Antonio is the Merchant
of Venice. As the play opens, his mind is 'tossing on
the ocean' -along with his livelihood.
Venice was the key to Europe's
trade with Asia. Merchants like Antonio sent ships as
far as London,
laden with valuable silks, perfumes and spices.
But his state of mind is
not surprising. It was always a risky venture - merchants
could lose all if their ships encountered pirates or sandbanks.