Explain Salanio's short speech, "I have never heard a passion so confused..."

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this scene, Salanio describes how Shylock reacted when his daughter Jessica stole his money and ran off with a Christian. Salanio is mocking Shylock’s priorities and laughing at his loss. According to him, Shylock could not figure out what to mourn more, the loss of his daughter or his money: “My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!” Hence, why Salanio refers to his outburst as “a passion so confused.” (Salanio might also be laughing at the potentially bawdy joke about the two precious stones that Jessica has “upon her.”)

This description indicates that Shylock is so flustered, he does not know how to react or what outrage to first address. He calls for the law and exclaims for his “Christian ducats,” because now a Christian has his money. Shylock’s obsession with his ducats derives from offensive stereotypes about Jews. Salanio’s view of Shylock’s reaction may be tainted by the character’s antisemitism (he calls Shylock “the dog Jew”), but the text itself also demonstrates antisemitic elements by portraying Shylock’s hard-hearted fixation on profit.

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The Merchant of Venice

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