Salerio, Solanio, and “all the boys in Venice”
Trinity Christian College
Mark Jones. 'Salerio, Solanio, and “all the boys in Venice”'. Early Modern Literary Studies 15.1 (2009-10) <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/15-1/jonesola.htm>.
“Bien para todos mi ganada no es.” (2.1.39)Such recitations may hint at Sephardic heritage, and thus at something that is fixed and knowable about a Jew, but like so much of the language we encounter in Marlowe’s play, these expressions (as suggested by the modern editor’s use of quotation marks) bear a well-worn, proverbial texture.
“Hermoso placer de los dineros.” (2.1.64)
“Historie” here means something closer to our term “story” than to historiography and since the genre of the history play (very much a new form in the late sixteenth century) was more sharply defined than either tragedy or comedy, “history” here cannot mean what it meant when applied to Richard II or Henry V. But it is at least possible that the inclusion here of “history,” meaning a story of a representative or exemplary kind, was used as an indication that the play was not entirely a fictional romance; that it contained disturbing, perhaps even potentially tragic, elements; and that it was designed to be read as in some way “true”—implying, that is, some form of mimetic relationship between its narrative and the historical conditions of sixteenth-century Europe, or even England.
handicapped by his race, his lack of sophistication and his outmoded style. The attribute of his style most relevant here is his lavish claims made for his own desert. In the early days of Elizabethan drama the non-European setting and character, presented with extensive rhetorical ornament, gave the exotic an incantatory power over Elizabethan audiences. In the courtly context, however, the imperialistic titanism is ill-adapted to purposes of wooing.Similarly, Shylock is endowed with a distinctive and consistent manner of speech. Indeed, while recognizing that on the Elizabethan stage his lines would not have been delivered in the East-European cadences that are typical of modern productions, we might still cautiously assert that the character speaks with a kind of accent. Schlegel is one of the earliest critics to remark on this:
It is easy for both poet and player to exhibit a caricature of national sentiments, modes of speaking, and gestures. Shylock, however, is anything but a common Jew: he possesses strongly-marked and original individuality, and yet we perceive a light touch of Judaism in everything he says or does. We almost fancy we can hear a light whisper of the Jewish accent even in the written words, such as we sometimes still find in the higher classes, notwithstanding their social refinement. In tranquil moments, all that is foreign to the European blood and Christian sentiments is less perceptible, but in passion the national stamp comes out more strongly marked.That there is an irreducibly Jewish quality to Shylock’s language per se is, of course, unsupportable. What can be demonstrated, however, is that unlike Barabas, who is remarkable for his protean adaptability to a wide variety of speech communities, Shylock communicates his difference whenever he speaks. This point has been made persuasively by Simon Palfrey and Tiffany Stern, who argue that Shylock’s idiolect, characterized by repetition and solipsistic wordplay, consistently mark him not merely as an outsider, but as one who “treasures a different measure of centrality, discursive and ideological, from the rule-makers.”
SOLANIO. I never heard a passion so confus’d,
So strange, outrageous, and so variable
As the dog Jew did utter in the streets.
“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 sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats,
Of double ducats, stol’n from me by my daughter!
And jewels, two stones, two rich and precious stones,
Stol’n by my daughter! Justice! find the girl,
She hath the stones upon her, and the ducats.”
SALERIO. Why, all the boys in Venice follow him,
Crying, his stones, his daughter, and his ducats. (2.8.12-24)
He is present in only five of the play’s twenty scenes, and for the purpose of the plot, it would have been enough for him to be mean and vengeful—which he is. But he is also remarkable for pride, energy, quickness in argument. He has an abrasive sense of humor and a large capacity for being hurt. Character means more than a list of attributes, however. It means a distinctive aura, a unique flavor. As G. K. Chesterton once said, we can talk for hours about a person’s identity, and still jump on hearing his voice. With Shylock, we can hear the voice.
