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Can Shylock be described as a victim or villain?

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Introduction

Can Shylock be described as a victim or villain? In the play Shylock seems that he only cares about himself. He speaks as though his riches are all he needs and loves. Most of the characters in the play seem to look at Shylock like they are better than him because in a sense he is different because of his religion. He is treated like this because in Elizabethan times there were very few Jews or no Jews so people didn't take them seriously because they didn't 'understand' them so they were viewed as figures of fun. When it was written and the first people to watch the play would have seen Shylock as more of a villain because they didn't accept him. More recent audiences would look at both points because racism and Ethnic minorities are more common nowadays and there are more of different races and religions. The law also favoured Christians over Jews so it must have been a very difficult life to live there and be an ethnic minority. Shakespeare seeks to challenge the view of the Elizabethans who believed that Christians were always right and the Jews were always wrong. Shylock shows both villainous and victimised actions, he shows this throughout many parts in the play. The play is set in Venice and it is known for its strong naval control. ...read more.

Middle

We now see Shylock, as a villain because he has asked for a pound of Antonio's flesh if the money isn't paid. The flesh is no good to Shylock but he has done it out of hatred for Antonio as he would much rather see Antonio die than to have his money back. Jessica goes away with Lorenzo and Shylock loses a daughter and a servant. In Act 2, scene 5 the audience feel for Shylock when he says 'My daughter is my flesh and blood' when he says this he means that now his daughter has gone he feels like a part of him as gone to. He then overshadows this when Solanio reveals that in the streets he utters "my daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! Only Christian ducats!" Once again he brings in the matter of riches and loses the audience's pity because he is saying his properties have more value than his daughter's life. Shylock's losses make the audience feel sorry for Shylock because they don't know that he said the above caption until later in the play. These losses make Shylock hate Antonio even more and make him bitter. When Shylock makes his speech once he has found out about the ships in act 3 scene 1, we see him as a villain as in the first 3 lines as he talks about how he wants revenge over Antonio, the speech then carries on to show why he wants revenge on Antonio because he explains his true feelings. ...read more.

Conclusion

Antonio also says that Shylock will have to turn into a Christian and leave all his possessions in a will to Lorenzo and Jessica. I find in the whole of this scene that Shylock has been turned into the victim. When Shylock leaves the stage I don't think that the audience will believe he got what he deserved but still has his life to live, because he has been turned into the very person that he hates, a Christian. In the first part of the play we are lead to believe that Shylock is only human, he can be villainous and he can be a victim. As the play went on I changed my mind, I felt that Shylock was mistreated by the Christians in the courtroom. He was humiliated in court and had been driven to insanity from the torment and prejudice throughout his whole life; this has led him to misfortune and bitterness. The one thing that he feared the most was being turned into a Christian and it happened; now I think his life will be ruined by all the other Christians. When reading the play I felt gripped by the array of emotions and the way Shakespeare lets you make up your own mind whether Shylock is a victim or villain. Overall, I think that Shylock is more of a victim than a villain, although he can be portrayed as being both throughout the play. By Nayan Patel 10TH ...read more.

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