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How does Shakespear represent the Character Shylock in the Merchant of Venice?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare represent the character Shylock? The Merchant of Venice is one of William Shakespeare's best known plays and was written within 1596 - 98. This was the Tudor period. The play is set in this time, in Venice, Italy. During the Tudor/Elizabethan period society and morals were very different from today with Christianity being the main religion in Venice and many other places. One of the main disgusts of the time was that of Anti-Semitism or basically the dislike and repulse of the Jewish Religion. Of course this isn't new as Jew's have been bullied, spat upon and murdered because of their beliefs throughout history. Shakespeare's play homes in on the appalling treatment of Jews and this is the main background of the play, we meet a Jew called Shylock. Shylock is a tormented character during the play; however he is also a tormentor himself. Shylock is a usurer which means he lends money to make profit. This is both wrong in the Christian and Jewish religion but because Shylock doesn't lend money to other Jews and only to Christians this is fine. ...read more.

Middle

Act 4 Scene 1 is the court scene in which Shylock receives his punishment. When the tables turn, the Duke tells Shylock that he will strip away all of his possessions but spare his life. Since the Duke can legally condemn him to death, sparing his life is the morally correct act. Antonio takes this action one step further when he decides to minimize some of Shylock's punishment. But we may also question whether it is merciful to return to Shylock half of his goods, only to take away his religion and his profession. By forcing Shylock to convert, Antonio makes him unable to practice usury, which was Antonio's main reason for berating and spitting on him in public. Throughout the play the main question is whether or not Shakespeare wanted the audience to feel that Shylock deserved his punishment. In the court scene Shylock is seen as a heartless man when he says, "I hate him for he is a Christian." ...read more.

Conclusion

However, if we really read into the situation and think how Jews have been treat throughout history and how Shylock himself has always been treat and spoke about we understand why he has such a grudge against Christians and why he feels he must really hurt one. So when the audiences do read into the play they can sympathize with Shylock and feel that he didn't deserve his punishment. Overall within the play the Christians and the Jews are both to blame for the awful and foul bullying that go on, on both sides. I think that Shakespeare intended for his audience to feel anger for the both the Christians in the play and Shylock as they are both dreadful. We see a horrific side to Shylock that may shock many people, but he is complex because his character has to be read into to really understand the moral behind the play; and I think that it is a very big one with many teachings. I don't think that Shakespeare sided with anyone during the play he just played on real life and that's what really makes The Merchant of Venice what it is. ...read more.

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