The Merchant of Venice opens with Antonio, Salerio and Solanio discussing the causes of Antonio's sadness. Salanio feels that he understands Antonio's concerns as he would "fear misfortune to my ventures" (I.i.20)if his ships were at sea, such as Antonio' wealth. Salanio suggests that perhaps, if Antonio is not worried about his ships, he must be in love; and if not in love then "you are sad because you are not merry."(48)
Solanio will next feature in Act II,iv as Lorenzo is planning to elope with Jessica who will then escape from her father, Shylock. Solanio and Salerio will help. In Act II scene viii Solanio reveals his dislike of the "villain Jew" (4). He is shocked by Shylock's confused outburst after the discovery of Jessica's elopement when Shylock did not know whether to be concerned for "my ducats" (his money and his jewels ) or his daughter. Solanio shows his concern for Antonio against whom Shylock my seek revenge for Jessica's escape with a Christian, hoping he can repay his debt -"keep his day"- "or he shall pay for this."(25-6)
In Act III.i. Solanio, who holds Antonio in the highest esteem - "O that I had a title good enough"( 13)- learns that Antonio has lost a ship. He again speaks poorly of Shylock, referring to him as the "devil....in he likeness of a Jew."(19)Solanio witnesses Shylock's speech regarding the injury done to Jews by the Christians. Solanio is also present when Antonio is escorted to be imprisoned for not paying his bond (Act III.iii) and is confident that the Duke will override such a claim to "a pound of flesh" and calls Shylock "the most impenetrable cur."(18)
Subsequently, Solanio may be amongst the "others" but does not receive mention. His main task it seems, is to reveal what many Shakespeareanan audiences would have felt; contempt for Shylock and all he represents and to make "the honest" (III.i.12) Antonio appear blameless. Shylock's representations that "the villainy you teach me I will execute" (61) has no effect on Solanio's opinions.