Salerio and Solanio arrived at the inn at the same time and lingered in the street.
‘Well now,’ said Solanio. ‘What’s the news on the Rialto?’
Salerio shook his head gravely. ‘There’s a rumour going around that one of Antonio’s most richly laden ships was wrecked in the Channel – the Goodwins, I think they call the spot: a very dangerous and fatal sandbank, where the carcasses of many tall ships lie buried, if the stories are true.’
‘I hope they aren’t, but it’s certainly true, without putting too fine a point on it, that the good Antonio, the honest Antonio – oh I wish I could find the words to describe him adequately…’
‘Come on,’ Salerio urged. ‘Finish your sentence.’
Solanio was staring out towards the open sea. ‘What? What are you saying?’ he said. ‘Well, anyway, the end result is that he has lost a ship.’
‘I hope that will turn out to be the full extent of his losses,’ said Salerio.
‘Let me say amen at once,’ agreed Solanio, ‘in case the devil confounds my prayer, because here he comes in the form of a Jew!’
Shylock was going somewhere in a hurry.
‘Hello Shylock,’ said Solanio, as he came past them. ‘What news among the merchants?’ He nudged Salerio.
Shylock’s face was gaunt as he stopped and faced them full on. ‘You knew!’ he snapped, shaking his finger at them, ‘none as well as you – of my daughter’s flight.’
‘Absolutely,’ said Salerio. ‘For my own part, I knew the tailor who made the wings she flew with.’
Solanio put his arm across Shylock’s shoulders. ‘And Shylock, for his own part, knew the bird was ready to fly, and in any case it’s natural for all of them to leave the nest.’
Shylock pushed his arm away. ‘She’s damned for it!’ he cried.
‘That’s certain.’ Salerio winked at Solanio. ‘If the devil’s her judge.’
‘My own flesh and blood to rebel!’ cried Shylock.
‘Shame on you, you old scarecrow!’ exclaimed Solanio. ‘At your age?’
‘I mean my daughter, who is my flesh and blood,’ said Shylock.
Salerio laughed. ‘There’s more difference between your flesh and hers than there is between jet and ivory, more difference in your blood than between red wine and Rhine wine. But tell us now, have you heard whether Antonio has had any loss at sea or not?’
‘That’s another bad deal I have,’ said Shylock. ‘A bankrupt. A prodigal, who hardly dares show his face on the Rialto: a beggar, who used to come so smugly into the market place. Let him look to his bond! He always calls me a usurer. Just let him look to his bond! He used to lend money as a Christian courtesy. He’d better honour his bond.’
‘Well I’m sure that if he fails you won’t take his flesh. What could you use it for?’ said Salerio.
‘To bait fish with!’ snapped Shylock. ‘If it will feed nothing else it will feed my revenge! He has insulted me and obstructed me half a million times. He has laughed at my losses, mocked my gains, scorned my race, thwarted my deals, alienated my friends, inflamed my enemies. And what’s his reason? That I am a Jew! Hasn’t a Jew got eyes? Hasn’t a Jew got hands, organs, limbs, senses, likes and dislikes, passions? Fed with the same food, injured by the same weapons, vulnerable to the same diseases, healed by the same medicine, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? 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, won’t we seek revenge? If a Jew wrongs a Christian, what is his recourse? Revenge! If a Christian wrongs a Jew, what should the penalty be by Christian example? Revenge, of course. I will carry out the villainy you teach me. And even though it will be hard, I will even outdo that villainy!’
The two watched him, exchanging glances, smirking to each other. Before either could make any cynical response a servant approached them.
‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘Antonio is at his house and would like to talk to both of you.’
‘We’ve been looking everywhere for him,’ said Salerio.
Someone was coming towards them, dressed in Jewish gabardine. Solanio laughed. ‘Here comes another member of the tribe. You couldn’t find a finer third unless the devil himself were to become a Jew.’ He signalled to Salerio and they went off, laughing.
‘Thank God, Tubal!’ exclaimed Shylock. ‘What news from Genoa? Have you found my daughter?’
‘I heard her spoken of several times but I couldn’t find her,’ Tubal told him. He gripped his friend’s arm.
Shylock sank to his knees and clutched Tubal’s robe. ‘There, there, there, there,’ he sobbed. ‘A diamond gone – cost me two thousand ducats in Frankfurt. Such a curse never fell on our nation until now – I didn’t feel it until now! Two thousand ducats in that, and other precious, precious jewels. I wish my daughter were dead at my feet and the jewels stuffed in her ear! I wish she were lying dead at my feet and the ducats in her coffin!’ He looked up at Tubal’s face. His eyes pleaded. ‘No news of them?’ When Tubal shook his head he got up. ‘Alright then. And another thing: I don’t know how much the search has cost. Loss on loss! The thief has gone with so much, and so much more spent trying to find the thief. And no satisfaction, no revenge, no bad luck for anyone except that which lies on my own shoulders. No sighs but my sighs! No tears but my tears!’
Tubal put his arm round Shylock’s shuddering shoulders. ‘Yes, other men have bad luck too,’ he said. ‘Antonio, as I heard in Genoa..’
Shylock’s sobbing stopped and he turned eagerly. ‘What? What? What? Bad luck? Bad luck?’
‘Has had a merchant ship lost, coming from Tripoli,’ said Tubal.
Shylock clasped his hands together and looked up to the sky. ‘I thank God! I thank God! Is it true? Is it true?’
‘I spoke to some sailors who survived the wreck.’
‘Oh thank you, good Tubal. Good news! Good news!’ Shylock laughed loudly. ‘You heard this in Genoa?’
‘Your daughter spent, so I was told, eighty ducats in one night in Genoa.’
Shylock groaned. ‘You’re sticking a dagger in me. I’ll never see my gold again. Four score ducats at a sitting! Fourscore ducats!’
‘Several of Antonio’s creditors travelled back with me to Venice and they swear he will be forced into bankruptcy.’
‘I’m thrilled about that,’ said Shylock. ‘I’ll plague him. I’ll torture him. I’m thrilled about it.’
‘One of them showed me a ring that your daughter had exchanged with him for a monkey,’ said Tubal.
‘Damn her!’ exclaimed Shylock. ‘You’re torturing me, Tubal. It was my turquoise ring. I got it from Leah before we were married. I wouldn’t have sold it for a wilderness of monkeys.’
‘But Antonio is definitely ruined,’ said Tubal.
‘Yes, that’s true, that’s very true,’ said Shylock. ‘Go Tubal – get me a lawyer. Give him two weeks notice. I’ll have his heart if he defaults because, once he’s been removed from Venice, I will be able to do business in my own way. Go, Tubal, and meet me at our synagogue. Go, good Tubal. At our synagogue Tubal.’