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Merchant of Venice: Shylock, Victim or Villain?

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 01:13 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 65.5 
  • Words: 750
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“The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare is a thought provoking play in which Antonio, a Christian, displays his anti-semetic views towards Shylock, a man of Jewish religion. It is easy to see Shylock being portrayed as both a victim and a villian, but I feel that Shylock is a victim.

In the play, Antonio borrows a sum of money from the Jewish money lender, Shylock. Shylock hates Antonio for he is a Christian, and Antonio hates Shylock for being a Jew. Antonio makes his feeling clear as he spits on Shylock and thinks of him as a dog. “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gaberdine.” This emphasizes the fact that Jews were picked on in the day of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare gives the Jews a voice and we see both sides of the character, rather than just one – we see how he suffers. In the time that the play was written, anti-semitism was a normal thing, so the Elizabethan public would have sided with Antonio. They would have thought that when Antonio couldn\'t pay back his loan, Shylock is evil when he enforces the forfeit (cutting off a pound of Antonios flesh.)

Even though Shylock tried to put his bond into action, it is still easy to view him in a different light, and we see him as the victim of the story. Many bad and unfortunate things happen to him, for he is a Jew. For example, he is forced into the occupation of being a money lender, as the law prohibits him from being much else. Apart from having a job he possibly does not want, Shylock is also criticized for having that job! “Signior Antonio, many a time and oft in the Rialto you have rated me about my moneys and my usances” (Act I Scene III). This stresses the Elizabethans anti-semitic view, and you can\'t help but feel sympathy for Shylock.

Part of the sub-plot is that Shylock\'s daughter falls in love with a Christian by the name of Lorenzo. Jessica, Shylock\'s daughter, knows Shylock would be...


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