The whole play is interwoven with the theme of friendship and loyalty. It is witnessed first in the friendship between Antonio, a rich merchant and his intimate friend, Bassanio. Both of them a loving bond of friendship. Basssanio, a spendthrift, has taken a loan from his friend, Antonio. It is Antonio's love for Bassanio that makes him disregard Bassanio's frivolous habits and sign the fatal bond, even at the risk of his life. Bassanio reciprocates his love for Antonio with the same ardour. Just after winning Portia, when he comes to know of the danger to Antonio's life, he rushes immediately to Venice. He offers in the court the money he has inherited by marrying Portia to settle Antonio's debt. He even promises to sacrifice his own "flesh, blood, bones and all.".
2) Romantic love.
The element of love plays an important role in the drama. There are three love stories in the play-Portia and Basssanio, Nerissa and Gratiano and Jessica and Lorenzo. Like any love story, these three stories have obstacles which are finally overcome.
Portia and Bassanio represent the highest form of love. Though initially Bassanio appears to be influenced by Portia's riches, later in the play, he proves to be a true lover, who has been charmed by the numerous qualities of Portia. His love for Portia is also tested by his right choice of caskets. Portia too is in love with Bassanio. When Nerissa reminds her of Bassanio, she remembers him fondly and agrees with her that he would be the most suitable husband for her. She is thrilled when Bassanio succeeds in chosing the right casket.
Nerissa and Gratiano's love story is a mere imitation of the romance between their master and mistress. There is no fervour or intensity in their love. It is rather a prosaic love as both of them are guided by common sense. Jessica and Lorenzo's love is a true love that doesn't allow religious differences to prove an obstacle in their way.