The Character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice Essay
3186 Words13 Pages
The Character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice
Victim or villain. These two words are the total opposites of each other. A victim is someone that 'we' in general should, or may, feel sorry for and attempt to sympathise or empathise with. But a villain is the one person that people love to hate. The best example of this I feel is pantomime. The victims or heroes are clear-cut and the audience willingly cheers them. But as soon as the villain walks on stage he is hissed and booed, unfortunately it is not as simple as this in 'The Merchant of Venice' and how the audience react to the characters is all important in making the distinction between victim or villain.
Although the title of the…show more content…
In contrast to this however, modern attitudes to racism, in particular anti-Semitism, are different. All throughout history Jews have been persecuted, most recently in the Holocaust in Germany. I would think that many people today would be affected by this, that such persecution could happen just because people stood up for their faith. It is this view that makes 'The Merchant of Venice', and particularly Shylock, so complex and still extremely relevant to modern society.
Shylock is a Jew in a Christian city, isolated and vulnerable. This is a cause of great prejudice against Shylock and means his apparent villainy can begin to be understood. But, interpretation of Act 1:3 and the lines therein and underlying meanings accounts for many things. For example, when Bassanio invites Shylock to have a meal with them, "If it please you to dine with us", it can be read as a kind offer rejected by Shylock or ignorance of the Jewish faith, either unintentionally or intentionally to patronise and provoke Shylock. But one point in this very important scene, Act 1:3, is when Shylock recounts all he has suffered at the hands of the Christians, epitomised in Antonio. Shylock has "borne it with a patient shrug" and goes on to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the supposed
Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay
1041 Words5 Pages
Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Shylock is certainly an interesting character made even more intriguing by Shakespeare's portrayal of him. Much before the twentieth century, anti-Semitism was rife and The Merchant of Venice is a curious tale, as we are able to see how Jews were viewed in the late 1500s - especially as Shakespeare's depiction was at odds with the accepted anti-Jewish prejudiced views in that he considers both sides of the argument. This play is an insight into the general opinions of Jews, the daily hostility facing them Shakespeare's time and helps us understand why the hatred facing them through the ages…show more content…
Shylock may not like the people he is dealing with, but he adores the rewards of dealing with them.
However, our opinion of Shylock drastically changes when Antonio enters. Before, he seemed like an unfairly persecuted Jew, hated only because of his race and usury. But, once the merchant arrives, Shylock states, "I hate him for he is a Christian," (I, iii, l. 35) and then rattles off a plethora of reasons why he dislikes him so. What strikes the reader is that, coming from someone often facing prejudice, Antonio is hated not for personal reasons or particular wrongs, but because of his profession and religion. Though, Shylock can be sympathised with a little later when confronted with Antonio's flagrant superciliousness and unfounded moral superiority. Shylock displays a deep-rooted enmity for Antonio because they have been long-standing enemies, while he is more civil and forthcoming toward Bassanio. However, his hostile and antagonistic attitude towards others does nothing to alleviate the disapprobation and antipathy he faces - Shylock would be much more easily accepted if he did not constantly refer to his Judaism and behave in such an élitist manner.
In Act II, scene ii, we can understand Shylock from the angle of him as an employer. Launcelot clearly dislikes