'The Merchant of Venice' Act 3, Scene 1 - Summary

Desdemona and Othello, by Antonio Muñoz Degrain
Desdemona and Othello, by Antonio Muñoz Degrain. Public Domain

This summary is here to guide you through The Merchant of Venice Act 3, Scene 1. The scene opens with Solanio and Salerio.

Solanio asks, “Now, what news on the Rialto?” Salerio explains that it was indeed Antonio’s ship that was wrecked in a notoriously dangerous spot called the Goodwins. Solanio is sad that such a thing would happen to such a good man as Antonio. They pray that Antonio does not face any more hardship.

Shylock enters just as the men compare him to the devil. Shylock accuses the men of knowing that his daughter leaving, the men tease him saying they knew the tailor who made the wings she flew with. Shylock tells the men that his daughter is damned.

He is cross that his own flesh and blood has rebelled against him. Salerio tells Shylock that his daughter is so unlike his flesh and blood in that she is a good person and he is not. He asks Shylock if he has heard about Antonio’s shipwreck.

Shylock's Plan

Shylock says that he has heard about the ship and knows Antonio to be a bankrupt who will not be able to sure up Bassiano’s debt. He says that Antonio had the cheek to call him a usurer; he says he will now have to look to the bond that they made.

Salerio asks Shylock that if Antonio does forfeit, surely he will not take his flesh, he says it will have no value to him. Shylock says that he will use his flesh to bait fish in order to get his revenge.

Shylock says that Antonio has mocked him, disgraced him, laughed at his misfortunes, scoffed at his gains, mocked his nation and all because he is a Jew.

Shylock asks if a Jew does not have the same passions, affections and needs as a Christian:

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?
Act 3, Scene 1

A messenger enters and tells the Solanio and Salerio that Antonio requests to speak with them. They leave.

Tubal enters; Shylock asks him if he has found his daughter. Tubal says that he has not. Shylock is angry and wishes that his daughter were dead but that his jewels were returned. He says that his search is also costing him money and he is experiencing loss upon loss. Tubal mentions that he has heard Antonio has also experienced bad luck, he heard from some sailors from his wrecked ship that it had sunk. Shylock is happy about Antonio’s misfortune but becomes angry again when he hears a rumour that his daughter spent fourscore ducats on a night out. He knows he will not see his gold again.

Tubal says that Antonio is facing bankruptcy Shylock is happy and promises to torment and torture him. Tubal tells him that Antonio brought a ring from his daughter for a ‘monkey’ Shylock is livid saying that the ring was precious to him and he wouldn’t have sold it for a ‘wilderness of monkeys.’ Tubal confirms that Antonio is indeed undone. Shylock says that if Antonio forfeits the loan, he will have his heart. He tells Tubal to meet him later at the Synagogue.

Shylock describes Antonio as:

...A bankrupt, a prodigal, who dare scarce show his head on the Rialto; a beggar, that was used to come so smug upon the mart. Let him look to his bond. He was wont to call me a usurer: let him look to his bond. He was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy; let him look to his bond.
Act 3, Scene 1

Note: You can find more scene-by-scene analysis in our Merchant of Venice Study Guide