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Critical Essay - Merchant of Venice

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Introduction

The Merchant Of Venice In the "Merchant of Venice" by William Shakespeare, Shylock the Jewish moneylender is portrayed as a villain, motivated only by revenge and is generally seen as a bitter, lonely, old man. In my essay I intend to show that, while the above may be true, Shylock had been driven to this state by years of prejudice and abuse. In the play, Bassanio needs to borrow money from his merchant friend and the title character, Antonio, in order to woo Portia, a wealthy heiress. Antonio however, does not have the money as all his funds are tied up in ships and trade goods. Antonio decides to borrow the money for Bassanio from the Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who makes no qualms of the animosity between Antonio and himself. The money is borrowed under the terms that if Antonio is unable to repay the money within three months then Shylock may take a pound of Antonio's flesh. ...read more.

Middle

see the extent to which he does hate Antonio when he turns down the offer of three times the amount of the loan in the courtroom scene since when he learned that his daughter, Jessica had eloped with a Christian man, Lorenzo and stolen gold and possessions he was reported as running down a street, yelling: "O my daughter! O my ducats!" In my opinion this suggests that Shylock cares equally for his wealth as he does his own daughter. This shows how much he hates Antonio because he cares more for revenge then for wealth and in turn, more for revenge than for his only child. I feel that the reason for Shylock's bitterness and hatred towards Antonio and the Christians in general stems from of abuse and taunts, mainly from Antonio and his friends, Solanio, Salerio and Gratiano. We first hear of this abuse in Act One Scene Three during Shylock's speech during discussion with Antonio and Bassanio: "You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gaberdine...you come to me, and you ...read more.

Conclusion

This also shows how bitter Shylock has become that he has also become as prejudiced against Christians as Antonio and his friends are against Jews, as he sees Christians as a single entity who all stand against him and his people. Another reason I feel Shylock deserves our sympathies is how lonely he must be as he only had his daughter, Jessica who ran away. As well as feeling upset and lonely after Jessica running away, he must have felt betrayed as his only child, his own flesh and blood has eloped with a Christian, one of the "enemy", as well as hearing that Jessica had exchanged one of his most treasured possessions for a monkey. A final reason I believe Shylock is justified in his desire for vengeance is that he was fully and legally entitled to claim his bond and was tricked out of what he was owed by technicalities. To conclude, I feel that although Shylock is embittered towards the world and driven purely by revenge, I think he was driven to this by years of prejudice and abuse. I therefore feel Shylock deserves out sympathies. ...read more.

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