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In merchant of venice in the first act itself we see Antonio in a sad melancholy mood . His friends try to cheer him up in many ways . Gratiano is even ready to play the fool to cheer him up . Everybody has many reasons to describe why he is sad . They say he is sad because he is worried about his argoises on sea . They say that if that is not the reason then he is in love . Gratiano simply says that he is sad because he is not happy .
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In my opinion , Antonio is presented in this melancholic mood , as this might draw a lot of attention and would keep the audience waiting to know what would happened next. Since , everything in this world happens with a reason , the very parts of the drama where salerio and salarino try to find out the reasons , would keep the enthusiasm in the audience quite high.  And each time , he protests against the reasons and justifications they give , the audience too try to think of some reasons. This method of drawing the audience's attention is effectively used by Shakespeare, quite often in the drama.
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I am not sure of this but i hope it helps
well, i'm happy i could help..
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