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

A study of anti-Semitism in 'The Merchant of Venice' it's historical and cultural perspective and possible interpretations and audience reactions from the original time of writing to present day.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

A study of anti-Semitism in 'The Merchant of Venice' it's historical and cultural perspective and possible interpretations and audience reactions from the original time of writing to present day. 'The Merchant of Venice' was written by Shakespeare in 1596 and appeals to both audiences of comedy and tragedy. The play features anti-Semitism which is a response to 1500's Britain as well as other literature of the time. Anti-Semitism is the term used to describe discrimination towards Jews and Judaism. 'The Merchant of Venice' has received both positive and negative comments over the centuries and throughout this essay I will look at some of these. I will also look at reasons why Shakespeare wrote an anti-Semitic play and what other similar literature there was at the time of writing. At the time of writing Queen Elizabeth the First was in reign and the country was Christian. Protestant more than any other form as Catholicism was banned by the Queen. Some people of the time were also anti-Semitic and this was only heightened by the case of Rodrigo Lopez. He was the Queen's physician and was hung for supposed plotting against the Queen even though he was considered innocent by many. ...read more.

Middle

Shylock is expressed as cold and calculating. He anticipates a victory in the court and begins to sharpen his knife to take his forfeiture. "Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?" The reaction to Shylock by the court is also a mirror image of the court in the Rodrigo Lopez case. The Duke is prejudice and this makes a big difference to the public view. Shakespeare presents Shylock in a bad light in the court by making him cold, callous and ready to take his revenge. The Duke, who is Christian, is also put in a bad light with his bias within the court room setting. I think Shakespeare did this to prove that his play was not a piece of anti-semitic propaganda of the 1500's. Shylock has no chance of winning the favour of the court for any reason other than the fact that the rules cannot be bent. The Duke refers to him as 'the Jew' and this is within a court of Venetian law. It is later discovered that Shylock had not made his contract very well because it only allowed him to take one pound of human flesh from Antonio but no blood. ...read more.

Conclusion

A recent film starring Al Pacino caused controversy and also had a very different idea about the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. This presentation of 'The Merchant of Venice' includes a kiss between the two characters and this was because many people believe that Shakespeare intended the two characters to be gay but married to woman. These are two of many interpretations of the play. The play features many aspects of Anti-semitic behaviour and Shakespeare, I think, is using current affairs of the 1500's as well along with other literature to create a play of the moment. Shakespeare also took the views of the general public and created a play that people would go to see. The popularity of the Rodrigo Lopez case meant that hatred of Jews was a big seller in Elizabethan England. It is important to remember that anti-Semitism is something that still exists but the prejudice of the 16th century has been diminished. The holocaust of the 20th century is the biggest attack on the Jewish faith and is, hopefully, the last time anti-Semitic prejudice is inflicted on the rest of the world. I don't believe Shakespeare was personally anti-semitic but I do believe he used the mob mentality and anti-Semitic views of 16th century England to sell tickets and gain popularity. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice 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 GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

    been jeering, shouting and especially booing at Shylock as he entered the stage. Adrenaline could really be running and the whole atmosphere would be very pro-active. 16th Century Elizabethans had their own stereotyping for Jews so they may have been expecting a certain personality or certain features from Shylock.

  2. The play "The Merchant of Venice" is described as Romantic Comedy. One aspect of ...

    Sound effects: through electronic tape players. I would want Shylock to deliver this speech with strong emotions. Now Shylock look at the Duke and answer him, "what judgement shall I dread doing no wrong". Now with quivering muscles and altered tones move in a semi circle and point with his arms towards every one sitting in

  1. Critical Essay - Merchant of Venice

    If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that." This is Shylock speaking to Salerio and Solanio, trying to tell them that a Christian is not above a Jew and a Jew is no less human.

  2. Discuss the Ways in Which the Themes of Love and Hate are Explored and ...

    For example, some schools do not study the play because of the racist elements in the play.

  1. 'How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a ...

    Christians believe that we shouldn't laugh at others misfortune and that we should love our neighbour as you love yourself. Salerio and Solanio don't take this into account when they persecute Shylock, and therefore we need to question how seriously they take in their own religion.

  2. Discuss the view that 'The Merchant of Venice' is a comedy with tragic possibilities.

    These comic characters would be used in a comedy. With these characters the play becomes much more light hearted and comic for the audience, creating a happy feeling of the play. The Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Arragon are also minor roles in the play. There are comic as they are seen as big-headed and very flamboyant

  1. Merchant of Venice essay

    to increase their awareness that the mistreatment of Jews was unfair and in some cases against their religion. Within the play however, the speech appears to fall on deaf ears as four lines further Solanio (a wealthy Christian) when referring to two Jews together says "a third cannot be matched,

  2. What are the main themes in "The Merchant of Venice"?

    Antonio is often sad and depressed; the cause of the sadness is not known but it is often said it is because he the two so their contrasts become highlighted. In Venice, the characters are greedy and they all have to work hard to earn their money.

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