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English Coursework- Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

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November 8th, 2002 Mallory Warrington English Coursework- Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice In the following essay I will portray my opinion of whether or not Shylock was treated unfairly. To do this I will go through the main scenes concerning Shylock and express my opinion for that particular scene. This is because it would be impossible to sympathise with Shylock on a whole because throughout the play he shows completely different sides to his character. Shakespeare has a great ability to twist complex characters therefore in one scene Shylock is considered the villain and in the next he would be considered the victim. In some scenes he shows his power hungry, manipulative side and in other scenes he shows himself as a broken man, demoralised by the racist, predominately Christian, society of Venice. At the time the play was written, there was great opposition between Christians and Jews. Shakespeare took a big risk in this play as he portrayed the inhumanity showed to Jews and could have lost his life, if he portrayed Jews so well that offended the queen or if the audience disliked it and took offence. The first scene I'm going to look at is Act one, Scene three; this is where Shylock is introduced in the play. In this scene I do not sympathise with Shylock at first because Shakespeare portrays his first appearance as smug, patronizing, confident and in control. He shows this by repeating the amount of money and the details of the bond consecutively in a belittling manor. ...read more.


As the play is supposed to be a comedy I suspect that this is one of the moments the Elizabethans would have found funny. I sympathise with him though because they show no sympathy with his losses at all. Even though Shylock later proves his interest is more concerned with his money than his daughter, in the production (channel four- The Merchant of Venice) it shows Shylock in an earlier scene with Jessica showing a lot of affection towards her, stroking her hair while talking to her etc. Shylock must have been distraught and extremely embarrassed that his daughter ran away and to have the Christians mocking him would have made his remorse and revenge for Antonio even worse. Act three, Scene one is the same two friends of Antonio (Act two, Scene three) now mocking Shylock to his face. Shylock responds to this by expressing why he hates Antonio, I find what he said very moving and definitely convincing. He talks about Antonio turning everyone against him, laughing at his losses, and ridiculing his religion. In his next quotation he stresses how he is human and not as different from them as they make out, and how he doesn't deserve to be treated the way he is. "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" the way he says this with such emotion and compassion makes me sympathise with him completely. He goes on to say that Jews have the same existence on earth as Christians do, "fed with the same food, subject to the same diseases", "If you prick us, do we not bleed? ...read more.


The biased Christian court then tells him because he attempted murder, he is to lose his religion and become a Christian, and Lorenzo and Jessica will inherit his wealth. I sympathise with Shylock being forced to become Christian, because he already lost his daughter, wealth, dignity and now his religion- that seems really unfair. But I don't sympathise with Lorenzo getting his money (even though this would be the worst torture possible) because he valued his wealth too much. The way that Jews were treated in Elizabethan time makes me think the audience probably would have found this acceptable. On the whole I don't sympathise with Shylock because he had many chances to change his fortunes but was too stubborn, stuck to his ideas and drove anyone close to him away. I think that the fact he was a Jew was not his downfall with the Christians, it was his evil villainous rage, therefore I find it hard to sympathise with most of his consequences. I think that Shakespeare wanted you to think that Shylock was the villain because, superficially, he seemed to be anti-Semitic and was portraying him the way an Elizabethan audience would have wanted a Jew portrayed. I think that they would have interpreted Shylock in the same way they stereotyped Jews at the time. He would have been portrayed as a rich miserly moneylender hell-bent on getting his bond from his sworn enemy, the Christian- Antonio. I think, because Shakespeare also showed Shylock's compassionate side, that he might have been trying to comment on the racial, segregated abuse Jews got at the time or the intolerance, anger and revenge both religions displayed on each other. ...read more.

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