?

Portia : Thou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture to be so taken at thy peril, Jew.

Shylock : Why, then, the devil give him good of it! I’ll stay no longer question.

Portia : Tarry, Jew- the law hatch yet another hold on you. It is enacted in the laws of Venice if it be proved against an alien that by direct or indirect attempts he seek the life of any citizen, the party ‘gainst the which he doth contrive shall seize one half of his goods; the other half comes to the privy coffer of the state; and the offender’s life lies in the mercy of the Duke only, ‘gainst all other voice. In which predicament I say thou stand’st: For it appears by manifest proceeding that indirectly, and directly too, thou hast contrived against the very life of the defendant; and thou hast incurred the danger formerly by me rehearsed. Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke. (Pg. 326, l. 340-361)




If it was not for Portia, Antonio might have faced his in-humane punishment. Cross-dressing as a man to be a in courtroom full of men in order to save your husband’s friend’s skin takes a lot of bravery. The final verdict was not ideal for all the people involved but at least the Christians won, right?


When Portia and Bassanio are wed, Bassanio receives a letter from Antonio detailing his unfortunate circumstance, Bassanio feels guilty because he involved Antonio in a deal that was supposed to benefit him. Not to mention Bassanio is broke and has nothing to his name. His newly wedded wife, Portia, realizes the state of distress Bassanio is in and asks what can be done about his friend. This example shows Portia’s devotion to her husband. Portia did not have a full grasp of the critical situation but she was ready to step in.

Bassanio : O sweet Portia, here are a few of the unpleasant’st words that ever blotted paper…

Bassanio (cont.) : When I told you my state was nothing, I should then have told that I was worse than nothing; for indeed I have engaged my friend to his mere enemy, to feed my means. Here is a letter, lady, the paper as the body of my friend, and every word in it a gaping wound issuing lifeblood. (Act III, l. 248-250, l. 256-264)


Bassanio is ‘high-maintenance’ in case you could not tell already. Trying to live a life for the rich when he cannot afford and has to rely on other people for funds.


In conclusion, Portia as a supporting character is quite under appreciated and much more honorable than her husband. She does not fit the mold of the helpless princess and instead beats that label/stereotype that is taken at a first glance.


Sources :

Courtoom photo :

Hill, Thomas. “The Trial Scene from the Merchant of Venice , 1865.”,

Portia and Bassanio photo :

Gray, Henry Peters. “Portia and Bassanio- from The Merchant .” by Getty Images, 22 Jan. 2019, Accessed 3 Nov. 2021.

Shakespeare, William, et al. “The Merchant of Venice.” The Norton Shakespeare: Essential Plays, the Sonnets, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 2016, pp. 269–335.



Bassanio as an Emotional Conman

Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling like you got played? It might be that you spoke with someone much like Bassanio.

I’m not simply referring to the way Bassanio seems to drain Antonio’s bank accounts dry. That requires more than a few pretty words and empty promises. More, it requires a level of emotional intelligence to weasel his way into a place of Antonio’s friendship (and, arguably, his heart).

And when the play begins, that’s where we start. Straight away, we witness the connection between Bassanio and Antonio. It’s deep and genuine. These two truly know each other. Even their other friends must know this, as they leave the two to be alone with each other. Lorenzo tells Bassanio, “…since you have found Antonio / We two will leave you…” (I.i.69-70). This could imply that Bassanio and Antonio are so close that others might feel like a third wheel. Either way, their friends know and even acknowledge that Bassanio and Antonio are close.

This, as we can see in Act I, Scene 1, enables Bassanio to manipulate Antonio by redirecting the conversation. After Antonio enquires about the lady Bassanio is so interested in, he responds:

‘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.

-Bassanio, I.i.122-125

And he continues to explain how he owes Antonio the most “in money and love” (I.i.131), but he needs more. Note that he uses the word love, thereby placing emphasis on their friendship. After all, what kind of friend would deny their friends in need? Especially a friendship like Antonio and Bassanio, who obviously care for each other. By consciously choosing to say “love,” he exploits the friendship between him and Antonio. It could be argued Antonio carries a homoerotic love for Bassanio, and Bassanio knows that and uses it to get what he wants, but that’s for another analysis, though still worth considering.

how bassanio asked antonio for money, probably

All this manipulation does not negate the fact that Bassanio does care for Antonio. Take, for instance, his response to Shylock’s bond, in which Antonio agrees to repay his debt with a piece of his flesh. He tells Antonio, “You shall not seal to such a bond for me; / I’ll rather dwell in my own necessity.” (II.i.147-148) It could be read that Bassanio is being humble as a farce in manipulation, but that would disregard his actions further into the play.

