Plot Summary / The Story-line
In this scene Salarino and Solanio are discussing about Lorenzo and Jessica’s elopement and Bassano’s departure to Belmont. They are laughing on seeing Shylock’s condition. As Shylock learns that his daughter has eloped with a Christian with his jewels and ducats, he goes along the street shouting “O my ducats, O my daughter …”.
Shylock has, however, managed to make a complaint with the duke against Lorenzo for the elopement of Jessica. He first thinks that Lorenzo and Jessica are escaping with Bassanio and Gratiano on their ship. But then Antonio assures the duke that they (Lorenzo and Jessica) are not with Bassanio on his ship. Rather they are going towards Belmont separately on a gondola.
Salarino informs Solanio what he has heard from a Frenchman. A Venetian ship has been drowned in the English Channel. He is afraid it may be Antonio’s ship. Solanio urges him to inform Antonio.
Salarino and Solanio both express their regard for Antonio. They know Antonio as a generous person. They also comment on Antonio’s love for Bassano – “I think he only loves the world for (Bassanio).” They make up their mind that they will go and try to raise Antonio’s spirit.
Commentary on Act II, Scene 8
Technically, this scene has something extraordinary. The two minor characters, Salarino and Solanio, make up this entire scene. Shakespeare often uses the conversation between characters to make clear what has happened or what is going to happen. Salarino and Solanio’s conversation is perfect in this purpose. They play the role like a chorus. It helps in developing the plot.
Bassanio’s departure for Belmont is a major event in terms of the progress of the plot. This scene also throws more light on Antonio and Bassanio’s friendship.
Again, we see how Shylock values his daughter and ducats almost the same. Placing ‘daughter’ and ‘ducats’ side by side, Shakespeare hints at how women were seen as a possession in a fiercely patriarchal Elizabethan society.