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How far can the audience sympathise with Shylock?

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How far can the audience sympathise with Shylock? Shylock shows an almost double sided character, he appears to be a villain some times and then a victim at others. Although with this in mind I have come to believe that he is really a true villain that has only a few good attributes compared to many more evil ones. His evil side is shown even from the start when he says; "If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him," By this he means that if he just gets one opportunity then he will make his hated enemy, Antonio, suffer. However it would not be fair to say that he was totally evil as there are points in the play that make us want to sympathise with him; "If you prick us do we not bleed? ...read more.


This point comes after the escape of his daughter and his wealth to the Christians. Shylock says; "I would my daughter dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear." I cannot understand the mentality of anyone who could possibly wish their own daughter to die just for the sake of some jewels and money. This must prove his utter insanity and true evil self if he could say such a terrible thing. Another representation of his villainous attributes is when he hears of the misfortunes of Antonio in losing his ships. This therefore means that he cannot repay the loan given to him by Shylock before it is too late and so Shylock can have a pound of Antonio's flesh; "Go Tubal, fee me an officer, bespeak him a fortnight before. ...read more.


I am a Jew." This quote shows the kind of day to day treatment administered to Shylock by the Christians. It is no wonder that he acts so evil and cruel when he gets the odd chance for it is just revenge for the repeated cruelty shown by the Christians. Also in those times and indeed today usury or money-lending is a necessary evil. The Christians mock and curse Shylock and his partners even though they are lending vital money to their economy all the time. This is something that Christians due to their religion are not allowed to do. Also the Venetian laws stated that Jews could conduct only a few jobs, one of which was usury. In spite of these points I feel overall inclined to condemn Shylock as a villain, for his evil deeds stand out more prominently than his good ones. ...read more.

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