For example, in Act 3, Scene 2, Bassanio receives a letter detailing Antonio’s situation, unable to repay Shylock. Portia describes the letter stealing “…the color from Bassanio’s cheek…” in line 242. He pales at the thought of Antonio’s pain, and not for worry of losing Antonio’s money—he’s already guaranteed Portia’s, so his concern lies solely with Antonio’s wellbeing.

Portia also falls victim to Bassanio’s manipulations. In Act 3, when Bassanio first arrives at Belmont, he purposefully evades Portia’s questions. After his dramatic declaration that he feels tortured, Portia implores him to “…Then confess / What treason there is mingled with your love.” (III.ii.26-27) Bassanio insists there is no treason for him to confess, but Portia is not satisfied with the response.

Ay, but I fear you speak upon the rack,

Where men, enforced, do speak anything.

-Portia, III.ii.32-33

Simply put, she doesn’t believe him. Bassanio quickly changes course in conversation, asking to try his luck at the caskets, and Portia allows it. By redirecting the topic of the conversation, he has manipulated Portia’s attention to something more considerable. With the caskets being a deciding factor in her marriage, it is a priority for Portia. And for Bassanio as well—without Portia’s marriage, he’ll lose any access he could have had to her family’s money.

But does Bassanio care for Portia as much as he does Antonio? After giving the lawyer Portia’s ring (which he swore to keep as an oath), Bassanio must make amends with Portia. She tells Bassanio to take the ring and keep his commitment better than before. Antonio acts as a guarantee again, this time offering his soul instead of his flesh.

I once did lend my body for his wealth,

Which but for that had your husband’s ring

Had quite miscarried. I dare be bound again,

My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord

Will never more break faith advisedly.

-Antonio, V.i.249-253

And so Bassanio takes the ring from Antonio for Portia. Not only is Antonio offering up himself for Bassanio’s good again, but Bassanio also takes it, even after the court battle with Shylock. Bassanio officially accepts Portia, at the risk of Antonio once again, who we know Bassanio loves in one way or another. So, I would argue that this is no longer about Portia’s money anymore. Bassanio must genuinely care about Portia in some way for him to risk the soul of someone he’s been shown to care about.

So, Bassanio may actively manipulate those around him to get what he wants, much like a conman, but I argue here he does have some compassion. Thus, the duality of Bassanio in the Merchant of Venice.


Stereotypes in Venice



Although The Merchant of Venice is noted as a comedy play, it brings to mind the idea of being a play about ethical ownership. The characters each face a different quandary, whether that be financial, marital, or rightful justice. With any comedy, old or new, the premise of the story is that it comes full circle for the main characters. In this play, the “protagonists” get their happy ending. But is it rightly deserved? Throughout this blog, we will focus on the history of the play, the four main characters, and how it is seen through a modern lens.

A background of the period in which the play was written, The Merchant of Venice was written in 1598. It is labeled as a Comedy play due to the way in which the story comes full circle and the status quo is restored. Though many critics throughout later history have labeled the play as antisemitic and racist, resulting after the events of World War II and the way in which they treat Portia’s suitors. At the time of the play, many of the English people were Protestant, due to Elizabethan reign. This preferred religion looked down upon other religions. As we can see in The Merchant of Venice, the Christian and the Jewish characters were very much against one another. This is especially true for Shylock’s character. He vehemently hates his Christian counterparts due to their treatment toward him and of course, his religious views. Though to be fair to Shylock, many of the “Christian” characters are extremely hypocritical. An example of this is the Christian’s lack of forgiveness toward Shylock.

To summarize the play, The Merchant of Venice is a comedy play centered around four main characters in Venice, Italy. These four titular characters must fight for money, love, and their lives as they go against the odds to reconcile their good fortunes. For Antonio, his love and loyalty to his dearest friend, Bassanio, is put to the test when his ships are rumored to be gone; his hide is literally on the line. For Bassanio and his future wife, Portia, it does seem to be a joining of love; if it is, it is one-sided. The fourth main character, Shylock, is a Jewish merchant and is portrayed as the villain during Shakespeare’s time. Though as the play is seen in modern times, it is evident he is the victim. 



