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Examine the dramatic qualities of act IV scene 1 of ' The Merchant of Venice' considering to what extent the reactions of Elizabethan and modern audiences would differ.

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Rickil Patel President Kennedy School Candidate number: 3180 English literature/language Examine the dramatic qualities of act IV scene 1 of ' The Merchant of Venice' considering to what extent the reactions of Elizabethan and modern audiences would differ. In Shakespeare's day, Jews were banned from England, in fact Jews had been banned since 1290 ad. The only Jews allowed to stay were the ones who would convert to Christianity. When the Jews moved away from Israel in the third century BC, they refused to mix with non-Jews who they referred to as gentiles. They also refused to change their beliefs and way of life. Non-Jews soon became resentful of the Jews as they became successful in business and this hatred only grew. (In 1584 when the Queen's doctor was executed for treason, many suspected him of being Jewish. So much anti-Semitism was widely accepted in that period of history.) On the stage the Elizabethan audience were quite used to seeing Jews prosecuted like Shylock was after seeing other theatre productions such as 'The Jew of Malta.' by Christopher Marlowe. However the modern audience, being a post holocaust audience, is not so enthralled by such persecution of the Jews and feels pity for Shylock at times. The main character is a Jewish loan shark of a Usurer named Shylock. ...read more.


The modern audience think about our selves, are we merciful? Are we fair? After this we briefly concentrate on the entrance of Nerrisa, Portia's maid, dressed as a man, because women are not allowed in the courtroom and she doesn't't want her husband (Gratanio) to spot her. The Elizabethan audience would be amused by this because women were not allowed to act on stage so it would be a boy actor in the role of a woman who is acting as a man. We are then distracted away from this by the protagonist who is sitting on the edge of the stage sharpening his knife on the sole of his shoe. Shakespeare plays with words here when Gratiano says 'not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew...' He is saying that the 'Jews' soul is hard, hard enough to sharpen a knife. This action makes Shylock look evil and blood thirsty. The Elizabethan audience would accept no more from a 'Jew' as they saw them as evil, inhuman beings in that day and age. The Modern audience would feel shocked and would ask themselves: Is he actually going to do it? We are also losing sympathy for him. The letter that Nerrisa gives to the Duke, says that there is a 'young and learned doctor' (lawyer) ...read more.


Antonio also tells Shylock he must give all he owns to Jessica and Lorenzo once he dies. The final punishment Antonio gives to Shylock is he must become a Christian. 'He pleasantly becomes a Christian.' All of these punishments Antonio has chosen to inflict maximum pain to the 'Jew'. Shylock quickly says 'I am content.' And leaves the courtroom. Shylock may have left quickly because he knows he has got off lightly because he could have been killed. Or because if he had of stayed his punishment may have became worse. The Elizabethan audience thinks this punishment is not out of the ordinary and is not shocked by it, unlike the modern audience who think the punishment is unfair and want to see what happens to Shylock after this as this is the last time we see Shylock in the play. We won't know weather he becomes a Christian and does he gives his money to his daughter? We want to know what happens to shylock after this as he has kept us entertained throughout the play as has Shakespeare with a range of devices, such as dramatic irony, important speeches, foreshadowing and the disguise of certain characters. I think the scene acts as a very good, exiting and humorous (for the Elizabethans) end to the play. But slightly disappointing for the modern audience as we want to know how Shylock carries on living. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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