• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9
  10. 10
    10
  11. 11
    11

If a man has prejudged, negative opinions against a group of people, because of race, colour, wealth or any other reason, can he be considered to be “uneducated” in the modern world or has society merely educated him with narrow-minded views?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The Merchant of Venice If a man has prejudged, negative opinions against a group of people, because of race, colour, wealth or any other reason, can he be considered to be "uneducated" in the modern world or has society merely educated him with narrow-minded views? The concept of racism, prejudices and inequalities is dealt with throughout Shakespeare's "A merchant of Venice" and although it was written around 1598, like most of Shakespeare's works the themes are universal and timeless which makes them very relevant to contemporary society. The main themes of the play are justice and mercy and how these is given and received in the bitter relationship between Antonio, the Christian merchant and Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. "The merchant of Venice" is considered to be one of Shakespeare's comedies as it has a happy ending for most of the characters and an Elizabethan audience would find Shylock's tragedies amusing, but in the last four hundred years society has drastically changed. Would a modern audience have a different opinion on the treatment of Shylock or would the Elizabethan values remain? Fear of the unknown is part of human nature and the Jewish religion and its followers were very unknown to the vast majority people in Shakespeare's time. Jews started to enter England in 1066 and in the course of a generation they established communities in Bristol, York, Canterbury and London, and began to prosper by trading and lending money. However, in 1290 under the reign of Edward I, 16'000 Jews were expelled from England although a few managed to stay in England by hiding their identity. This expulsion led to 350 years of Jewish exile from England, which means that there had been no Jews in England for about 300 years before Shakespeare was born! Few people knew a Jew and the majority of people were quite simple, uneducated and illiterate. It was easy to categorize Jews and stereotype them. ...read more.

Middle

He would most likely speak in a sardonic, scornful tone as Shylock for probably the first time, has power above Antonio. Again, the audience are angered. After Shylock has spoken of his suffering, Antonio blatantly tells Shylock that he will most likely call him again! Antonio does not care about the pain Shylock has to go through because of him and his friends, because Shylock is a Jew. He obviously does not like the tone Shylock has spoken to him with and so he is trying to regain his power. Antonio and Shylock settle on the bond and Act One, Scene Three ends, with Bassanio disliking the terms of the bond. The dramatic tension increases as throughout the play as Antonio's ships fail to return home and the audience informed of this revelation by the use of two minor characters. Shakespeare often used this technique, as it is an effective way to move on in the story. Salerio and Solanio are the minor characters used as in Act Two Scene Eight, they joke about Shylock's misfortune (his daughter Jessica has stolen a lot of his money and has ran away to marry Lorenzo, a Christian) and then Salerio informs Solanio of how a "vessel of our country richly fraught" has crashed, and Salerio suspects it may be Antonio's. The audience would presume that it was Antonio's ship, as this would have to happen for the sake of the plot, and it is also clear that with his recent misfortunes, Shylock's need for revenge upon the Christians would be greater. Shylock's vindictiveness feeds on the news of Antonio's sorrow and the conclusion of the story is the trial scene, Act Four, Scene One. Antonio could not pay the 3000 ducats back in time and Shylock demands that he takes the pound of Antonio's flesh, it seems that no one can stop him by persuasion nor legally can they stop him. ...read more.

Conclusion

But the genius of "The Merchant of Venice" is that it allows us see past the surface of the religious identity that defines Shylock the Jew; beyond that Shakespeare allows us to glimpse Shylock the man who hates and bleeds as does any Christian. Shylock proclaims this when he asks, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" Shakespeare's genius gave the Elizabethan audience what they wanted but looking back we can see how this is very ironic and sarcastic in its tone towards anti-Semitism. This Jew is no longer a caricature and though he remains the villain, the evil is on more than one character. Shylock is a paradox because he is both the bloodthirsty, ravenous wolf Gratiano described him as and also the human victim of abuse that makes his revenge understandable. With this in mind, I doubt that a modern audience would be glad of Shylock's downfall. We would recoil from the hatred he expresses but we would sympathise once we hear of the way he is treated by Antonio. Yet in the courtroom scene these mitigating circumstances were ignored and so Shylock did not receive a fair trial by modern day standards. This adds to a contemporary audience's compassion towards Shylock and I think many people would find Shylock's punishment too harsh. Religious freedom is taken for granted by many in the western world and I also think that many people would want Antonio to be given some kind of punishment. We can see the man behind the murderer and although two wrongs don't make a right, Shylock's actions are understandable if we see him as a human being. So when can we call someone "uneducated"? In my opinion, a person with unjustified prejudices is educated, but with narrow-minded views. The most uneducated point of a person's life is when they're a child; when they are first born. Elizabethan society fed their children these views and so we cannot blame Antonio directly. Shylock may have been a "cut-throat" usurer but he was not a dog and did not deserve to be spat at. ...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. Peer reviewed

    To what extent do you think Shylock deserves the treatment given to him in ...

    3 star(s)

    He has always been a confident person but everything has been taken away from him bit by bit during the play and there's clearly not much left. How I see it ending for Shylock, is for him to end his life on his own terms.

  2. Merchant of Venice - Comparing and Contrasting Antonio and Shylock

    "For I dream of money bags tonight." Shakespeare is emphasising Shylock's greed for money. Shylock believes that even if he has nothing he will have money and that is all he will ever need. Act two Scene eight, Shakespeare again uses Solerio and Solario to contrast and discuss recent events.

  1. Is the Merchant of Venice anti-Christian or anti-Semitic?

    Shylock is a foreigner in his own city. He may have lived all his life in Venice, yet he is treated as an "alien" just because he has different religious beliefs. Like his fellow Jews, therefore, he tries to rise above such prejudice and seeks security and success in money-lending business.

  2. Does Shylock deserve the treatment he receives at the end of The Merchant of ...

    This is a very serious punishment and one that will affect Shylock's life greatly. To begin with, half of Shylock's current wealth must be given to Antonio to keep until Shylock's death. At this point Antonio will give the sum to Lorenzo.

  1. To what extent does Shakespeare intend the audience to sympathize with Shylock in the ...

    The modern audience would sympathize more with Shylock, as they would be able to see past his religion, and fully understand his character. After the trial, Jessica and Lorenzo settle together in Belmont, the arrival of Portia and Nerissa is announced with music greeting them.

  2. How does Shakespeare reveal Shylock to us in Act III Scene 1, what impressions ...

    She says that as it was not stated in the bond he cannot spill a drop of blood nor take more or less than exactly a pound of Antonio's flesh, this of course making his bond impossible to perform. This therefore meaning to me that Portia too is as callous as Shylock.

  1. With close reference to the text, explore how Shakespeare presents the character Shylock in ...

    All these quotes will create sympathy for Shylock as he is arguing for social and religious equality. This gains sympathy as the audience see that although Christians and Jews are the same in body, Jews get treated differently because of their religion.

  2. Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 2 - Describe Portia's Suitors, and discuss her ...

    She makes fun of him again saying that his mother, who in Naples will be a woman of high status and wealth, must had "played false with a smith". By this she is suggesting that his mother had an affair with a black smith, with him being the result and this is why he has such an interest in horses.

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