• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

In Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" discuss whether Shylock is a villain or victim of the society in which he lives

Extracts from this document...


Jessica Edmonds 28th May 2006 In Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" discuss whether Shylock is a villain or victim of the society in which he lives Shakespeare's play, "The Merchant of Venice" was said to have been written somewhere between 1594 and 1597 and is best known for its portrayal of the Jewish money lender Shylock. Venice in the fifteen hundreds was a city with a great religious divide, Christians against Jews. Venetian law stated that Jews could only hold down certain professions, money lending was not one of them but Shylock was rich and so his business was tolerated as usury because the Christians themselves would loan money from him. Shylock would be spat upon and denied in the streets where he lived by the Christians. Shylock knew that he was detested for his religion but could no more change this than the Christians could change their religion, but of course, Shylock knew that the Christians had the upper hand as they were the law. "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? ...read more.


Shylocks daughter Jessica even seems to be plotting against him. She sees her father as a mean man and so plots to run away with all his money and be with a Christian and even denounce her religion and become a Christian herself. Shylock is aware of this and, of course, blames the Christians for this. "Farewell, good Lancelot. Alack, what heinous sin is it in me to be ashamed to be my fathers child! But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo, If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, Become a Christian and thy loving wife". A2.S3.L14 Antonios ships have failed and when Shylock hears of the news he is pleased and wants to call in his bond and, will take Antonio in front of the high Duke to claim his "Pound of Flesh". "I'll have my bond; speak not against my bond; I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond. Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst cause, but since I am a dog, beware my fangs. The Duke shall grant me justice. I do wonder, thou naughty jailor, thou art so fond to come abroad with him at his request" A3.S3.L4 Even though Antonio tries to reason with Shylock, he knows that the law must be upheld. ...read more.


Antonio detested Shylock for his religion but still had the arrogance to use him when he saw the need. Shylock was most certainly a villain by asking Antonio to pay such a high bond. Shylock was seeking revenge when he asked for his bond as he knew it would take Antonio's life, was Shylock justified in asking for such a thing? No because had it been anyone else borrowing money, the bond, would have been interest on the loan, not the persons life. Shylock was right to take Antonio to court to fulfil the bond but, could have redeemed himself in the eyes of the court if he had taken the money offered, which was much more than he had originally leant, after all he was just a money lender, he would have made a good deal on it as the Christians saw it. Shylock felt he could not stand down on his bond because of his religion and his hatred of the Christians. He felt that if he took the money it would be seen by the Christians that they could continue to operate outside the law and Jews rights would become less than they already were, so, maybe it could be seen that Shylock was a victim of his religious birth circumstances but, also that he was a vengeful man because of his actions and, of the way that the Christians tormented him for his religion. ...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. The Merchant of Venice - Shylock - Victim or Villain?

    Antonio immediately condemns Shylock, saying "the devil can cite scripture for his purpose". Jews were disliked in Elizabethan times also because religion was extremely important to people at that time. Christians disliked Jews because they blamed them for the crucifixion of Jesus.

  2. The Merchant of Venice Coursework Essay - Shylock; Victim or Villain

    When Shylock says the line, "An oath, an oath. I have an oath in heaven! Shall I lay perjury upon my soul? No, not for Venice" he is bound to be seen as either victim or villain by different people, as to break an oath to heaven would be perjury, but might also be seen as an excuse.

  1. Explore the conflicting responses, which the character of Shylock provokes in the audience. How ...

    Here, Shylock is hypocritical. It is cases such as these, which repel the audience from the character and make him seem villainous. At the beginning of the trial scene, Shylock feels very purposeful and dignified as he is sure he is in the right, and that nobody will be able

  2. Is the Merchant of Venice more than just a play about money lending? Discuss. ...

    In the film version of 'The Merchant of Venice (2004)' the courtroom scene was acted out very well as you could sense the amount of tension and climax from watching the dramatic pauses and Al Pacino doing a great portrayal of Shylock, sharpening the knife to cut Antonio's flesh.

  1. Villain or victim? Discuss Shakespeares presentation of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

    This creates a sense of hatred within the audience towards Shylock, as this is a despicable idea. This is also an action of a typical Jewish villain as Elizabethan's believed that Jews were bloodthirsty from what they had read in the Bible.

  2. In your opinion, is Shylock a victim or a villain of the society he ...

    Although the Christians depend on him for money loans, they are un-necessarily aggressive in his presence and have no restraints when it comes to verbally abusing him. 'To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.' This depicts Shylock as a victim of his society and continually plays on the sympathy of the audience.

  1. The Merchant of Venice: Is Shylock a villain or a victim who deserves our ...

    to make it seem he is going the extra mile of sorts to get the money Bassanio needs. He questions Bassanio with "Me thoughts you said you neither lend nore borrow / upon advantage", showing a witty and clever side.

  2. Merchant of Venice- is he a victim or villain

    of friendship in order to entice Antonio to become indebted to him, not just with money but with his life. Antonio is very na�ve regarding the terms of the bond taking the 'pound of flesh' clause to be a show of friendship not hatred: ' The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind.'

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