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By a careful consideration of the ways in which Shylock is presented, examine how far the reader is invited to sympathise with him.

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The Merchant Of Venice: By a careful consideration of the ways in which Shylock is presented, examine how far the reader is invited to sympathise with him. During the 1600's, the city of Venice was the most liberal and powerful city state in the whole of Europe. However, intolerance of Jews was a problem which was rife. Many Jews were forced to live in the 'Ghetto' of Venice which was ruled by Christians. If they wished to leave the ghetto during the daytime, they had to wear red hats so as they were recognisable from the Christians. To some extent, the prejudice and treatment of the Jew's was eerily similar to the anti-Semitism during the Second World War. The laws for Jews living in Venice at the time differed from the laws applied to Christians. For example, Jews were not allowed to own property and it was difficult for them to obtain jobs with decent salaries. Therefore, many Jews practised usury; the lending of money at an unreasonable rate of interest. Usury was against Christian law and so Jews practising usury simply gave Christians yet another reason to ostracise them. The concept of usury is relevant to this play as it is a Christian's participation in the act which the main plot stems from. ...read more.


However, if he leaves '...I should be ruled by the fiend'. Clearly there must be a reason as to why Launcelot believes Shylock to be comparable to the devil, which intrigues the reader into wanting to know more about the character of Shylock, and persuades them into the belief that he is not an honest man. However the reader is not told Launcelot's reasons as to why he has a great dislike for Shylock. There is no evidence in Launcelot's speech that Shylock is abusive either and so the truth about Shylock and Launcelot's' relationship is left a mystery. This scene tells the reader that Shylock's character is not well liked. This fact, therefore, further repels the reader from sympathising with Shylock Act 2 Scene 3 is extremely relevant to discovering another characters opinion of Shylock. Shylock's daughter Jessica is planning to escape from her father, 'I shall end this strife, become a Christian and thy loving wife' marry her love, Lorenzo, and become a Christian. She plans to ruthlessly betray Shylock. As Shylock detests Christians, the reader can foresee his anger. Jessica rejecting her faith is perceived by the reader as a rebellion against her father, especially as the reader learns of her sheer loathing of him, '...to be ashamed to be my fathers child'. ...read more.


He refuses to relent and show mercy for Antonio. It is clear that Shylock has such a vile hatred of Antonio, as he will not accept any sum of money, 'If every ducat is six thousand ducats...I would have my bond', yet he is a man who values money more that his own daughter. He desperately wants Antonio to die painfully for his own selfish, sadistic gratification. This is sickening. When Portia win the court case, and finds fault in the bond, Shylock is punished for conspiring to kill a Christian. When he is ordered to give away his wealth and convert to Christianity, he is completely defeated, to the point that he wishes to be dead, 'Nay take my life and all...you do take the means whereby I live'. It is difficult for the reader not to feel some sympathy for Shylock, as the things he values most have been taken from him. Overall, the reader is hardly invited to sympathise with Shylock's character. Shylock does not have good relationships with other characters, which appears to be his own fault. The most sympathy felt is for his daughter because her father treats her with such little regard. It is saddening that Shylock is such a bitter, angry and hateful man. However, it is very difficult to sympathise with a man who is homicidal and who has such hateful intentions. ...read more.

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