The Merchant of Venice – Salerio and Solanio

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 ifferent 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 ne 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 ever 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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