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GCSE: The Merchant of Venice
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The subplot of The Merchant of Venice is focused on romance as Bassanio and Portia fall in love as he wins her in a lottery (a choice of three chests one of them allowing them to be married) created by her father. The romance between Bassanio and Portia gives a slight relief to the tension created between Shylock and Antonio and it lightens the tone of the play distracting the audience away from the obsessive and hostile atmosphere they create.
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The opportunity to be anti-semetic (towards Jews) was rarely let by, as during the 14th century, as Europe was gripped with fear due to the Black Death, Jews were blamed for these deaths because they poisoned wells because - as the argument goes - the superior hygiene of the Jews, along with their better diet, meant they were less like to catch the disease, and therefore did this out of hate, a ludicrous theory. Even during the period of the 14th to 17th centuries, when Jews were largely absent, anti-Jews stereotypes were created by the church.
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I hate him for he is a Christian." This hatred, however, is not without a past. Shylock tells the audience how, by Antonio's actions, his profits as a moneylender have been damaged, "He lends out money gratis, and brings down the rate of usance.", and of how he has suffered on account of Antonio's harsh words, "You call me a misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine." So even though Shylock's villainous side is on view, his hatred is not entirely without reason and with a thirst for vengeance such as his, you can see why he would feel the need for revenge.
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Shylock is shown as being racist towards Christians as he says 'I hate him, for he is a Christian,' which would have evoked the Christian audience of the 16th century to feel hatred towards him. Shylock is also shown as being greedy, when he criticizes a Christian for the fact that 'he [Antonio] lends out money gratis, and brings out the rate of usance here with us in Venice.' Shakespeare's imagery of displaying Shylock as the stereotypically 'greedy Jew' would also have caused the 16th century audience to favour against him because he is saying that Christians give out money
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Shylock would have to come across as being very nice and friendly for the audience to have a good impression of him. Antonio's first statement is filled with bewilderment and melancholy. His friends instantly assume that he is worried about his merchandise on the sea. This shows the audience that Antonio is a hard working man and that he is known by the people closest to him as a businessman. Antonio is quick to dismiss this idea. This may show that Salario and Solanio are not his closest friends and that they do not know that much about him.
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England even began to expel Jews and consequently seized their lands. In Shakespeare's era, a Portuguese Jew, called Lopez was accused to have tried and failed killing Queen Elizabeth I. Although extreme measures by the Queen to ensure he was spared, Lopez was hanged in 1594 and this new spark in racism built up devastating pressure on Jews. Shakespeare's play itself may have been taken from a previous play, 'The Jew of Malta' by Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe's Jew was called Barabas and similarly to Shylock, he was a usurer but Marlowe made his "Jew" much more vicious and devious.
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Shylock is portrayed in three different lights, the first as a villain; secondly a victim of racial taunts, and thirdly a comedian laughing back at all the Christians. Shylocks character was based on Barabas the main character in Marlowe's "Jew of Malta". Some critics say that Shakespeare copied his idea. The first scene in the play opens with Antonio's sadness, his vast amounts of friends are all curious as to why he is sad. "In sooth I know not why I am sad".
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This is the case in Venice as no amount of money could buy Shylock the happiness he wanted. His daughter Jessica, in her opening lines, exclaims, 'Our house is hell', showing she is not content with her privileged life in Venice (the real world) because she is still miserable even with all the money she possess. This contrasts with Belmont where the rich, happy and sophisticated society lives. Belmont is a fictional place full of love and happiness and Shakespeare portrays this as the fairytale world that we would all love to be in.
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Christians may have been jealous of the money Jews made out of "usury" which could have been another reason for their racism. Chris- Venice, however was different. Director- Yes it was, It was the richest city in renaissance Europe despite it having no natural resources. Venice was incredibly tolerant of different nationalities and denominations compared to other countries back countries and cities back then. However this was solely for economical reasons, Venice was located where products from Asia could be conveniently exchanged with Arabs, Africans and Christians.
