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

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Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

"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.

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