MOROCCO. Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
Where Phoebus’ fire scarce thaws the icicles,
And let us make incision for your love,
To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine. (2.1.4-7)
SHYLOCK. If you prick us, do we not bleed? (3.1.64)
Thy currish spirit
Govern’d a wolf, who hang’d for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And whilst thou layest in thy unhallowed dam,
Infus’d itself in thee; for thy desires
Are wolvish, bloody, starv’d, and ravenous. (4.1.133-38)
[I]deology “acts” or “functions” in such a way that it “recruits” subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or “transforms” the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: “Hey, you there!” Assuming that the theoretical scene I have imagined takes place in the street, the hailed individual will turn round. By this mere one-hundred-and-eighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject. Why? Because he has recognized that the hail was “really” addressed to him, and that “it was really him who was hailed” (and not someone else).As we shall see, there is quite a lot of Althusserian-style interpellation in The Merchant of Venice.
Therefore, Jew,Of course, the ultimate act of hailing comes just as Shylock is forced to dismiss his claims, not only on Antonio’s flesh, but also his principal of 3,000 ducats. At just that moment, Portia produces the obscure law providing that
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. (4.1.197-202)
If it be proved against an alien,This law, produced, as it were, out of Portia’s scholar’s hood, officially and unambiguously designates Shylock as other even as it makes clear that power ultimately resides with the Duke and Magnificos of Venice. It has never been otherwise.
That by direct or indirect attempts
He seek the life of any citizen,
The party ’gainst the which he doth contrive
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state,
And the offender’s life lies in the mercy
Of the Duke only, ’gainst all other voice. . . . . (4.1.349-56)
I have possess’d your Grace of what I purpose,—has some basis, if not in historical fact, then at least in reputation. As James S. Grubb reports, Venice in the sixteenth century enjoyed a longstanding reputation as “a unified and civic-minded patriciate [. . .]; a republic of wisdom and benevolence, provider of fair justice and a high degree of toleration. David C. McPherson further observes that “[t]he greatest fame Venetian justice enjoyed was for its supposed impartiality, even toward the lower classes and outsiders.”
And by our holy Sabaoth have I sworn
To have the due and forfeit of my bond.
If you deny it, let the danger light
Upon your charter and your city’s freedom! (4.1.35-39)
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,The official tack, then, is to preserve the fiction that in the eyes of the state a Jew is as human as any Venetian Christian. Of course, it is precisely this putative equality that has entitled Shylock to pursue his revenge in the first place; but here it serves the Duke as an argument for mercy. Implicitly, since “the world,” as represented by the Venetian state, has always treated Shylock humanely—since, indeed, it is doing so even now by granting him his day in court—it may reasonably expect him to reciprocate. This is a long shot, but the best the Duke can do: because the court is a highly visible repository of repressive power, he cannot afford to make exceptions by fiat. The very “myth of Venice” as a model of civic justice hangs in the balance of Shylock’s scales. It is true that the Duke affirms his right to dismiss the court (4.1.104), but to halt the machinery by which justice is dispensed—even if the violence by which it is underwritten should be directed against an amiable Christian merchant—would be to expose a contradiction at the core of the repressive state apparatus.
That thou but leadest this fashion of thy malice
To the last hour of act, and then ’tis thought
Thou’lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty;
And where thou now exacts the penalty
Which is a pound of this poor merchant’s flesh,
Thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture,
But touch’d with humane gentleness and love,
Forgive a moi’ty of the principal [ . . . ]. (4.1.17-26)
Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same summer and winter as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. (3.1.58-68)The courtroom scene is the play’s ultimate staging ground for these questions. By insisting upon his bond, Shylock also spectacularly insists that the Duke and his Magnificos commit themselves to a response. He demands, in short, whether a Jew living in Venice is to be considered as fully human as any other Venetian. And by admitting his suit, however reluctantly, the Duke, on behalf of the state, issues the official answer: yes.
Given the fact that the “ruling class” in principle holds State power (openly or more often by means of alliances between classes or class fractions [sic]), and therefore has at its disposal the (Repressive) State Apparatus, we can accept the fact that this same ruling class is active in the Ideological State Apparatuses in so far as it is ultimately the ruling ideology which is realized in the Ideological State Apparatuses, precisely in its contradictions.By situating its audience variously beneath the formality of the Venetian judicial system and within the swirl of the city streets, The Merchant is able to convey both the superficial contradictions that exist between repressive and ideological state apparatuses and the congruity of purpose that often underlies them. In the process, we come to know state power as something that is subtly and effectively distributed across a range of voices, both official and “alternative.” Yet I would assert that as we experience the play in performance, we are especially susceptible to the shaping power of ideology as it is disseminated by Salerio and Solanio.