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Shylock is a Jewish moneylender from the Ghetto who makes his fortune lending people money and charging interest. From this first encounter with the character, we can immediately deduce some interesting character traits in Shylock. In this short section of text and his connection with Bassanio, we are able to uncover a sly element to Shylock's character. At first he seems cautious to lend Bassanio money because he is unsure if he will pay back all the money with the desired amount of interest. That is however, only up until the point at which Bassanio lays down Antonio's name as surety for the loan, "For the which Antonio shall be bound."
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'How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a complex character?'
Before Jessica and Lorenzo actually escape, Bassanio invites Shylock for supper to divert him from seeing Jessica and Lorenzo run away together. Jessica cannot think much of her father to steal and run away behind his back. Her attitude for this could include the idea that with the lack of a mother, maybe her dad is harsh on her. She may be running away because he is uncontrollable. When the three months are up for Antonio to pay back his debt, Shylock takes him to court so he can fulfil his desire for revenge, once and for all.
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" And spit upon my Jewish gabardine." So in this example you can clearly see how Antonio is abusing Shylock and therefore in this case in point he is unquestionably being portrayed as a victim. There may be examples where Shylock is portrayed as a victim in this scene, but there are also numerous cases where Shylock is described as a villain. Although Antonio may have been abusing Shylock there are also numerous occurrences where Shylock is abusing Antonio. " I hate him for he is a Christian."
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As this would be impossible, and as taking the flesh would have killed Antonio, Antonio wins his case and Shylock is found guilty of conspiring to murder a Venetian citizen. He thus forfeits his wealth as well as the loan. Half of the wealth goes to the city and half to Antonio. In the end, Antonio gives his half to Shylock, on condition that he bequeaths it to Jessica, whom he has disinherited, and he must in addition convert to Christianity.
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Three months from twelve, then let me see the rate". Shylock sees the prospect of lending Antonio money as a way of getting his own back on him. The consequence of cutting a pound of Antonio's flesh from his body is extreme yet is not to be taken as a joke. Shylock takes pleasure from discomforting Antonio and Bassanio and hides his real intentions behind friendliness and reconciliation by saying "Why look you how you storm, I would be friends with you, and have your love, Forget the shames that you have stain'd me with" he loves seeing the pair begging him and coming to him for help.
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"Shylock is a two dimensional villain who does not deserve our sympathy" To what degree do you agree with the statement?
This can be seen from "My deeds upon my head! I crave the law, The penalty and the forfeit of my bond." Act 4, Scene 1. Even after Portia pleads for mercy for Shylock to rip his bond and grant mercy to Antonio, Shylock refuses, making himself seem cruel and unmerciful. Shylock's bloodthirstiness is further emphasized later in the scene when Bassanio asks "Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?" Act 4, Scene 1, to which Shylock replies, "To cut the forfeiture from the bankrupt there."
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Within three minutes every Jew inside was dead, the bodies were then burnt. There were many more horrific ways in which Jews were killed; this is only one! How does Shakespeare engage the audience in the Characters and issues in Act IV scene I of the "Merchant of Venice" Shakespeare first engages his audience in Act IV scene I by introducing a courtroom scene. Courtroom scenes are stereotyped to be full of suspense and drama. So the audience would be expecting something special from this scene.
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How does Shakespeare portray character and relationships in Act 1 Scene 3 of 'The Merchant of Venice'?
Salerio and Solanio are ambitious and want Antonio to notice them, as he is a character with a high social status. Lorenzo senses that Antonio and Bassanio wish to be alone, though Grantiano fails to take the hint. This is Shakespeare's way of emphasising the closeness between Antonio and Bassanio without them even saying a word to each other. Shakespeare explores the theme of love and friendship by leaving Antonio and Bassanio alone together to have a confidential conversation (lines 130-9), "To you Antonio/ I owe the most in money and in love".
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In many ways, shylock is a more difficult character for a modern audience than for an Elizabethan audience. With close reference to Act 1 scene 3, Act 3 scene 1 and Act 4 scene 1 show how an actor might reveal the human being behind the stereotype.
