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

    A society of 100 years ago would have also probably frowned at this valid argument, because it was a time when society was patriarchical, and society wasn't persuaded otherwise. However, in both of those social debates, they had groups of people who wanted to stop it, such as Martin Luther King, the suffragettes and the suffragists.

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

    After the discovery of the elopement of his daughter and her theft of his money Shylock becomes ugly. After this finding he literally wish's his daughter dead. "Were dead at my foot and the Jewels in her ear!

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

    The money-lender, who is also a Jew in 'Il Pecorone', demands a pound of flesh as payment if the money is not paid back. When the money is not paid in time, the Jew goes to court to ensure he receives what he is owed.

  2. The Merchant of Venice.

    home a month before the day" (my ships and wealth return a month before the debt is due), (Line 183). Act II. Scene V. - The Same. Before Shylock's House. Shylock bumps into Launcelot, learning that Bassanio's party which he will be reluctantly attending, will be a masque.

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

    This is because she was quick to pick out the faults of her other suitors, but she finds no faults in Bassanio. The relation ship between Portia and Bassanio becomes one of mutual respect, and affectionate love. Their relation ship also becomes physical, demonstrated when Portia says; 'Sweet doctor, you shall be my bed fellow.'

  2. 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.

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

    Lorenzo indicates some signs of repugnance towards Gratiano, 'I must be one of these same dumb wise men, for Gratiano never let's me speak'. This does not imply that they are enemies but can indicate some signs of a problematic relationship.

  2. Antonio is the merchant of Venice, he’s waiting for his boats to arrive home, ...

    "Antonio: To raise a present sum, therefore go fourth try what my credit can in Venice do." "Solanio: Here comes Bassanio you're most noble kinsmen, Gratiano, Lorenzo. Fare ye well, we leave you now with better company." These words of Solanio and Solerio where they stress the dangers and worries of being in Antonio's position and very prophetic.

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