The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice Act 3, Scene 1 Summary
- Solanio and Salerio meet again in the Venetian streets to gossip. Salerio sadly reports that the news of what is potentially Antonio's ship getting wrecked in the narrow seas between England and France has yet to be denied. They lament that Antonio's fortunes are poor, but they're interrupted by Shylock or, as they say, the devil in the "likeness of a Jew."
- Solanio asks Shylock for gossip from the marketplace, but Shylock points out the gossip he brings is likely old news to those two: Jessica has run off. Solanio and Salerio joke that it was about time she left the nest. As Shylock laments that his own flesh and blood has deserted him, the other two men are less than sensitive. They say Jessica was no more like Shylock than white wine to red.
- Talk turns to the fate of Antonio's ships, and Shylock whines about that too – though it's unclear whether he's gleeful or upset. Either way, he keeps reiterating that Antonio needs to "look to his bond," suggesting that he has no plans to be merciful if Antonio forfeits. Salerio scoffs that he's sure, in the case of a forfeit, that Shylock wouldn't actually want a pound of Antonio's flesh. Right?
- Shylock gives an illuminating speech on the nature of prejudice, though it's laced with vicious hatred and his desire for a pound of Antonio's flesh.
- Shylock suggests he can use Antonio's flesh as fish bait, but the most important thing the human meat will feed is Shylock's hunger for revenge. Shylock lists off the little and big cruelties to which Antonio has subjected him and points out that Antonio's reason for all this hatred is simply that Shylock is a Jew.
- He asks, in earnest, whether a Jew doesn't feel everything a Christian does, summed up by the masterful and immortalized line "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"
- Shylock's speech culminates in a note about revenge, just as it began. Jews, being wronged, will seek revenge just as Christians do. If anything, Shylock has learned this example of revenge-taking from the Christians themselves. "The villainy you teach me, I will execute," he says.
- (Psst. Check out Al Pacino's dramatic delivery of this speech in the 2004 film adaptation of the play.)
- A servant then enters to announce that Antonio would like to speak to Solanio and Salerio. As those two leave to see Antonio, Tubal, a Jewish friend of Shylock's, enters with his own news.
- Tubal seems to have just returned from Genoa, where he was looking for Jessica. Shylock is distraught when he learns that Tubal kept hearing about the girl but had no luck in actually finding her. However, we're not sympathetic towards Shylock for too long, as he immediately mourns not his daughter but his money. (In her flight, Jessica has stolen two thousand ducats and a ton of precious jewels.)
- Shylock wishes he could see his daughter again. Aw. Oh wait, actually, he wishes he could see her dead, laid out at his feet with all his wealth around her, which he could promptly take back again. Further, he's really peeved that this search is costing him so much, on top of the actual loss itself. Mostly, he's sad that he's getting nothing but trouble, that no one but he is feeling pain, and that his pain is everyone else's fault.
- Tubal comforts him by essentially saying, "Don't worry, other people are leading miserable lives too."
- Thankfully, Shylock doesn't feel bad for too long after he hears Tubal's news from Genoa about Antonio. Apparently, Antonio's Tripoli venture has failed, and the man is practically ruined. Shylock profusely thanks God.
- Tubal's joyous news about Antonio's failed venture (which he heard from some of the sailors who survived the wreck) is immediately tempered by bad news. In Genoa, Tubal heard that Jessica had spent 80 ducats in one night. This is big money. Tubal wisely elects to change the subject and goes back to talking about how many Venetians have come to him with the news that Antonio can't possibly pay back his debt and must break his bond with Shylock.
- It seems here that Shylock's anger and frustration at Jessica gets channeled into his already-hot hatred of Antonio. Glad for Antonio's misery, Shylock promises to plague and torture the man. Tubal seems interested in feeding the flames of Shylock's anger, as he further adds that Jessica gave away Shylock's turquoise ring (which seems to have been a gift from Shylock's absent wife) to a merchant in return for...a monkey.
- But the good news for Shylock to fall back upon is Antonio's complete and utter ruin. Shylock sends Tubal off to get an officer of the law so they can prepare for the rightful collection of Antonio's flesh at the forfeit. Shylock gloats that with Antonio out of the way, business will be better for him in Venice. After all of this hateful, vengeful talk about material goods, Shylock tells Tubal to meet him later at the synagogue.