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Do you agree that Shylock is "a goodly apple, rotten at the heart" or do you consider he is a product of his environment?

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The Merchant of Venice Do you agree that Shylock is "a goodly apple, rotten at the heart" or do you consider he is a product of his environment? The play begins in Venice where the wealthy merchant Antonio is talking to his young friends about the reasons for the depression. Antonio claims not to understand himself his sad nature. Bassanio arrives with the news that he wishes to court a wealthy, beautiful heiress named Portia. In order to present himself to Portia he wants to borrow 3000 ducats. Bassanio is in terrible debt and he sees marriage to Portia as a way out of financial problem. Antonio claims he cannot raise 3000 ducats himself but he offers to stand as security for any loan which Bassanio can arrange. The subplot introduces Portia and Nerissa. Shakespeare provides himself with an opportunity to comment on the position of women in the society of his day. Portia was unable to choose her own husband. Her father's will made her the subject of a lottery. As in Romeo and Juliet we see the ambivalence of the writer's attitude to the domination of women by authoritarian fathers. "I be obtained by the manor of my father's will". Further more Shakespeare mocks the European stereotypes that pursue Portia eager to claim not only her beauty but also her father's money. ...read more.


The audience hear from Salanio that Shylock has ranted through the streets of Venice "my daughter, oh my ducats, oh my daughter". We understand Shylocks diamantine in that he cannot speak a simple sentence in order. We also realise that he immediately blames Antonio and Bassanio for his loss. The first inclination is given that Antonio's fleets are in trouble. When Antonio and Bassanio are parted, Antonio was aware that Shylocks bond may indeed be called to be answered "and for the Jews bond in which he hath of me let it not enter in your mind of love". Shylock is further insulted and dismayed by accounts of his daughters behaviour. Salario and Solarinio taunt Shylock with their knowledge of Jessica is nothing like her father, hinting that indeed he is not her true father "I say my daughter is my flesh and blood". Strangely it is the Christians who remind Shylock of the news that Antonio has "loss at sea". Being already upset and frustrated Shylock turns his anger on Antonio claiming he will claim his bond "lets him look to his bond". In a most passionate speech Shylock explains the hands of the Christian Antonio "He hath disgraced me...". Shakespeare then gives Shylock one of the most anti-racist speeches in the English language "If you prick us, do we not bleed...". ...read more.


Shylock is resistant to Portia's most eloquent persuasion and he applauses her appearance to the letter of the law as it has been framed in the Venetian courts, "O wise young Judge, how do I honour thee?" Despite being offered three times the value of the bond Shylock will not be rescind. Shylock explains he has vowed before God to have revenge on his Christian "I have an oath in heaven", Portia declares the bond is legal. With mounting excitement, Shylock speaks in short bursts, possibly dancing for joy "I, his breast, so say the bond". As Shylock offers the scales to weigh the amputated flesh, Bassanio and Gratiano offer their wives lives in exchange for Antonio's life. Shylock scorns their exaggeration and bombasity, "These be the Christians husbands", Shylock then mentions his own daughter to bring Jessica to mind at this point in the play, his daughter to the Christians in the true root of his desire to kill Antonio. At the last moment Portia points out the flaw in Shylocks bond, the facts that a drop of blood may not be spilled. With glee the Christians begin to torment Shylock, taking his money, threatening his life and ultimately insisting he is baptised and that Antonio will be his Godfather. Amidst execrations Shylock "totters" from the play probably to hang himself. I have come to the conclusion that Shylock is only a product of his environment. ?? ?? ?? ?? Thomas Moran, 10C 1 ...read more.

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