This scene from ‘The Merchant of Venice’ written by William Shakespeare acts as a narration for events that have not been witnessed on stage. Shakespeare uses chorus characters, repetition, foreshadowing and his style of writing to make this moment significant.
The chorus characters- Salarino and Solanio are present on stage, having a conversation, due to which the audience is informed about the recent action. The characters have their own approach, or style of portraying how Lorenzo and Jessica eloped, Shylock’s reaction and how Antonio bid Bassanio farewell. They discuss the development of the plot as Salarino states “I saw Bassanio under sail”, “Antonio certified the Duke”, “Lorenzo and his amorous Jessica”. The conversation amidst the chorus is continued as they expressively demean Shylock calling him the “villain Jew” or “dog Jew”, while narrating his reaction when he realized that Jessica had eloped with Lorenzo, a Christian. Shakespeare, while referring to Shylock creates a sense of hate, or uncaring behavior towards his daughter as Solanio mentions “so strange, outrageous, and to variable”, “my daughter! O my ducats!”, as if Shylock cared about his ‘ducats’ more than his daughter. On the other hand, as Solanio talks about Antonio, Shakespeare creates the atmosphere of love. The same is brought out as Salarino claims to quote Antonio’s farewell bid to Bassanio in lines 42 and 43. Shakespeare also uses repetition to emphasize on Shylock’s character and make the scene significant.
Repetition plays a major part in setting the tone or streamlining the minds of the audience while Solanio mocks Shylock. The repetition of “My daughter! O my ducats!”, “My ducats and my daughter!” makes the audience interpret Shylock as a money minded character who was bothered more about his fortunes than his daughter. Also, as the “villain Jew” and “dog Jew” are constantly brought up, they denote how Shylock was to be the antagonist of the play and also depicts how the Jews were ill treated by the Christians in the Elizabethan Times. The entire narration is however done by Salarino and Solanio, who may have exaggerated merely to mock Shylock. The Elizabethan audience may feel Shylock was a lunatic or ‘evil’ due to the repetition of “ducats” while the modern audience may interpret how the chorus were trying to hide Shylock’s dismay as his “own blood and flesh” betrayed him, evoking sympathy towards his character. The repetition of “Justice!” further sets the tone of Shylock’s state of mind as to how he was infuriated and planned on taking revenge; it also foreshadows the court room scene (Act 4).
Act 2 scene 8, becomes significant as it foreshadows major plots of the play. As Shakespeare uses the words “Justice! The law!” it forebodes the trial which is the climax of the play, how Shylock would seek revenge at the court. The fact that Antonio may also “pay” for the money he willingly borrowed for his friend Bassanio is conveyed in the lines 25 to 26. The mention of the shipwrecks on the sea may also be an attempt by Shakespeare to convey to the audience how Antonio may go into loss, unable to repay the bond in time. Shakespeare also uses his style of writing to make this moment memorable.
The scene begins with a “why” setting a conversational tone which intrigues the audience as they are eager to know what had happened in Venice, while on stage was shown Belmont (Scene 7). The blank verse used further adds a poetic and dramatic effect. The use of exclamation marks while depicting Shylock also creates humour, as on the stage, Solanio can be imagined prancing, trying to demean and mock Shylock. The was Shakespeare paints a picture of Antonio and Bassanio’s farewell with the words “his eyes being big with tears” and “he wrung Bassanio’s hand”, it becomes significant how Antonio was a very loyal friend who was willing to do anything for Bassanio. This also may forebode how Antonio would willingly, without hesitation be ready to give a pound of flesh to Shylock. The absence of punctuations such as exclamations in lines 39 to 46, show how Solanio and Salarino were narrating the goodbye in a somber tone, unlike how they did for Shylock.
Therefore, by using the chorus characters, repetition, foreshadowing future events, showing the inclination towards Christians by the style of writing, Shakespeare makes this moment significant.