What if my house be troubled with a rat,
And I be pleased to give ten thousand ducats
To have it baned? What, are you answered yet?
Some men there are love not a gaping pig,
Some that are mad if they behold a cat,
And others when the bagpipe sings i’th’ nose
Cannot contain their urine; for affection,
Mistress of passion, sways it to the mood
Of what it likes or loathes. . . .
. . .
So can I give no reason, nor I will not,
More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing
I bear Antonio, that I follow thus
A losing suit against him. Are you answered?
When, in Act IV, scene i, Antonio and
Shylock are summoned before the court, the duke asks the Jew to
show his adversary some mercy. Shylock responds by reasoning that
he has no reason. He blames his hatred of Antonio on “affection,
/ [that] Mistress of passion,” who is known to affect men’s moods
in ways they cannot explain (IV.i.
The speech’s imagery is of the prosaic sort typical of
Shylock. Other characters speak in dreamily poetic tones, evoking
images of angels and waters scented with spice, but Shylock draws
on the most mundane examples to prove his point. To him, Antonio
is a rat, and his dislike of Antonio no more odd than that which
some men have toward pigs or cats. Shylock uses bodily functions
to drive home his point, likening rage to urination in a crass turn
of phrase that is unique to his character. Also, Shylock’s rage
takes on an apparent arbitrariness. Originally, Shylock’s gripe
with Antonio seems based on a carefully meditated catalogue of the
Venetian’s crimes. Here, however, it appears little more than a
whim, a swing of the pendulum that “sways” to affection’s moods
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