The Merchant of Venice

by

William Shakespeare

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Merchant of Venice can help.

The Merchant of Venice: Stream of Consciousness 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Stream of Consciousness
Stream of consciousness is a style or technique of writing that tries to capture the natural flow of a character's extended thought process, often by incorporating sensory impressions, incomplete ideas, unusual syntax... read full definition
Stream of consciousness is a style or technique of writing that tries to capture the natural flow of a character's extended thought process, often by incorporating... read full definition
Stream of consciousness is a style or technique of writing that tries to capture the natural flow of a character's... read full definition
Act 2, scene 8
Explanation and Analysis—Shylock's Outburst:

After Jessica flees with Lorenzo, Solanio and Salerio gossip and recount how Shylock reacted to his daughter's escape. Solanio says that Shylock cried out,

“My daughter, O my ducats, O my daughter!

Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats!

Justice, the law, my ducats, and my daughter,

A sealèd bag, two sealèd bags of ducats,

Of double ducats, stol’n from me by my daughter,

And jewels—two stones, two rich and precious stones—”

With this stream of consciousness narrative style, Shylock comes across as uncivilized and erratic: his speech is punctuated with exclamation marks and he cannot speak in complete sentences. "Daughter" and "ducats" also become entangled in this frantic outburst, emphasizing the play's link between women's value and money. (The connection between money and sexuality is also shown in the two stolen stones, which evoke testicles and Shylock's metaphorical castration upon his only child abandoning him.) This confusion also seems to show how Shylock—greedily and myopically—values Jessica as much as he values materialism, and perhaps views his daughter as a possession. 

However, it is important to note that Shylock does not actually speak these words in the play. Rather, Solanio interprets this speech, likely overlaying it with his own bias. Solanio's perspective proves faulty later, when Shylock's friend Tubal discloses that Jessica has sold Shylock's wife's ring for a monkey; Shylock groans, “I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys." This moment demonstrates that Shylock is capable of separating materiality and sentimental value, and does not believe that everything has a price. Thus, as Shylock’s outburst is filtered through Solanio’s prejudice, this passage serves as a metaphor for the hateful cycle at work in Venice: while Shylock does lack humanity, it is because of Christians’ cruel influence that this is so.