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How is Shylock presented in ''The Merchant of Venice''? To what extent would the audience sympathise

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Introduction

How is Shylock presented in ''The Merchant of Venice''? To what extent would the audience sympathise with him? Shakespeare's ''Merchant of Venice'' shows the anti-Semitism of Christians. The Elizabethan did not like the Jews due to the biblical history that the Jews helped to kill Jesus. The Jews were hated, they had to do dirty jobs and were resented for it. They were forbidden to own property or engage in any professions. The Jews also practised usury - lending money with profit, and were hated for that. The Christians adhered to Jesus' commandment to lend money ''looking for nothing again'' and forbade asking for interest or even the principal investment back. Shylock is a Jew and a professional moneylender. He is hated due to his religion and profession of usury. Shylock is bent on the murder of Antonio, who has borrowed the money for a friend Bassanio, if he does not payback his money on the day due. Antonio is in serious danger when shylock insists that he would not take the money but his pound of flesh. The help of Portia who disguised herself as the young lawyer saves Antonio. The anti-Semitism shown in this play is the way the Jews and Christians relate. In Venice, Shylock is hated due to his Jewish religion and his profession - money lending. ...read more.

Middle

When Shylock says says that ''Antonio is a good man''. The word good has different implications: Bassanio thinks that it refers to his friend's (Antonio) character and is angry that a man like Shylock should judge his friend. Shylock realises that he has succeeded in annoying Bassanio hastens to explain that by 'good' he meant sufficient as in ''financially sound''. Bassanio seems to be right to caution Antonio to suspect "fair terms" and a villain mind. At the end of Act three, scene one Shylock reveals his true motive "I will have the heart of him if he forfeit for were he but of Venice I can make what merchandise I will". This suggests that Shylock is bent on murder from the outset of his bond with Antonio. Shylock believes that Antonio hinders him from making more profit, so getting rid of him would be a better way for him to make profit. Shylock was also glad when he heard of Antonio's financial ruin. He said "I'm very glad of it I'll plague him, I'll torture him, I am glad of it " (III, I, 116-117). The repetition of ''glad shows how happy he is. During Shylocks trial, he thinks that he's getting justice as he says, "A Daniel comes to judgement yea o Daniel! ...read more.

Conclusion

She asks him if he is contented and he says ''I am content''. I think Shylock doesn't mean it. He is ashamed because he has been stripped of his wealth and pride. He doesn't know what to do and becomes very hopeless as he tells them ''I am not well''. He can't imagine himself in the position of not having any property and worst of all loosing his identification, which is his Jewish religion. In my own opinion, I don't think Shakespeare intended to be anti-Semitic. He wanted to show the attitudes towards the Jews through the way Shylock was abused verbally and physically; therefore he used Shylock as a mouthpiece to speak out against racist attitudes. Shakespeare also wants to show the importance of being merciful. If Shylock were merciful to Antonio he would not have lost his property and religion. I think Shylock's behaviour is justifiable because the Christians have mentally and physically abused him and he has been used because they wanted his money but still rendered abuses on him. Therefore, his behaviour towards Antonio is a way of vengeance for the abuses he has suffered. Shylocks behaviour can be condemned because he could have forgiven Antonio instead of insisting on taking Antonio's life, but he ended up loosing his property. Shakespeare used this to show the importance of forgiveness and educate people about different cultures because at the time of Shakespeare the population were not accustomed to foreigners. ...read more.

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