Although the plot turns on Antonio's predicament, his character is not sharply drawn. He is a rich man, and a comfortable man, and a popular man, but still he suffers from an inner sadness. One obvious, dramatic reason for Antonio's quiet melancholy is simply that Shakespeare cannot give Antonio too much to do or say without taking away valuable dialogue time from his major characters. Therefore, Shakespeare makes Antonio a quiet, dignified figure.
One of Antonio's most distinguishing characteristics is his generosity. He is more than happy to offer his good credit standing so that Bassanio can go to Belmont in the latest fashions in order to court Portia. And one of the reasons why Shylock hates Antonio so intensely is that Antonio has received Shylock's borrowers by lending them money at the last minute to pay off Shylock; and Antonio never charges interest. He is only too happy to help his friends, but he would never stoop to accepting more than the original amount in return. Antonio's generosity is boundless, and for Bassanio, he is willing to go to the full length of friendship, even if it means that he himself may suffer for it.
Antonio is an honorable man. When he realizes that Shylock is within his lawful rights, Antonio is ready to fulfill the bargain he entered into to help Bassanio. "The Duke cannot deny the course of the law," he says. And later, he adds that he is "arm'd / To suffer, with a quietness of spirit . . . For if the Jew do cut but deep enough, / I'll pay it presently with all my heart."
Antonio's courage and goodness are finally rewarded; at the end of the play, when the three pairs of lovers are reunited and happiness abounds at Belmont, Portia delivers a letter to Antonio in which he learns that the remainder of his ships has returned home safely to port.