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Do you think Shylock is a victim or a villain?

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Introduction

Shakespeare coursework Do you think Shylock is a victim or a villain? Use your study of 'The Merchant of Venice' to explain whether you sympathise with him or not In the play `The Merchant of Venice' by William Shakespeare, the character Shylock has two sides to his personality. These two sides, victim and villain of the play, present themselves frequently in the play. Although many Christians see him as a great evil, the audience is forced to feel some sort of sympathy towards him, due to the amount of prejudice shown towards him because of his Jewish religion. Throughout the play we are shown the two sides of Shylock's character. 'The Merchant of Venice' is also a play which contains several linked stories. It is full of contrasting characters. There are high, witty characters that are aristocratic such as Bassanio and low comic characters such as Lorenzo and Gobbo. It has an enchanted princess in Belmont who is Portia and a bond plot set in Venice's busy, financial world. It contains a trial, an elopement, a trick involving rings and women disguised as men. Into the middle of this light, romantic comedy, Shakespeare has planted a tragic villain. Shylock is unique in Shakespeare's comedies. He is a figure of fun, and a sad, isolated human being. We first meet Shylock at the end of Act I. From the start, we see that only money matters to him. ...read more.

Middle

Antonio has taken Shylock's living away from him, so Shylock has a good reason to hate him. The law didn't allow Shylock to do anything else but money lend, because this is 'what the Jews did'. So from the start, Shylock is presented in an unfavourable light. Shylock is often likened to the Devil and there are several references to this. 1) "The Devil can cite scripture for his purpose" quoted by Antonio 2) "Certainly the Jew is the very Devil incarnation" quoted by Launcelot, a servant. 3) "Our house is hell" quoted by Jessica. 4) "....lest the Devil cross my prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew" quoted by Solario who was speaking to Solerio. It was widely believed in Elizabethan times that Jews were in league with the devil. Shylock often referred to animals, especially pigs which are assumed to have a connection with the devil. There was the detest belief that Jews ate human flesh. Shylock says that Antonio's pound of flesh will "feed my revenge", giving the impression that this is why Shylock would like a pound of Antonio's flesh. Shakespeare mentions the pound of flesh in the story because people in those days did believe that Jews ate flesh, so this would guarantee the audience being frightened of what Shylock could or would do with Antonio's pound of flesh. Shylock's love of money destroys any human feeling which he may have once had. ...read more.

Conclusion

The question of whether Shakespeare intended Shylock to be a victim or a villain has long been a subject of debate; evidence indicates that he is a bloodthirsty villain whenever money is involved. But possibly, he has a bit of both in his very complex character. I think that Shylock is portrayed as both a victim and a villain in the play, and I also think that Shakespeare did this deliberately in order to give people their own opinion, but I am unsure as to which I think he is. Although Shylock is very greedy and thinks of nothing but money, he hasn't known any better throughout his whole life. On the other hand, Shylock does not make any attempt to love or show any human emotions to anybody, not even Jessica, his own daughter. In conclusion, I would say that Shylock is both a victim and a villain , heendured a lot of hard times and painful events. Discrimination was always openly shown towards him, especially from Antonio which is the reason he wanted revenge. Anyone subjected to the same treatment as he was is certain to become bitter and angry. He was forced into becoming what he is through the injuries and wickedness inflicted upon his own emotions. Although it may not be apparent, through this study of Shylock, I have become aware that 'The Merchant of Venice' conveys a powerful message. The way we treat others may conjure up emotions of which we are unaware. We must not forget that by the closing stages of the play Shylock had nothing. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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