From the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare: In Act III Scene 1, from the extract, "Out upon her? Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my turquoise..." How is Tubal said to be torturing him?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Act III, Scene 1, two friends of Antonio are on a Ventian street. The first, Salanio, reports that Antonio's merchant ship has sunk in the English channel in a storm; the other, Salerio, expresses his sympathy for the "good Antonio," wishing he had enough money to help out the merchant. Then, Shylock enters and they taunt him, asking if he has any news. Rather peevishly, Shylock retorts that they knew of his daughter's disappearance.

Salerio. That's certain, if the devil may be her judge. (3.1.25)

When Shylock bemoans his daughter's betrayal the friends of Antonio make a pun of his flesh and blood remark to continue their taunting. Shortly, Tubal, another Jew, enters and Shylock asks him for news of his daughter. Tubal replies that he has heard about her, but cannot find her. Upon hearing this, the despicable Shylock immediately bemoans the loss of a diamond she has taken that is worth 2.000 ducats. He curses his daughter:

Shylock. I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear! (3.1.84) 

Tubal then informs Shylock of Antonio's misfortune, news that cheers Shylock. 

Shylock. I thank God, I thank God! Is it true, is it true? (3.1.96)

Tubal confirms that it is indeed true since he spoken to some of the sailors that escaped the sinking ship. Shylock gleefully thanks him again. Then Tubal speaks again of Jessica, Shylock's daughter:

Tubal. Your daughter spent in Genoa, as I heard, one night fourscore ducats. (3.1.101)

Shylock. Thou stick'st a dagger in me. I shall never see my gold again....(3.1.104)

Tubal informs Shylock that Antonio's creditors swear that he will be bankrupted by this loss; Shylock is elated at this news. But Tubal follows this with a report that Jessica sold her mother's turquoise for a monkey, and Shylock becomes livid about the turquoise that belonged to him and for which he would "not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys."

By alternating the unfortunate with the fortunate, Tubal taunts Shylock. Shylock's avarice is so great that he cares only for his gain of gold; the personal loss to Antonio and even the loss of his daughter are insignificant to him. When he learns that he may be able to extract a pound of flesh from Antonio, he is elated; when he hears of Jessica's selling of his valuable jewels, he is distraught and would rather she lie dead and have the jewels in her ears so he could regain them.

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