alerio and olanio are the two biggest gossips in Venice. These two just never seem to shut up! For instance, the dialogue you just (hopefully) read above is from Act II, scene viii, which is 53 lines long and consists entirely of S & S dishing the dirt on everything that's been happening with the other characters. Can't these blabbermouths get lives of their own, you may ask?
Actually, they can't. For, as you may have already figured out, the S's serve a rather handy purpose - they get all the exposition out of the way. Once we, the audience or reader, hear about all the stuff that has happened offstage, we are caught up and prepared to enjoy more onstage action. This may seem like a weak device for Mr. Shakespeare to utilize, but just think about how long the play would be if we had to watch all this exposition pan out before our eyes!
Here's some info we find out just from listening to Salerio and Solanio:
|Antonio is a merchant with several ships out at sea (including one called the Andrew), and he is depressed (though S & S can't figure out why) - Act I, scene i.|
|Bassanio and Gratiano have left for Belmont on a ship - Act II, scene viii.|
|Lorenzo and Jessica have stolen away, Jessica having taken two bags of ducats and two jewels from Shylock, and Shylock is desperately looking for the couple - II.viii.|
|Shylock got the Duke to go with him to search Bassanio's ship, but Antonio swore that the couple was not on board. Shylock ran through the streets shouting with anger over Jessica and his stolen money, and children ran after him (see the picture on Shylock's page) - II.viii.|
|Bassanio and Antonio had a tearful parting before Bassanio left for Belmont (we get a long paragraph about this from Salerio) - II.viii.|
|Antonio has lost a ship full of expensive merchandise on the narrow seas. It was supposedly wrecked on an area called "the Goodwins" - III.i.|
|Tubal, Shylock's friend, is a Jew - III.i.|
We get ALL THIS from Sal and Sol!! They are almost like reporters or narrators. It would be interesting to see how they are played - this would probably make all the difference. On the page, they simply seem to be constant information spouters!
So, who talks more (or, who has the bigger part)?
The answer is...
SALERIO! He has 29 lines to Solanio's measly 18.
Also, did you know that Salerio actually appears in three scenes by himself? It's true! It makes one wonder exactly what Solanio is doing with himself all alone, with no one to gossip with!
Anyway, I think it is obvious to any actor out there that if you are given a choice between the two roles, and you want to learn more lines, you know who to pick!
You can go now, but you may want to check out Sol & Sal's Links!
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Portia / Shylock / Bassanio / Antonio / Gratiano & Nerissa / Lorenzo & Jessica / The Gobbos / The Princes / The Duke / The Servants