Love and Money in Shakespeare's "The Twelfth Night"

Love and Money in Shakespeare's "The Twelfth Night"

A Story by Courtney

Ethos, Pathos and Logos in "The Twelfth Night" by W. Shakespeare.


Love and Money in Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night

                Shakespeare uses the theme of love and money to demonstrate the ethos, pathos, and logos aspects of Aristotle’s charioteer model of the soul in the characters of his play, The Twelfth Night, whereupon the outcome of the play and the character’s happiness is determined by the ethics they have demonstrated on stage. The three main characters of the play are Antonio, Shylock, and Portia, and each character has a distinctive set of ethics that are demonstrated and steady throughout the play. Each set of ethics demonstrated by these three characters fits into one of Aristotle’s representation of the soul as the three parts of a chariot: ethos is a white horse, good-tempered and gentle, driven by a strong moral code, or ethics; pathos is a black horse, ill-tempered and hard-headed, and driven by passion; logos is the charioteer, the thinking part of the trio, the one who is guided by logic. In Aristotle’s chariot model, a person will act on the desires of whichever part of the “chariot” or soul that has control of the person’s ethical standards. Because the Renaissance was the age of re-discovery of old classics, Aristotle’s Ethics was no doubt among the works that Shakespeare studied during his education.

Antonio’s character fits into Aristotle’s chariot model as the white horse. He is kind and generous soul to those he loves, and his love for Bassanio leads him to borrow money that he didn’t have so that his closest friend might have the means to pursue the love of the maiden, Portia. Antonio appears to value friendship above all else. In borrowing this money, he agrees to pay a ludicrous fee of a pound of flesh to Shylock should he fail to make the payment on time, betting his life on a gambol of fortune amassed in several ships at sea. He is blindly base and rude to those he would consider his enemies, an action that is opposite to how he treats those he loves. These actions are led by a strong sense of right and wrong, a distinct division of “us and them” as friends or enemies based on a shared or conflict in beliefs or ethics. Consider what he says about Shylock and to him in Act I, scene III:

ANTONIO:                           Mark you this, Bassanio, the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek, a goodly apple rotten at heart. O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

                           And later,                             

ANTONIO:           I am like to call the so again, to spet on thee again, to spurn thee, too. If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not to as to thy friends, for when did friendship take a breed for barren metal of his friend? But lend it rather to thine enemy, who if he break, thou mayst with better face extract the penalty.

Nothing was mentioned about Shylock’s deserving to be spit on or kicked, and yet Antonio did so, with no other known reason than he was a Christian, and Shylock was Jewish. Antonio shows no remorse for having done so, and therefore, we can conclude that he feels that he was not wrong to act this way. This indicates a strong moral division of enemies and friends, where enemies are no longer considered as human, but as a source of evil. This also implies that Antonio’s ethics are not logical, but rather driven by a passionate sense of good and bad and a strong division of enemies and friends. Like the white horse in Aristotle’s chariot model, Antonio is easily led by his circumstances and would rather give his life for honor than to use his wits to escape. Consider what he says to the Duke in IV.I: ANTONIO: “… Therefore I do beseech you make no more offers, use no farther means, but with all brief and plain conveniency let me have judgment and the Jew his will.” We never see Antonio attempt to get advice on how to stop what was coming, even after he started getting reports on his lost ships and the merchandise they carried. From his borrowing money out of love for Bassanio to his agreement to pay Shylock a pound of his own flesh, Antonio does not follow any sort of logic, but rather his own code of ethics. When Portia turns the contract on Shylock and lawfully gives away his entire estate for knowingly intending to kill a Christian, half of his estate was given to Antonio, who again demonstrates his own strong sense of ethics by returning the half of Shylock’s estate back to him. Consider what he says in IV.I:

ANTONIO:                           So please my lord the Duke and all the court to quit the fine for one half of his goods, I am content; so he will let me have the other half in use, to render it upon his death unto the gentleman that lately stole his daughter.

Antonio’s attitude towards Shylock has changed with the marriage of Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, to Lorenzo, making her a Christian. He takes it upon himself to convert Shylock into a Christian and make him a friend since Shylock’s daughter was now married to one of his own good friends. It would seem as if a strong sense of right and wrong would lead him to attempt to mend this rift in the family and see to it that his friend was not left out of the wealth that Shylock would amass in the future. Antonio’s blundering ethics had linked him to one particularly resourceful woman, who not only saved him from losing his flesh, but also handed him half of Shylock’s estate. Though everything worked out for him in the end, with three of his ships coming to harbor a little late, but still full of goods, Antonio had a difficult time of things and was saved only by the wit of a woman.