Antonio admits that he has spat on Shylock "to spit on thee again". He has also rescued people who were heavily in Debt to Shylock. This affects Shylock. Shylock agrees to lend Antonio 3000 Ducats. He also tries to persuade Antonio that usury is sanctioned in the Bible. Shylock suggests an unusual bond; he says that, instead of charging Antonio interest, he will have a pound of his flesh if he is not able to pay it back in time. Antonio accepts this "bond" against Bassanio's pleading. Launcelot Gobbo is a servant of Shylock's who wishes to leave his service but he is battling with his conscience.
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"Master Young man, you" (L25). Act II, scene ix can also be regarded as a humorous event in the story at the expense of the Prince of Arragon. In this scene, Arragon is portrayed as a man who is shallow since he refuses to "give and hazard all he hath" simply for "base lead". This shows that he is one to judge on appearance. Arragon goes on to pick to dismiss the gold casket in a hypocritical manner as he refuses to "jump with common spirits" (L31).
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Mart�nez Ruiz highlights Azor�n's lack of will or abulia, by placing Illuminada in the text; she is the antithesis of Azor�n and Justiana: Esta Illuminada es amiga �ntima y vecina de Justiana; es una muchacha inteligente, vivaz, autoritaria, imperativa. Habla resueltamente, y su cuerpo todo, joven y fuerte, vibra de energ�a, cada vez que pone su empe�o en algo. Iluminada es un genial ejemplar de una voluntad espont�nea y libre; sus observaciones ser�n decisivas y sus gustos, �rdenes.2 The novel is also autobiographical; Jos� Mart�nez Ruiz can be identified within Azor�n, especially as Jos� Mart�nez Ruiz later adopted the name Azor�n, as his pseudonym.
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She could also be seen as being unfair to her father and slightly black hearted. However, Jessica also appears very strong-willed and determined evidenced by her being prepared to abandon not only her father but also her religion in pursuit of her love for Lorenzo. In Act II Scene VI, Jessica is ashamed and embarrassed to be dressed as a boy. When Lorenzo states that Jessica must be his torchbearer, Jessica says "What, must I hold a candle to my shames?" Jessica's actions (leaving home and stealing her father's possessions) may perhaps be justified by her desire to embrace Christianity.
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And by looking at evidence you can see him being one of the two. Some people believe that Shylock is blood thirsty, were as some believe he's a godly and clean living character. In Act 1, Scene 3 we are introduced to Shylock, this is the 1st time in the play, were we can start to get an idea of weather Shylock is a villain or a victim. The 1st sign of him being a villain it the very first line he says.
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Therefore, especially with an Elizabethan audience, the main feeling towards Shylock would not be sympathy, but hostility and loathing. The Elizabethan audience would immediately recognise Shylock as Jewish because he would we be dressed in stereotypical Jewish clothes and he would be wearing a red wig which was another stereotypical image of Jews. Everything about him would be stereotypical of a Jewish person, most of it in a degrading way as Shakespeare himself would have been a Christian. A lot of Shylock's speech reflects his character, for instance, he is a miser with words, similar to the way he is a miser with his money.
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One of the businesses that Shylock is allowed to take part in, however, is usury. Usury is money lending to make a profit. Shylock would be able to lend money to people and charge interest on their loans. Not only is this a profitable trade, but also it is fairly straightforward. Antonio, however, does not like Shylock, and lends out money 'gratis' to spite him. The definition of the word 'gratis' is free of charge. As Antonio is a merchant, he would be very wealthy, so people would go to him before approaching Shylock. This meant Antonio would effectively take some of Shylock's business from him.
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In 'The Merchant of Venice' in Act 1 Scene 3, Shylock is described as being 'the devil' by Antonio. To what extent do you agree that he is the villain in the play?
The fact that Antonio lends money to others too, but does not charge interest on it seems to be merely a clarification of Shakespeare's desire to show the difference in the moral standards of the two characters- Shylock is made to seem petty or even greedy (one of the seven deadly sins) in comparison to Antonio's magnanimity. However, to me, Antonio appears arrogant, and this is especially visible in Act 1 scene 3 when the bond is set and we have Bassanio to compare him with.
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