Essay, Research Paper: Merchant Of Venice


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In this play two characters have a bigger role than one might imagine. Salerio
and Solanio are the storytellers in The Merchant of Venice. They fill in
important information that the audience needs to full understand the play.
First, the two names differ by only a few letters, they are so close that one
might confuse the two and think that they are the same person. I feel that this
is Shakespeare's intention in this play. He makes the two similar so that they
are not very important to the plot of the play. At the same time they are two
different people, not just a narrator. I feel that Shakespeare does this so that
he can have the two characters speaking to each other. It is through their,
Salerio and Solanio, interactions that the audience learns important information
to the plot of the play. At the opening of the play three characters are on
stage, Antonio, Salerio, and Solanio. Through the dialogue, Salerio informs the
audience of Antonio's ships: "Your mind is tossing on the ocean/There where
your argosies [ i.e., great merchant ships] with portly [i.e., stately] sail (I.i.
8-9). While in the same scene Solanio helps the audience establish that Antonio
has no major love interest: "Why then you are in love," to which
Antonio replies, "Fie, fie!" (I.i. 46-47). Through their
conversations, the two have given the audience a basis for the play: that
Antonio is a merchant and that he is not concerned about being in love. An
entire scene (viii) in Act II is given completely to a conversation between
Solanio and Salerio. Here they tell of many events that have happened:
Bassanio's ship setting off and Gratiano going with him; Shylock's reaction to
Jessica and his ducats being gone; a Venetian ship that is wrecked in the
English Channel; and also the parting between Antonio and Bassanio. Here,
through the conversation of Solanio and Salerio the audience is told what has
happened. Thus they have only one way to obtain the information. They all have
the same thoughts about what has happened since they did not see the scenes and
were only told about them. Solanio and Salerio are the storytellers in the play
but they are only used for about two thirds of the play. The scene that either
one of them is in is scene ii of Act III. Here only one of the two is present.
Salerio's occupation for the scene is to get the plot of the play back to
Antonio. Since the action of the play has mostly been involving Bassanio and
Portia, Salerio arrives to tell Bassanio of the trouble Antonio is in back in
Venice: "Not sick, my lord, unless it be in mind/Nor well, unless in mind.
His [i.e., Antonio's] letter there/Will show you his estate [i.e.,
condition]" (III.ii. 234-236). From this scene on Solanio and Salerio are
never to be seen in the play again. I feel that this is because their job as
storytellers is complete. There is only the court scene and the final scene left
in the play. Those two scenes tell their own story with no breaks in the action.
There is no use for the two storyteller characters because everything else is
acted out. These two characters have a vital role in the play. When there is
information that has to be told it is there job. They keep the action of the
play going without the audience having to watch a lot of scenes.
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