 Norman Rabkin, “Meaning and Shakespeare,” Shakespeare 1971: Proceedings of the World Shakespeare Congress, ed. Clifford Leech and J. M. R. Morgan (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1972) 90; Harley Granville-Baker, Prefaces to Shakespeare, vol. 1 (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1947) 345; Leslie Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare (New York: Stein, 1972) 90.
 John Dover Wilson, ed., The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1926) 100.
 Quotations from The Merchant of Venice are from The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans, et al., 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton, 1997) 284-319; quotations from The Jew of Malta are from the Revels edition, ed. N. W. Bawcutt (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1978). These plays are cited parenthetically throughout.
 Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984) 207.
 J. L. Simmons, “Elizabethan Stage Practice and Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta,” Renaissance Drama ns 4 (1971): 104.
 “The will to play flaunts society’s cherished orthodoxies, embraces what the culture finds loathsome or frightening, transforms the serious into the joke and then unsettles the category of the joke by taking it seriously, courts self-destruction in the interest of the anarchic discharge of its energy. This,” writes Greenblatt, “is play on the brink of an abyss, absolute play” (220).
 The phrase derives from Rowley’s 1609 play, A Search for Money: or, The Lamentable Complaint for the Loss of the Wandering Knight, Monsieur l’Argent, ed. J. Payne Collier (London: Percy Society, 1840) 19.
 On the “radical realism” of the stereotype, see Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage-Random, 1979) 72.
 For, as Abigail poignantly avers, “there is no love on earth, / Pity in Jews, nor piety in Turks” (3.3.50-51).
 On the foetor judaicus in The Jew of Malta, see James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia UP, 1996) 36-37. Marlowe ingeniously democratizes this myth by having Barabas smell out the two grasping friars before they arrive to blackmail him (4.1.21-23).
 Cf. Marlowe 2.3.23-25; 2.1.47-54.
 This view is represented in Thomas Cartelli, “Shakespeare’s Merchant, Marlowe’s Jew: The Problem of Cultural Difference,” Shakespeare Studies 10 (1988): 255-60.
 M. M. Mahood, introduction, The Merchant of Venice (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987) 8.
 Graham Holderness, The Merchant of Venice, Penguin Crit. Stud. London: Penguin, 1993. xi-xii.
 Ursula K. Le Guin, introduction, The Left Hand of Darkness (New York: Ace, 1969) xi.
 Frank Whigham, “Ideology and Class Conduct in The Merchant of Venice,” Renaissance Drama ns 10 (1979): 98-99.
 August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, trans. John Black (London: Bohn, 1846) 388.
 Simon Palfrey and Tiffany Stern, Shakespeare in Parts (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007) 195.
 Homi Bhabha, “The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism,” The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994) 66.
 Bhabha 66.
 Mahood, for example, observes that “Shylock, for all his dramatic prominence, does not have a long part and makes only five appearances” (43).
 John Gross, Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy (New York: Simon, 1992) 64.
 Shapiro 132.
 Cf. 1.3.111-29, 2.8.14, 3.3.6-7, and 4.1.128-38.
 Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation),” [trans. Ben Brewster], rpt. Slavoj Žižek, ed., Mapping Ideology (London: Verso, 1994) 130-31.
 James S. Grubb, “When Myths Lose Power: Four Decades of Venetian Historiography,” Journal of Modern History 58 (1956): 43-44.
 David C. McPherson, Shakespeare, Jonson, and the Myth of Venice (Newark: U of Delaware P, 1990) 36.
 Althusser 110.
 Gross 83.
 Gross 78.
 The phrase is from McPherson, who describes four strands of the early modern “Myth of Venice”: “Venice the rich,” “Venice the wise,” “Venice the just,” and “Venezia-città-galante” (27-48).
 Shapiro 189.
 Althusser 111.
 Althusser 112.
 They appear together in 1.1, 2.4, 2.7, 3.1, and arguably in 4.1 as well, though Salerio is the only one who speaks in the courtroom scene. Salerio appears alone in 2.6 and 3.2, as does Solanio in 3.3.
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2010-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).