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

In the Elizabethan period it was a literary traditionthat Jews were portrayed in a derogatory way. Write about Shakespeare’s presentation of Shylock throughout the play “Merchant if Venice”.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

In the Elizabethan period it was a literary tradition that Jews were portrayed in a derogatory way. Write about Shakespeare's presentation of Shylock throughout the play "Merchant if Venice". In 1599 England was a Christian country and many disliked, often despised, people of other races or religions, especially Jews. But is this shown through the literature of the time? In Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' a Jewish moneylender, (this being a typical stereotype of the age due to some Jews being obsessed with money and several being moneylenders) Shylock, is involved in several Christians lives. Shylock, after lending one of the main characters, the Merchant of Venice, Antonio, three thousand ducats asked for a strange bond, which defines his character, but is his character shown in a derogatory way? At the time Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant of Venice' Jews were outlawed in Britain and in many Christian European Counties, unless they where willing to convert to Christianity. In fact practising Jews had been officially excluded from Britain for three hundred years at this time. King Phillip IV of France was one of the first to excluded Jews and did so in the fourteenth century. Throughout history there are many examples of anti-Semitic behaviour by Christians. For example during the People's Crusade, flocks of Christians, on their way to the Holy Lands, changed their course in Germany so they could destroy Jews' property, possessions and actually killed many Jews. This treatment of the Jews unfortunately is not all in the 'ancient' past; also in the Second World War, only 50 years ago, the Nazi Party killed and tortured millions of Jews in the countries they held control of. When Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant of Venice' public disapproval of Jews was high and other playwrights had capitalised on this, and wrote plays involving Jews, many of which became quite popular. One example of this was Shakespeare's own friend, Christopher Marlowe, and his play 'The Jew of Malta'. ...read more.

Middle

hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" 3:1:54-56 This speech evokes sympathy from an audience, which might not have felt much before this. This speech is when Shylock seems at his weakest, it seems a desperate speech from the heart, not the hard, sarcastic and quick-witted comments that he has used before. Here Shylock is just asking why the Christians treat him as less than human even though he is the same as them, and this is greeted by laughter on the part of the Christians who consider that even entertaining such a thought would be beneath them. Shylock is not portrayed as the model father, we assume this from his one scene with his daughter, Jessica, and of course the later scene after she has stolen his money. The first is not an ideal scene to draw upon, as Shylock seems inattentive, but may simply be worried about business. Throughout this scene, Shylock does seem preoccupied with business matters, as he remarks he is going to: "I'll go in hate, to feed upon The prodigal Christian" 2:5:14-15 He is referring, of course, to Antonio, the Christian's Christian. By saying this in the presence of his daughter Jessica suggests that he would often share information about his work with her, but unfortunately, we can only comment on what is seen in this scene and this is limited to a snapshot of their relationship. This is, of course, Shylock's portrayal as an ill-attentive, restrictive father. Many even say he treats her 'like a slave', as he calls her in between the conversations and gets annoyed when she does not respond immediately: "As thou hast done with me - What, Jesssica! - And I sleep and snore, and rend apparel out - Why, Jessica, I say!" 2:5:4-6 Unfortunately, other evidence for Shylock's portrayal as a father is sparse in this scene, as Shylock has only to order his daughter to lock up and not watch the Masque ball. ...read more.

Conclusion

As punishment he must give Antonio half of what he owns, give the half to Lornezo and Jessica when he dies and to become a Christian. In Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", many feel Shylock, a Jewish main character, is portrayed in a derogatory way. In the Elizabethan period it was a literary tradition that Jews were portrayed in a derogatory way, but did Shakespeare follow the literacy traditions of others. At the beginning of the play, in Shylock first scene (1:3) the audience faces a split of conscience - listen to the reasons way he should not lend Antonio and Bassanio the three thousand ducats ( the 'You call me misbeliever...' speech 1:3:102-125) and feel pity for him or pay more attention to the bond he insists on and feel unsympathetic towards him. Though throughout the play the audience is put through a 'roller coaster of emotions towards Shylock: hating him one minute and pitying him the next' this original feeling normally sticks with the independent audience member right through the play. The play additionally teaches us about modern day society. Despite Shakespeare's works being written around five hundred years ago the messages in his plays still have meaning to today's populace. "The Merchant of Venice" makes us more aware of racism and xenophobia in today's society and how greed effects all of us, and also the basic, raw message in most of Shakespeare's plays, that love and grow and conquer any situation. In answer to the title I do feel that Shakespeare portrayed Shylock in a derogatory way. He was a at times cruel, selfish and vile, as well as being sadistic and masochistic over the pound of flesh, with him also being a strong stereotype to Jews of the day, being money obsessed and being a moneylender. Though despite this through the play you can still feel pity and sympathy for him, and see how society as a whole had turned him into the vindictive and bitter person he was in the play. ...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 create tension in the trial scene of The Merchant of Venice?

    This implies that Shylock is taking revenge on Antonio, as he says he will cause pain similar to how he has been treated but he will do the things better therefore causing more pain to bring himself more fulfilment. Shakespeare tightens the tension when Antonio tells Bassanio that reasoning with

  2. Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

    This suggests that the Jews were hated so much by the Elizabethans that they didn't even deserve a name. I'm sure most people who witnessed this play in the 16th Century would not have referred to the Jews by their names either, but now in the 21st Century most people disagree with the way they referred to the Jews.

  1. Act 4 Scene 1 is the dramatic climax to the play. Analyse how Shakespeare ...

    In addition the life of the foreigner would be at the mercy of the Duke. Again this would be another shock for the audience and maybe they would think Portia was carrying it out a bit far. As Shylock had suffered enough from the Christians and may feel it was

  2. Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of Antonio in 'The Merchant of Venice'

    this morbid self-indulgence the audience feel compassion for him because outwardly he seems to embody all the virtues of a Christian; he is kind and noble towards his friends and clever as he has not "trusted" all his "ventures" in "one bottom".

  1. The Merchant of Venice - how does the use of language style and structure ...

    audience to feel they are really about to witness a bloody action. There is an agonising suspense. When the trial scene begins, the Duke immediately addresses Shylock to "a stony adversary", which gives an impression to the audience to think that Shylock is not a likeable character.

  2. The Merchant Of Venice

    When Antonio says "The Hebrew will turn Christian" his manner is almost mocking Shylock, even though Shylock is lending Antonio money he still will not show respect for Shylock or his Jewish beliefs. Jessica ran away with Lorenzo because Shylock treated her as his personal slave instead of a daughter.

  1. What are the main contrasts and comparisons between Christians and Jews in the Merchant ...

    During the play we see a reversal of roles between Antonio and Shylock. At the beginning Antonio has wealth and power. When he loses this power he is put in Shylocks position where he is weak and the under-dog. When he regains his power he gains mercy and spares Shylock's

  2. Shakespeare's "The merchant of Venice". How can an audience's sympathies towards the characters ...

    If I was the director I would choose to portray Portia as a powerful and modest woman, who does justice to feminism and puts across the moral correctly to the audience. Portia could easily portrayed as the villain of the play, she shows examples of arrogance and of merciless cruelty

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