                In contrast, Shylock is like the black horse of Aristotle’s chariot model. Unlike the white horse and Antonio, he is driven by his passions. He is hard-headed and unreasonable. Consider what he tells the court about why he wants a pound of Antonio’s flesh in IV.I:

SHYLOCK:            … You’ll ask me why I would rather choose to have a weight of carrion flesh than to receive three thousand ducats. I’ll not answer that; but say it is my humor, is it answer’d? … [Mistress] of passion, sways it to the mood of what it likes of loathes. Now for your answer: as there is no firm reason rend’red …. So can I give no reason, nor I will not, more than a lodg’d hate and a certain loathing I bear Antonio that I follow thus.

There is no reason other than that he hates Antonio. It follows to conclude that only a cruel and base person could render so much satisfaction in collecting such a debt, someone who follows a passion for vengeance and power over another as to cost him his life. His motives are base and cruel " look at what he says to Antonio in III.iii: SHYLOCK: “… Thou callst me a dog before thou hadst a cause, but since I am a dog, beware my fangs.” He admits to being base, vicious and animal-like, driven by his passions rather than reason or logic. Shylock values power and wealth above all else, and his desire for these things drives away his daughter, Jessica. See what he says in III.i:

SHYLOCK: … Two thousand ducats in that, and other precious, precious jewels. I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear! Would she hears’d at my foot and the ducats in her coffin! No news of them? Why, so " and I know not what’s spent in the search. Why, thou loss upon loss! The thief gone with so much, and so much to find the thief, and no satisfaction, no revenge, nor no ill luck stirring …

He is shouting to Tubal that he would rather have his wealth and his daughter dead than his wealth gone by her thieving hands. This very strongly supports the supposition that he cares for wealth above all else, even his daughter’s life. His passion is not driven by logic " he had the choice to forgive his daughter and accept the loss. However, the only motive he states was the satisfaction of revenge, and not particularly the retrieval of the wealth she had taken " although the wealth was still a part of the picture, he even more strongly desired the power in what he felt was his right to extract revenge.  Because he insisted on having such a vicious payback as a pound of Antonio’s flesh, cut as close to the heart as he could, Shylock loses everything, his entire estate. Consider what Antonio says in court in IV.i:

ANTONIO:      Two things more, that for this favor he presently became a Christian; the other, that he do record a gift, here in the court, of all he dies possess’d upon his son Lorenzo and his daughter.

Here, Shylock and Antonio display an curious link, a sort of unexplainable bond: Antonio would give back to him half the estate he was entitled to under two conditions, the first being that Shylock convert to Christianity, which would make him a “good guy” in Antonio’s opinion. In Aristotle’s chariot model, when both ethos and pathos are led by logos, then they get along and help one another get where they are going.

                In the Twelfth Night, the logos or logical part of Aristotle’s soul-as-a-chariot model " the charioteer, is Portia who is in part, guided by her wise father. Having raised his daughter Portia, and perhaps teaching her to be independent and strong-willed, or perhaps he found himself to be moved by her intelligent will more than he would have liked. Either way, it was out of love that he bound her in his will in a way that would keep her from being wed into an unhappy marriage. Consider what her father wrote on the leaden chest in II.vii: PRINCE OF MORROCCO:  This third, dull lead, with a warning all as blunt, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” That is, whoever is to be allowed to marry Portia must be willing to give everything for her love, as her father would have done. Portia herself likes Bassanio best of all her suitors and says so to Nerissa in I.ii, and begs him to delay for a bit when he arrives to see her in III.ii:

PORTIA:               I pray you tarry, pause for a day or two before you hazard, for in choosing wrong I lose your company; therefore forbear a while. There’s something tells me (but it is not love) I would not lose you, and you know yourself, haste counsels not in such a quality.

And later, when Bassanio is opening the leaden casket, the one she knows contains the painting of herself:

PORTIA:               [aside] How all other passions fleet to air, as doubtful thoughts, and rash-embfrac’d despair, and shudd’ring fear, and green-eyed jealousy! O love, be moderate, allay thy ecstasy, in measure rain thy joy, scant this excess! I feel too much thy blessing; make it less, for fear I surfeit.

It would seem that had she the choice, out of all her suitors, Portia would have chosen Bassanio for her husband. In choosing the correct casket, Bassanio earns her father’s blessing to wed Portia. Later in the play, we begin to see why Portia’s father said that the man who would marry his daughter must be willing to chance everything to be Portia’s husband. The woman Portia dresses as a man and enters the court as the young doctor, Balthazar.  After the preliminaries are through, and it was determined that Shylock would not back down from getting his due of a pound of flesh, cut off nearest to the heart, Bassanio says in IV.i:

BASSANIO:         Antonio, I am married to a wife which is as dear to me as life itself, but life itself, my wife, and all the world, are not with me esteemed above thy life. I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all here to this devil, to deliver you.

