Salanio and Salerino meet again in the Venetian streets to gossip. Salerio sadly reports that the news of Antonio’s ship potentially 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 “likeness of a Jew.”
Salanio asks Shylock for gossip. That is in which old news to those two: Jessica has run off. Salanio and Salerino 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 but only 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 as well – 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 loss, 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...