Is Salanio anti-semitic?Remembering Salanio's account of Shylock crying in the streets, this seems the most vulgar sort of anti-Jewish sentiment. But the speech Shylock does make in 3.1.71-81...

Is Salanio anti-semitic?

Remembering Salanio's account of Shylock crying in the streets, this seems the most vulgar sort of anti-Jewish sentiment. But the speech Shylock does make in 3.1.71-81 touches on the same themes.

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Is Salanio's account really so awful? Though he does refer to Shylock as "Jew", and even "dog Jew" at one point (we'd expect that, bearing in mind he's in Antonio's contingent, and an enemy of Shylock's), all he does is tell the facts. It seems to me that there's no reason why the two actors couldn't play this scene in solemn, hushed tones, as if they understood how much this man has suffered.

You're right to pair this scene (2.8) with the next Salerio/Solanio scene (3.1). Yet I'd argue here that Salerio makes it quite explicit that it's not Jews in general that he hates - not anti-Jewish or anti-semitic sentiment - but Shylock in particular. When Shylock argues that Jessica is his flesh and blood, Salerio replies

There is more difference between thy flesh and hers, than between jet and ivory; more between your bloods, than there is between red wine and rhenish.

 

It seems unlikely that Jessica is not thought a Jew - they know she is. What they seem to be saying is that Shylock himself is a thoroughly bad guy: which is borne out by the speech that you refer to. This speech is not a plea for equality, but a bitter promise of revenge: the word is repeated like beats on a drum in the final lines of the speech. He even finishes with a bitter promise that he will "better the instruction" - do even worse to them than they have done to him.

I'm not sure they hate Shylock for his Judaism, but rather think they - rightly? - hate him.

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The Merchant of Venice

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