• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does Shakespeare present racial and religious tension in the "Merchant of Venice"

Extracts from this document...


How does Shakespeare present racial and religious tension in the "Merchant of Venice? The Merchant of Venice is set in a time of racial and religious strife. Venice was an important Mediterranean centre for goods from the Far East. It would have been a very exotic location for an Elizabethan audience; Shakespeare chose to set the play in Venice, because people in Elizabethan England would not have visited Venice and were more likely to believe things they were told about it. It could have also been set in Venice to reflect England's state of racial and religious tension, without being too obvious. The two central characters in the play are Shylock, a wealthy Jew; and Antonio a rich merchant. At the time the play was written, Christians were not allowed to charge interest on lending money, but Jews did. Shylock and Antonio are enemies by religion. Each of them hates what the other stands for. Racial and religious tension is subsequently reflected in the Merchant of Venice through Shylock and Antonio's relationship, which intensities when Antonio asks Shylock for a loan. ...read more.


Shylock is portrayed as having a hostile nature and continues the war against Christians through his desire for vengeance. Shylock believes his superior to Christianity. This is expressed clearly through his direct statement "I hate him for he is a Christian" this quote can be interpreted in many different ways to portray Shylock's hatred. Shylock also presents his religion as superior by saying his religion is "sacred" he uses strong adjectives to emphasise his passionate beliefs. Shylock's tone in his main speech can be understood to imply that he thinks that his religion is scorned and underrated. There is evidence in Shylock's speech that he is a victim of anti-Semitism, when he claims "You call me a misbeliever, cut-throat dog". This implies that Antonio believes that Judaism is a false religion, whilst "Cut-throat dog" compares Shylock to pirates and murderers. Shylock would make this speech to let the audience know that he hates Antonio for humiliating him by "spitting" on him and calling him names. ...read more.


"first there is the Neapolitan prince" and Portia describes him as a "colt" and she is "afeared" that "his mother played false with a smith" Portia is accusing his mother of being unfaithful with a blacksmith; and that the prince is their illegitimate son; i believe she uses this imagery because of the prince's obsession with houses. She also describes "falcon bridge, the young baron of England" as a "proper man's picture", but she also says "who can converse with a dumbshow?" this states that he is the perfect stereotype of a man, but how can she live or love someone who is so ignorant. Shakespeare presents both racial and religious tension in many different forms throughout the play but none stronger than Shylock and Antonio's relationship. The tension between them appears to be leading to the imminent death of Antonio, but ends with the typical "happily ever after" ending where the villain- Shylock is defeated, and Antonio- triumphs over evil. Some of the original audiences would believe that Shylock got what he deserved because of his treatment of Antonio, but others would disagree; saying that his punishment was excessive and Shylock was a product of his environment and treatment by Christians. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. English - Merchant of Vencice

    The word 'Jew' is used at the end of the sentence as a negative. It puts even more pressure on Shylock. Shylock answers the Duke, refusing to give a reason for his hatred towards Antonio. He says that he wants the pound of flesh from Antonio because he hates him and that the reason why he hates Antonio is unimportant.

  2. 'How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a ...

    He doesn't want her to mix with the Christians. It also shows that he wants her to have no fun in her leisure time. Therefore the audience as this point would feel that Shylock didn't want his daughter to have any fun.

  1. The Merchant of Venice has been described as a great commentary on the nature ...

    While it may be virtuous for Antonio to give all he has to his friend, it is clear to the audience that it is foolish for him to give to a friend who will gamble it away. In addition, the Christian's generosity and friendship is further undermined by the racism so apparent in their actions.

  2. A study of anti-Semitism in 'The Merchant of Venice' it's historical and cultural perspective ...

    The main themes of 'The Jew of Malta' are racial tensions, religious conflict and political unrest which are very similar to the themes of 'The Merchant of Venice'. Barabas is a stereotypical Jew of the time because he is hated, violent and cruel.

  1. Explore the ways Shakespeare presents Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

    The burden of his race gives Shylock both a sense of righteous indignation and an overwhelming sense of superiority. Shylock is thrilled to hear that another of Antonio's ships is lost, making Antonio more vulnerable. "I thank God, I thank God.

  2. The Merchant of Venice.

    We were disappointed, because we had taken our idea from other actors, not from the play. There is no proof there that Shylock is old, but a single line, "Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth,"-which does not imply that he is infirm with age -and the circumstance that he

  1. exploring the various forms of love displayed in Shakespeares Merchant of Venice

    As Portia goes through the many suitors, from many different countries, and ridicules them individually, the audience has to decide what point Shakespeare is making. It could be that Shakespeare is using this piece in the play to show his own personal contempt for other races.

  2. Friends, Enemies, Lovers, Gossip, Rumour and Money. How and in what ways are these ...

    This portrays to the reader of the full extent of Antonio and Bassanio's relationship. Antonio is depicted to have support from a heterogeneous amount of people, as Gratiano also portrays his love for Antonio, 'I love thee, and 'tis my love that speaks'.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work