What impression do you get of Bassanio as a friend, a lover and a husband-to-be in The Merchant of Venice? Our first proper introduction of Bassanio is when he is asking his great friend Antonio to lend him some more money (Act 1 Scene 1); he wants it in order to search for and woo Portia, an extremely wealthy woman about to inherit a huge fortune from her (now dead) father. Antonio, out of curiosity, asks, "Well, tell me now what lady is the same to whom you swore a secret pilgrimage that you today promised to tell me of". But instead Bassanio, rather than replying in terms of romance, he seems obsessed with the idea of money, referring to his financial losses, "How much I have disabled mine estate", then soon afterwards he says something (which in my opinion is very ambiguous), "To you, Antonio, I owe the most in money and in love".
The reason I say this is because he says "money" before "love"; now this could just be a blunder, and him needing to get his priorities right, or alternatively it could be a deliberate statement, trying to distance himself from Antonio, in the sense that Antonio openly admits that he loves Bassanio, whereas Bassanio is actually trying to get across that he is in search for Portia, not Antonio. But still, Antonio persists, "My purse, my person, my extremest means lie all unlocked to your occasions", meaning everything of mine is at your disposal. Yet I do not think that Bassanio takes the hint, and like before talks about money, "To shoot another arrow that self way which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt, as I will watch the aim, or to find both or bring your latter hazard back again and thankfully rest debtor for the first". The way in which he speaks, and the imagery he uses is quite fascinating, he is saying that a lost arrow may be found by shooting another in the same direction; Bassanio is trying to convince Antonio that by lending him more money he will be able to pay back the debts he already owes him. Antonio replies, "You know me well, and herein spend but time to wind about my love with circumstance"; meaning Bassanio takes advantage of his love in a "roundabout" way. Then Bassanio explains to Antonio about how he will go on quest for Portia, the "lady richly left", and he sees her as a trophy to search for, "and many Jasons quest for her".
So he is comparing her to the Golden Fleece which Jason sought; this reveals already that Bassanio is not entirely interested in Portia's love, just her immense fortune, therefore as a husband-to-be, Bassanio (as we see it) is not quite the perfect partner to be in matrimony with. Even still, despite this, the incredibly generous Antonio says, "Therefore go forth, try what my credit can in Venice do... To furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia", meaning Bassanio should go to Venice in Antonio's name, for he is a well-known merchant throughout that area. At Belmont, nearly as soon as Bassanio and Portia have announced their engagement, he receives a letter from Antonio that says not one of his merchant ships had arrived safely, thus putting Antonio in grave danger because of Shylock's bond; (him having to give a pound of his flesh if his ships do not return meaning he is not able to pay back Shylock the loan of three thousand ducats). In response to this, Bassanio explains, "O sweet Portia, here are a few of the unpleasant " st words that ever blotted paper"; he is summoned to the court in Venice where he will have to witness Antonio, who sacrificed everything for him, be punished.
During the trial, twice Bassanio says he is prepared to lay down his life foe Antonio, "The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all, ere thou shalt lose me for one drop of blood", using the affectionate "thou", and "I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er on forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart". But to this Antonio replies "You cannot better be employed, Bassanio, than to live still and write mine epitaph"; the "You" symbolizes a hint of remoteness now between the two, this being ironic because it was originally perceived that Antonio and Bassanio were very close friends, but now it seems that as the circumstances have changed, so should their feelings for each other. Additionally although it may seem that Bassanio is making these offers out of friendship, it could just be out of guilt, and he is afraid that he might have betrayed Antonio. Possibly as a friend, Bassanio is quite unreliable.
As a husband-to-be, in the courtroom Bassanio (not realising) Portia is present) reveals a secret, "Antonio, I am married to a wife... I would lose all (his wife and the world), ay, sacrifice them all here to this devil (Shylock), to deliver you" (Act 4 Scene 1 line 278), so Portia of course would be mortified to hear this, then afterwards she really tests his faith, (she is already disguised as a lawyer), by demanding the ring that she gave him. This (in the late sixteenth century) would probably have been a very comic scene, but this is an example of the different views we have today; we have taken a more serious side to the scene. But he insists, (Act 4 Scene 1 line 437) "This ring was given me by my wife, and when she put it on, she made me vow that I should neither sell, nor give, nor lose it".
Despite this, he gives up after Antonio's persuasion and gives the lawyer the ring! So it seems that fianc'e is disloyal as well. Later on at Belmont, Portia confronts Bassanio about this event of infidelity, and of course he is thoroughly surprised that she was the lawyer; he tries to defend himself by saying, (Act 5 Scene 1 line 193) "If you did know for whom I gave the ring... And how unwillingly I left the ring, when naught would be accepted but the ring, you would abate the strength of your displeasure", despite him being very nervous, repeating the word "ring" in insecurity, he manages to use his language in a way so that Portia finally admits she was disguised, and all should be forgotten. Although he is conscious of his faults, I think that as either a friend, lover or husband-to-be, we learn to forgive Bassanio because of the consequences he is faced with; this is because it is a play, therefore we can interpret many scenes in different ways.