Antonio is all in tears when Bassanio sets sail to meet his bride Portia in Belmont. So touching is the farewell scene of the two grown- ups that even a prosaic by-stander comment that Antonio loves the world only for Bassanio.
May be this is the height of idealization of friendship. But what’s the secret of its unfailing appeal to the audience who love ‘the merchant of Venice’ not only for Shylock and Portia but also for Antonio’s selfless friendship.
Though we are nearly always surrounded by so many of our acquaintances, we find only a few, a very few among them to whom we may look for understanding and comfort, particularly in the trying situations of life. So, we are always in quest of kindred spirits.
But if two faces are not exactly alike, how can two minds be identical? As we realize this, we become less exacting, and find out, sooner or later one or two friends of our choice. In spite of some differences, they have many of our attitudes in common with us, and show their readiness to share with us our joys and sorrows.
Thus friendship grows out of mental and intellectual affinities. It is nourished by mutual trust, respect and love until it flowers into one of the dearest possessions of man on earth.
Just as light drives out darkness, sot the mere presence of friends chases anxieties and sorrows out of our hearts. As they love and understand us, they give us right and timely suggestions without fear of favour. True friendship thrives as much on encouragement as on criticism.
It does not tyrannize; it ennobles and thus brings out the common human frailties of one another. All clouds of misunderstanding disappear and old friendship flames anew. That is the true test and lasting benefit of friendship.
We get immense pleasure and profit from the splendid pictures of friendship drawn in the great lives. Can we ever forget the instance of Erasmus and Thomas More? When More courted martyrdom the former wrote from abroad-
“(His) soul was more pure that any snow, (his) genius was such as England never had- in More’s death, I seem to have died myself; we had but one soul between us.”
Or think of the historic role played by the comradeship of Marx and Engels. All literature’s and legends are full of stories of selfless friendship and ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ is one of the most popular proverbs in all countries.
As for ordinary persons, is there anybody so insensate as to be reminded of the healing powers of friendship in daily life? Friendship is one of the most divine qualities that human beings have been blessed with. It is on us whether to develop it or keep it submerged within our selfishness.
A true friend gives may not give us the solution to all our problems but he definitely boosts our morale with power to face the problems. One who makes sure that we are not alone in our difficult times and happy hours is the real friend. One who lives for us and dies for us is a friend in the true sense of term. Friendship transcends beyond blood relations and greed.
Even our relatives and brothers may have some self-interest as a result of which they may choose to support us or go against us. However, a friend is one of the most unique relatives that a man has. Unlike all his other relatives, this person is chosen by him and has not been assigned to him by virtue of his lineage.
This makes friendship a relationship devoid of any sort of greed or windfall gains. It helps us to know life and living in a more detailed manner. Although we human beings can survive without anyone else in our lives, having a friend just makes life’s struggle a tad bit easier.
A true friend is like a constant north star who guides us to success and goodwill. He is always there when we have to fall back. He doesn’t trail behind us or lead us, but walks beside us with our pace helping us dodge the calamities of life in a strong and motivated manner.
We may now turn to the other side of the picture. There are friends and there are some who try to drag us down if we are not sufficiently intelligent and alert. So we should remember well the age-old lessons on false friends and fair weather friends which are legion.
We must try to distinguish between appearance and reality even though it is the hardest problem of life. In today’s world of global corruption, emotions and human value has also been crippled. So called friendship today is a sort of peer pressure that only scoots us towards evil deeds.
We are surrounded by a miasma of intrigues disguised as friendly figures that are but the agents of the devil who lure us into committing wrong deeds. They provoke us. They take control of our weaknesses and ego and manipulate us into doing deeds that we would not be particularly proud of in the future.
Hardly less hateful is the growing commercialization of friendship in modern society. We often come across persons of different tastes bound together by their common concern for self aggrandizement. Somewhat like thieves and criminals, they observe some code of conduct for their mutual benefit and look to one another’s interests even at the expense of civilized values.
But there is no unmixed good or evil in life, and we must cherish friendship as one of the highest values of life. If some friends disappoint us, there are many others who make living more pleasant and purposeful for us. Sometimes, it is this friendship that may develop into an even stronger bond that may lead to newer, stronger and more loving relationships. We cannot precisely state how much we owe to a bosom friend:-
“For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings”