Shylock is one of the most captivating Shakespeare’s characters. The Merchant of Venice is considered problematic in how it treats this infamous character, but regardless of where you sit on this issue, Shylock’s monologues are still incredible to work on as an actor. He is fiercely intelligent and has many of the best speeches ever penned. Here is one of Shylock’s famous monologues from Act 1 Scene 3.
Who is he? Shylock is a jewish money-lender.
Location? A street in Venice. Venice is the setting for most of the play.
Who is present? This monologue is mainly targeted at Antonio, a rich Christian merchant. Bassanio, Antonio’s friend, is also present.
What is happening? Bassanio wants money to help him in woo Portia, a rich Christian who lives in Belmont. Antonio has invested all his money in ships and cannot furnish his friend with the necessary money, so he goes to Shylock. Shylock is in disbelief that he is being asked for money after how badly he has been treated by Antonio in the past. Though Shylock might be bitter and angry, he has a lot of power in this monologue. Play with that dynamic.
Shylock Monologue – Full Text
Signor Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances.
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine—
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help.
Go to, then! You come to me and you say,
“Shylock, we would have moneys.” You say so!—
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold! Moneys is your suit.
What should I say to you? Should I not say,
“Hath a dog money? Is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?” Or
Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key
With bated breath and whispering humbleness, say this:
“Fair sir, you spet on me on Wednesday last;
You spurned me such a day; another time
You called me ’dog’—and for these courtesies
I’ll lend you thus much moneys?”
Unfamiliar words in Shylock’s Monologue
Rialto: the commercial exchange in Venice
Usances: interest on a loan.
Jewish Gaberdine: religious cloak
Go to then: go away
Void your rheum: spit
Ducats: currency in Venice.
Bondman’s key: voice of a slave
Preparing this monologue
As I mentioned in the introduction, Shylock is a complex character. It’s important to read the play and do some research to understand the story and the themes of the play.
Always breakdown the monologue so that you understand every word and thought. Hopefully this page has helped with that.
Next practice the monologue in a way that is flexible. Push yourself into areas that feel unfamiliar. It’s always a good idea to perform your monologue to a few different people before auditioning.