The Never-ending Chase: Unrequited Love in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis and The Merchant of Venice


  • Trinity Howard


This essay analyzes William Shakespeare's employment of the Petrarchan theme of unrequited love in Venus and Adonis and The Merchant of Venice. While the theme presents itself most discernibly in Venus and Adonis, Antonio's absolute devotion to Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice confirms the existence of this paradigm exists in their friendship. Through Venus and Antonio, Shakespeare explores the demands, consequences, and disappointments of misplaced admiration. Venus willingly endures Adonis's rejections, and this accelerates her pursuit of him. Antonio incurs tremendous financial and physical debts to honor his love for Bassanio, while Bassanio allows Antonio to risk execution for him. Venus and Antonio's reactions to these situations cement the notion of unrequited love. The Petrarchan theme of unrequited love highlights the effects of love not reciprocated, and I provide evidence of this theme in both Venus and Adonis and The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare expounds upon unrequited love throughout both works through the actions of the lovers and the rejectors. I investigate the development and unfolding of each relationship and demonstrate the effects on Venus and Antonio. I wrote this paper for my Shakespeare course in spring 2021.