A statement to which Portia (in disguise) tells him, “Your wife would give you little thanks for that, if she were to hear you make the offer.” Gratiano makes a similar declaration about his wife, to which Nerissa (also in disguise) is equally displeased with. However, Portia sets that issue aside and focuses on the one at hand instead of letting her passion or pride rule her head. Through study of the law and by using logical argument, Portia manages not only to forfeit Shylock’s bond with Antonio, but also to take Shylock’s entire estate. Look at her two speeches in IV.I:

PORTIA:               Tarry a little, there is something else. This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood; the words expressly are “a pound of flesh.” Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh, but in the cutting it, if thou dost shed one drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods are by the laws of Venice confiscate unto the state of Venice.

And a column later, she goes in for the final blow:

PORTIA:               Tarry, Jew, the law hath 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 which he doth contrive shall seize one half his goods; the other half comes to the privy coffer of the state, and the offender’s life lies at 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 contrives against the very life of the defendant; and thou hast incurr’d the danger formerly by me rehears’d.

In this way, Portia is able to not only quell Shylock’s thirst for vengeance, but also to knock him down off his righteous pedestal. Because Shylock had pursued his thirst for revenge with unreasonable venom, he in turn, lost everything he owned. In Aristotle’s model, when both horses pathos and ethos are controlled by the charioteer, logos, then harmony and positive action result. This is demonstrated by Antonio’s sudden generosity at suddenly finding that he would not only keep his flesh (and therefore, his life), but also that he was entitled to half of Shylock’s estate. In the final act, Portia demonstrates how well her father knew her when he put the painting of her in the leaden casket with a warning on its’ plaque. Because of Bassano’s declaration in the courtroom, Portia decides to devise a sort of test, a warning to her husband to heed her words. She and Nerissa approach Bassanio and Gratiano and request the rings they had given their husbands in exchange for an oath to keep them always for their service as the disguised doctor and clerk in court. The two women impishly ensure that the two men would keep their oaths (and their rings) with more serious devotion in the future in V.i:

PORTIA:               Then you shall be his surety. Give thim this, and bid him keep it better than the other…

BASSIANO: By heaven, it is the same I gave the doctor!

PORTIA:               I had it of him. Pardon me, Bassanio, for by this ring, the doctor lay with me.

Nerissa: And pardon me, my gentle Gratiano, for that same scrubbed boy, the doctor’s clerk, in lieu of this last night did lay with me.

GRATIANO:                        Why, this is like the mending of highways in summer, where the ways are fair enough. What, are we cuckolds ere we have deserv’d it?

PORTIA:               Speak not so grossly, you are all amaz’d. Here is a letter, read it at your leisure. It comes from Padua, from Bellario. There you shall find that Portia was the doctor, Nerissa there her clerk. Lorenzo here shall witness I set forth as soon as you, and even but now return’d; I have not yet enter’d my house….

By claiming to have slept with the doctor (and Nerissa, with his clerk) before revealing that she had been the doctor, Portia was able to make her point to Bassanio that if he were to remain her husband, should he make her a promise, she expected him to keep it, no matter how hard it may be. By revealing herself as the doctor, and therefore as Antonio’s savior, she claims the respect due to her intellect and thereby increases Bassano’s willingness to follow her will. In addition, by revealing herself, Portia ensures the gratitude (and therefore, the debt) of Antonio’s rescue goes to herself, and not some unknown doctor in the courtroom. This ultimately puts her in control of the marriage, by proving that she is smarter and more resourceful than her husband. Because she acts with logical calculation, Portia is able to achieve all that she desires in Bassanio.

                Love and money is used throughout the play to demonstrate the moral values of the three main characters Antonio, Shylock, and Portia in a parallel to Aristotle’s model of ethics as a chariot consisting of two horses and a charioteer. In the play, each of these three characters are driven by motives that fit with Aristotle’s definition of the three parts of the soul and the kinds of people that are led by each part. The ones lead by the white horse, ethos are rash but essentially good, a person who follow a strong moral code. This personality describes Antonio’s character. The people who are led by the black horse, pathos, are driven by passion, who desire wealth and worldly goods above all. This personality accurately describes the character of Shylock. The best kind of soul, according to Aristotle, is one who is led by logos, or the charioteer part of the soul. This is a person strong enough and wise enough to manage the often conflicting desires of ethos and pathos to create harmony and progression between the two horses. This role is filled by Portia, who demonstrates cunning and wit enough to ensure that she will have all she truly desires.





Shakespeare, W. (n.d.). Twelfth Night. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.



© 2015 Courtney

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Added on April 14, 2015
Last Updated on April 14, 2015
Tags: ethics, shakespeare, courtney, hurd, aristotle, essay



Platteville, WI

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A Story by Courtney