Salarino and Solanio, in The Merchant of Venice, play the important role of bringing news to the stage to advance the plot to the audience, and the role of defining the characters in the play to the audience. While still playing the roles of minor characters, Salarino and Solanio are important aspects in creating less confusion, keeping the plot interesting, and drawing the audience into the play. As stated before, Salarino and Solanio help to bring news on stage to advance the plot.
The very first scene in the book is a good example of then doing this. Salarino, Solanio, and Antonio are on stage trying to figure out the reason that Antonio is sad. While discussing this, Salarino says that the reason that Antonio may be sad is that his mind is too concerned about his ships at sea. This is the first introduction to the plot revealed to the audience and helps to begin to draw the audience into the play. Another example of bringing news to the stage can be found in Act 3, Scene 1 of the play.
Salarino and Solanio enter the stage and begin to talk about Antonio’s ships. They have just learned of a ship wreck in the English Channel, and the Italian ship wrecked was in fact Antonio’s. The discussion between Salarino and Solanio advances the plot, for the bond that Antonio made with Shylock relies on the return of his ship. This short conversation brings a turning point to the play. The second role of Salarino and Solanio is to define the characters in the play to the audience.
The first occurrence of this role can also be found in Act 1, Scene 1. While Salarino and Solanio are still talking to Antonio about his sadness, Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratiano enter the scene. Solanio describes them as “noble kinsman” and “better company”. Salarino then describes them as “worthier friends”. Salarino and Solanio, through their descriptions of the three men, immediately tell the audience that the men are amongst the good guys and are companions to Antonio. Act 2, Scene 8 of the play can be used as an example of this important role.
In this scene, Salarino and Solanio are discussing Shylock’s bond and his complaints to the Duke. Salarino and Solanio describe Shylock as a “villain Jew” and as a “dog Jew,” for he has no sympathy or compassion towards Antonio. During this conversation, Salarino and Solanio eventually move on to talking about Antonio. Salarino, describing Antonio, says, “A kinder gentleman treads not the earth. ” By using descriptions like these, Salarino and Solanio are able to guide the audience into hating Antonio and loving and being compassionate towards Antonio.
Salarino and Solanio play key roles in bringing new parts of the play to stage in order to get the audience involved and in helping to define the characters in the play. Without them, the play would be more confusing for the audience, for they would not know what has happened off stage like Antonio’s ships being wrecked. Also, without Salarino and Solanio, the audience would not fully understand the characters and why they think and act a certain way. By Salarino and Solanio’s defining characters in a certain way, they encourage the audience to side with the Antonio and his friends and hate Shylock.