• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Analysing Shylock's Dual-Role as Villain and Victim

Extracts from this document...


Analysing Shylock's Dual-Role as Villain and Victim Shakespeare presents Shylock as both a villain and a victim in 'The Merchant of Venice'. To what extent is this true? Shylock is shown as a villain because he has attempted to kill Antonio, he's abused Jessica's freedom and cares more about his money than his daughter. He is, however, presented as misunderstood and a victim, because not only is he physically abused in the text (he is spat on and kicked), his business is undermined, and he is an alien in his own city. A modern audience would not understand Shylock's personality as well as an Elizabethan audience, or at least as Shakespeare would have seen Shylock, because the racial tensions between Christians and Jews at Shakespeare's time have been mostly resolved, and because it was written for an Elizabethan, Christian audience. Consequently, it shows Christians in a forgiving light, in that their actions against Shylock, the Jew, are largely exonerated, both morally and in the courts. Jews in Elizabethan times were generally thought of as murderous, sometimes accused of poisoning wells and wiping out whole (Christian) ...read more.


Thomas Wilson wrote this about usuary in 1572, 'a sin directly against all law, against nature and against God. And what should this mean, that instead of charitable dealings and the sue of alms, hardness of heart hath now gotten place,' dismissing it as a livelihood based on greed. He also said that 'men have altogether forgotten true lending and given themselves wholly to live by foul gaining,' showing that he believed that lending could only be lending, not a way of gaining money from a friend. Christians and Jews have always been at odds with each other, because of the Christian belief that Jews crucified Jesus. There have been fights between Jews and Christians, and at one point, Jews were actually banned from England. Antonio is presented as a sensitive character, shown by his sadness, and also as a good, generous man, because he lends Bassanio money. With lending having been established in the audience's mind as associated with good, Shakespeare then presents the money lender, who profiteers from the established 'good'. Shylock is not a tolerant parent, when it comes to Jessica discovering new things. ...read more.


If he truly believed in the Jewish faith, he would have accepted death, rather than accept Christ. Added to this will be the explusion from the Jewish community, and all who could help him, and would understand his need to damage Antonio, yet also his non-acceptance into Christian society, as converts were regarded as social lepers. He resignedly says 'send the deed after me, I will sign it' and leaves. The Christians show no mercy when they have a Jew held in their sway, and the only Christian who shows mercy, ironically, is the one who first abused Shylock. Antonio saves Shylock from death, and gives Shylock the share of his money that was awarded to him, back. No character, is truly good/bad in Shakespeare. Antonio saves Shylock's life, refuses to take his possessions, and signs a potentially fatal bond with Shylock for his friend. However, he also racially abuses Shylock, tries his very best to ruin him, and forces him to convert from his religion, his most prized possession. Jessica robs her father, trades her dead mother's possessions for monkeys, and leaves no explanation. She's also sheltered from every part of life but her own. Next to the vast array of characters and motivations in Shakespeare, Shylock's murderous streak doesnt seem too bad. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level War Synoptic Paper section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level War Synoptic Paper essays

  1. Who contributes more to The Merchant of Venice Shylock or Portia?

    This is shown by the other men's actions in the trial scene. Gratanio curses with anti-Semitic energy, Bassanio pleads uselessly and Antonio seems eager to face his execution. Antonio says "I am tainted wether of the flock, meetest for death" When Shylock is on the verge of extracting the pound

  2. The Merchant of Venice

    being the most evil through taking away everything that Shylock had and making him become Christian. While Shylock did want to kill someone the punishment to be carried out on him was even worse. In this situation Christians had to play the role of God's instruments.

  1. Show how Shakespeare employs tensions and oppositions to present conflicting principals and prejudices of ...

    Love is centred in Belmont, a peaceful paradise to which lovers can escape, and hate around Venice, a hectic place that exploits and corrupts. This can clearly be seen when various events relating to love and hate in the play take place.

  2. Shylock is solely responsible for the tragedy that unfolds To what extent, do ...

    Symbolisms, accompanied by alliterations, are used to add depth in the characters perception and rhythm to the structure to the play, for the primary function of entertainment. In Act 4.1.315, Portia uses an example of these literary devices, thorough her dialogue "The words expressly are, a pound of flesh: Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh".

  1. Discuss the presentation of the Christians in 'The Merchant of Venice'

    the correct casket that will win her hand in marriage she is as courteous to him as she is with all of the other characters. She exclaims that she does not mind his dark skin by saying that he is "as fair as any comer I have looked on yet

  2. An Exploration of the character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice

    His constant, almost hypnotic repetition could be seen as Shakespeare highlighting Shylock's complete obsession and preoccupation with issues regarding money. Shakespeare then extends his development of a prototypic comic Jew through not only his concern with money but through his economy of speech.

  1. My Perception of Portias Portrayal in the Merchant of Venice

    husband, and it is in the ring scene where Portia's mocking and cunning character is shown again - 'For by this ring the doctor lay with me', she wraps Bassanio around her finger, taking control over him despite her inferiority as a woman.

  2. How has Radfords film version explored notions about value and culture in Shakespeares The ...

    In spite of Shakespeare's initial intention, in which he did not predict the oncoming horror that would befall the Jews, Michael Radford adapts the themes in Merchant of Venice to reflect his feelings toward the treatment of the 'antagonist' from the original works.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work