The character Antonio is a successful merchant in Venice, he is melancholic throughout the play and has very strong feelings for his closest friend Bassanio. This love for Bassanio even goes as far as putting his flesh on the line as collateral for Bassanio to take out a loan from Shylock. In this scene in the play, Shylock seems to be joking about this form of collateral, he is obviously playing into Antonio’s antisemitic opinions about Shylock and his religion. 

Act 1, Scene 3:


Why, look you, how you storm!

I would be friends with you and have your love,

Forget the shames that you have stain’d me with,

Supply your present wants and take no doit

Of usance for my moneys, and you’ll not hear me:

This is kind I offer.


This were kindness.


This kindness will I show.

Go with me to a notary, seal me there

Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,

If you repay me not on such a day,

In such a place, such sum or sums as are

Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit

Be nominated for an equal pound

Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken

In what part of your body pleaseth me.


Content, i’ faith: I’ll seal to such a bond

And say there is much kindness in the Jew.


You shall not seal to such a bond for me:

I’ll rather dwell in my necessity.


Why, fear not, man; I will not forfeit it:

Within these two months, that’s a month before

This bond expires, I do expect return

Of thrice three times the value of this bond.


O father Abram, what these Christians are,

Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect

The thoughts of others! Pray you, tell me this;

If he should break his day, what should I gain

By the exaction of the forfeiture?

A pound of man’s flesh taken from a man

Is not so estimable, profitable neither,

As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats. I say,

To buy his favour, I extend this friendship:

If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;

And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not.


Yes Shylock, I will seal unto this bond.


Then meet me forthwith at the notary’s;

Give him direction for this merry bond,

And I will go and purse the ducats straight,

See to my house, left in the fearful guard

Of an unthrifty knave, and presently

I will be with you.


Hie thee, gentle Jew.

Exit Shylock

The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind.

Shylock has been villainized throughout the play up until this point. He is offering this loan out of kindness without interest, his joke of offering flesh plays into how greedy the Christian characters have stereotyped the Jewish people. To which he knows this and he continues stating on being spit upon by Antonio. The hypocrisy of Christians is also known as hypochristians (imo).


For the characters of Bassanio and Portia, it is hard to determine whether it is actually a marriage of love. If it is a marriage of love, it is most certainly one-sided. In the beginning of the play, Bassanio is speaking with Antonio about marrying a pretty girl who comes with a nice fortune. Antonio questions Bassanio on if he loves her, to which Bassanio never answers; his only concern is her wealth. It is evident Bassanio does not love Portia, he needs the money to pay back Antonio. If he did love her, he would not have given her ring to the clerk, a ring he promised he would never part from; which she forgives him for and leads to a happy ending. However, he doesn’t seem to have kept his promise. Which is essentially what the play is about. Sticking to promises and agreements. Transactions. Ironic that both men go into binding contracts and get themselves out of them, in a way. Bassanio leaves Portia to come aid Antonio when his ships are said to have sunk. If he loved her, he would have stayed with her. Antonio and Bassanio are constantly saving each other. Portia is also clearly an intelligent character, however with Portia’s intelligence, her inability to see the love between Antonio and Bassanio comes in to question. Or how she doesn’t seem to be able to read between the lines that Antonio is willing to sacrifice himself for Bassanio. 

Shakespeare definitely plays with the notion of stereotyping, especially Jewish people. He makes Shylock a greedy character only consumed with money. While his Christian characters are allegedly solely focused on that of love. Which is ironic, considering they are all greedy for money and Shylock only really wants justice. The Christian characters seem to be inconsistent with their plights of love. Anti-semitic when it comes to Shylock rather than caring about him as a human being. This is evident in his soliloquy with Salarino in Act 3, Scene 2:


To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,

it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and

hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,

mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my

bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine

enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath

not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,

dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with

the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject

to the same diseases, healed by the same means,

warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as

a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?

if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison

us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not

revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will

resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,

what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian

wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by

Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you

teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I

will better the instruction.

Shylock seems to be mourning the loss of his investment, but it is the loss of his daughter and the ring that he mourns as well. The ring which has more sentimental value to him rather than anything else. This does not match with his alleged greediness. 

In conclusion, this play does come full circle for some of the characters. At the time Shakespeare wrote this play, the people of England considered it a win to have Shylock convert his religion. In modern times, we see how this is wrong on numerous levels. It is easy to see how Shakespeare was weaponized to fit certain agendas and narratives, especially with this work. 

Works Cited:

MLA. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. The Merchant of Venice. Harlow, Essex, England :Longman, 1994.

Merchant of Venice image:

Merchant of Venice image:

Shylock image: