The Merchant of Venice

by

William Shakespeare

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The Merchant of Venice: Soliloquy 1 key example

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Definition of Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost thoughts and feelings as if... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself... read full definition
Act 1, scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—Shylock's Hatred:

Directly before Shylock and Antonio interact for the first time in the play, Shylock says of the merchant in an aside,

I hate him for he is a Christian,

But more for that in low simplicity

He lends out money gratis and brings down

The rate of usance here with us in Venice.

 If I can catch him once upon the hip,

I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.

He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,

Even there where merchants most do congregate,

On me, my bargains and my well-won thrift,

Which he calls "interest."

Cursèd be my tribe If I forgive him!

When Shakespearean characters speak in soliloquies, they express their innermost thoughts and feelings while no one else (except the audience) can hear. In this speech, Shylock reveals his deep-seated animosity towards Antonio (and his fellow Christians) and why he harbors such hatred. Firstly, Shylock despises that Antonio lends money free of interest, as this brings down interest rates for moneylenders like Shylock who practice usury. (At this time, Jews were forbidden by law from engaging in most professions and often resorted to usury to make a living.) In addition, Antonio has mistreated the Jewish people of Venice, and particularly Shylock. Here, Shylock simultaneously reveals the cyclical nature of hatred in Shakespeare's Venice (where Christians' prejudice against Jews inspires Jews, in turn, to hate Christians) and asserts why he wants revenge for himself and his "tribe." This moment subtly foreshadows what's to come: Shylock's scheme to get the revenge he seeks.