4 of Cups - Antonio, Merchant of Venice
Dramatis Personae: Antonio, the merchant of Venice.
Text & Context: The name Anthony means tantony pig, the favourite &/or smallest pig in a litter.
Anthony's love for Bassanio is of a kind and intensity banned by Christian society. It is the unspoken source, that cannot speak its name, of Antonio's sorrow; it throws Bassanio's gold-digging and decorous love for Portia into sad relief. Dressed to the nines with Antonio's money, having squandered most of that and the bond's allotted 3 months on lavish living in Venice, Bassanio, by being rewarded with the gift proper to unadorned virtue, makes a mockery of the legend
Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.
There are two characters in the play who meet this requirement, and neither are the young beautiful people of the central amorous plot. Rather, the play's true agon is met by Antonio, the castrated ram, and Shylock, the circumcised outsider.
The bond Antonio and Shylock agree to is corollary to the bonds of marriage the comely characters strike. It is a surrogate for the forbidden love that must go, for Antonio, unrequited, and the self vindication and validation which Christian society denies Shylock.
Antonio's venture capitalism is not so different from Shylock's sanctioned usury. Both were the result of and helped to create Europe's Babylon of commerce and war, Venice. Merchant is a chant sung to the golden city build on the sea. At its heart is the struggle between value and worth, the currency of which is money and love. "My purse, my person" as Antonio presents it. The Deuteronomy which permits the extraction of interest from a stranger, otherwise forbidden in Leviticus, declares
No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge; for he taketh a man's life to pledge
A man's means of living, in other words, means a man's life. As Shylock puts it: "you take my life when you do take the means whereby I live." The Christians then, sanctioned by their Ducal court of law, deprive Shylock of a means of living, and so not just his life, but his very meaning. In this, Shylock is Antonio's antonym - it is his heart, in the end, excised by the merchant. The tainted wether, in an act of golden fleecing, both saves and sacrifices the scapegoat's life. Dearly loved is dearly bought; the heart is removed from the matter and made mercantile. Mercy is made mercenary.
In Antonio's complicity with society we may see, as analogy, Henry V's righteous war in France to circumvent domestic disquiet, or, closer to home, the trend in America of homosexual men voting Republican. It is his own livelihood and love for Bassanio which prevents Antonio from saying, along with Mercutio, A plague on both your houses! Instead, by both holding true to love and betraying it, Antonio is intoned in the authorial voice of The Sonnets,
I may not evermore acknowledge thee.
But this is the suit of Cups, whose armor is love. In the tainted wether and scapegoat can be seen a dish of doves - tantony pigeons - and the possibility of atonement. The things of this world attained, if dubiously or through no merit of one's own, perhaps now honest labour and prosperity can find a home. That is, as with the son nets that are The Sonnets, by the siring of pied sheep and the making of Christians - even though it raise the price of pork - and with Antonio's inclusion in such a family.