On the street in Venice, Salerio and Solanio gossip about Jessica and Lorenzo's elopement and Bassanio's departure for Belmont to woo Portia. They laugh about Shylock's desperate search for Jessica. Upon learning that Jessica had eloped and stolen his money, Shylock cried "My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! / Fled with a Christian!" (2.8.15–6) again and again. Salerio adds that all the boys in Venice now follow Shylock imitating his anguished refrain, demanding: "Justice, the law, my ducats, and my daughter!" (2.8.17).
In addition to exhibiting more of the Venetians' prejudice against Shylock, this scene reemphasizes the connection between a woman's value and money, by placing "daughter" and "ducats" next to each other. Shylock's crying for justice also shows the turning point where he will really start to push for revenge against the Christians through their own court system.
Their tone suddenly grows somber, though, when Solanio remarks that Antonio may be the one who ends up paying for Shylock's loss. Salerio reports that he has heard rumors that a Venetian ship has been wrecked. He worries it is one of Antonio's. Solanio urges him to tell Antonio, but to break the news gently.
Struggling to make out the truth of rumors and hearsay, Salerio and Solanio anticipate that these events will give force to Shylock's desire for justice and revenge against their friend.
Solanio says of Antonio, "a kinder gentleman treads not the earth." He adds that when Bassanio departed for Belmont, he overheard Antonio tell Bassanio not to worry about the money he had borrowed, but only to think of his courtship of Portia. Solanio remarks that Antonio "only loves the world for" Bassanio (2.8.50). They set off to find Antonio and distract him from his sadness at Bassanio's departure.
Solanio and Salerio describe Antonio as uniquely generous, and identify that generosity as arising from his love for Bassanio. They also convey the intensity of Antonio's love for Bassanio, further raising the question of whether that love is romantic or platonic.