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

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GCSE Shakespeare Course work 'The Merchant of Venice' By a careful consideration on the ways in which Shylock is presented, examine how far the reader is invited to sympathise with him. 'The Merchant of Venice' is a tragi-comedy play written by William Shakespeare. The play is set in the late 15th century in Venice in Italy. In the play Shakespeare brings up the question of racism and mortality in this Elizabethan age or for less educated people of that time it could just have been about an evil Jew who received his comeuppance. Shakespeare does this by basing the play on Shylock, a Jew. Before I examine the way Shylock is presented and the relation between this and the reader's sympathy, it is important to establish the attitude to Jews in this time. Anti-Semitism had been present in England (where Shakespeare wrote) ever since Jews had lived there. This was mainly due to stories that had been told of them stealing babies, drinking sacrificial blood and forcing adult circumcisions. Basically, Jews had become scapegoats for everything. It is useful to know that the reason that anti-Semitic attitudes were roused at this time (and therefore the reason for Shakespeare writing his play about a Jew) was possibly because up until this time there had been very few Jews (possibly mostly converted to Christianity) ...read more.


He refuses to forgive and he insists that the bond should be followed and honoured. Little sympathy can be felt for this cold hearted man who show no mercy, when he knows that alone he could spare Antonio's life. However, Shylock could be described as a character who is not necessarily hated completely by the audience, I think that this point is brought across well in the quote 'he becomes a half-favourite with the philosophical part of the audience'. One point at which the audience may feel sympathy for Shylock is in act 3 scene 1. He states how he has been treated by Christians and in particular Antonio, and asks rhetorical questions such as 'have not a Jew eyes...hands, organs, dimensions?' in when he is morally asking if a Jew is any different from a Christian apart from religion. Sympathy is invited here as the audience is given a direct moral issue to think about and suggests Shylocks personality is nothing to do with the issue. It was also a Christian with whom his daughter ran away and, worst of all, married. It cannot therefore be a surprise that Shylock has a hatred of Christians and therefore makes a bond to kill Antonio if his bond is not repaid. Shylock was also born of a religion that believed in the statement 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for ...read more.


This would heavily indicate that Shylock is an evil man and therefore the audience should not sympathise with him. Another factor that could affect the amount of sympathy that the audience can offer Shylock is to how the actor plays the character. This is one way that the actor could change the sympathetic view of the audience although there are many. If Shylock is played as an evil, malicious, vengeful man who happened to be a Jew then sympathy in parts such as Act 3 scene 1 would not be granted by the audience. However the actor playing Shylock could play the character in a way that portrays that Shylock is bitter because of his persecution and suffering then the audience are more likely to feel sympathy for him. In conclusion, Shylock is mainly portrayed as an evil character, with bad sides to his personality, and I believe that this is how Shakespeare intended him to come across as. The audience will always have some sympathy for Shylock as shown above. However the extent of this sympathy may not be much as; whatever the circumstances leading to his behaviour it does not excuse his twisted and evil mind and the fact that he was willing to take another mans flesh for revenge. This means that Shylock can never be seen as an honourable or good man. Whenever he will be played he will always come across as evil. ?? ?? ?? ?? Amy Luck 11 dk 1 ...read more.

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