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

In the Merchant of Venice the character of Shylock excites the interest and sympathy of an audience throughout

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

In the Merchant of Venice the character of Shylock excites the interest and sympathy of an audience throughout The Merchant of Venice is a play written by William Shakespeare in the year 1598. It is set in a corrupt Venice in the 1600s, with the city in disaccord over the Christian treatment of Jews. The themes revolve around value and worth, and mercy and justice. In the play, a Venetian noblemen Bassanio wants to try his luck in Belmont, to take the hand of Portia, an heiress of Belmont. Portia's late father set up a challenge to find the one who deserves her hand most. There are three caskets, gold, silver, and lead, and whoever chooses the right casket wins her hand. However, Bassanio is penniless, so borrows money from his friend Antonio, who in turn borrows it from the merchant Shylock. The bond is that if Antonio fails to repay the money after three months, when Antonio's ships return to Venice, he must pay Shylock a pound of his own flesh. Antonio, a Christian, accepts suspiciously, for he hates Shylock, a Jew, as much as Shylock hates the Christians. Shylocks hatred is intensified when his daughter Jessica absconds with a young Christian nobleman Lorenzo. ...read more.

Middle

However, Lancelot leaves without telling Shylock. Lancelot would rather run away to Bassanio, who is much poorer, than work for Shylock, who he thinks "is the very devil incarnate". The fact that Lancelot will leave Shylock for the reason that he is a Jew makes a modern audience feel sympathy. However, an Elizabethan audience would have jeered when Lancelot deserted Shylock. The law is a fundamental part of Venetian society. Shylock uses the law to exact his revenge on Antonio. Shylock hates Antonio for a number of reasons. He hates him for he is a Christian and his poor treatment of Jews. "I hate him for he is a Christian". He hates him for historical reasons. There has always been strife between the two religions, "I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him". Shylock also hates him because of how he lowers the interest rates on lending. "He lends out money gratis, and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice". His reasons for wanting to kill Antonio come across as very arbitrary and obscure. He compares his reason to kill Antonio with - "Some men there are love not a gaping pig / Some that are mad if they behold a cat." ...read more.

Conclusion

In modern times Shylock is conceived as an interesting character, empathetic, even - yet still a villain. Yet in Elizabethan times people would feel he deserved what he got, and is let off lightly as he would be a murderer. They would also have believed that enforcing Christianity on him would be an enforced benefit. In Elizabethan times Shylock would be likened to Barabas in the Jew of Malta, written in 1589. His villainy would be exaggerated, and he would be depicted as evil, deceptive, and avaricious. Elizabethan audiences would feel that the ending suits comedy formula. All the problems are resolved, so the fun can begin, Act 5. However, a modern audience would feel frustration at the dismissal of Shylock, it seems heartless. To all audiences, Shylock represents an interesting, in-depth character. He is the character in the play that manages most to excite the interest and sympathy of the audience. However, the audience does not at all times feel sympathy for him. While the treatment he receives makes the audience feel sorry for him, at some times he reacts in a way that would make some people feel resent against him. He criticizes Christian's while he has the same faults. They insult him, yet he feeds on this. While sympathy is felt, it is clear to all audiences that Shylock is the antagonist in this 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. Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

    On page 187 we see evidence of Portia using delaying tactics while Shylock is trying to hurry it up. PORTIA I pray you let me look upon the bond. (Line 221) SHYLOCK Here't is, most reverend doctor, here it is. (Line 222) PORTIA Shylock, there's thrice thy money offered thee.

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

    Early in the play, he is mistreated, abused and bullied by the Christians, even though we haven't seen Shylock do anything to provoke them. It is Shylock's religion that makes the Christians hate him so much, which mirrors the way people of the time were.

  1. 'How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a ...

    The audience should be preparing for something terrible to happen, and something unthinkable happens. Antonio knew from the very beginning that Shylock wouldn't back out of the bond, but Antonio was prepared to over-look that as he was relatively sure his ships would return safely and so he would be

  2. Shakespeare's play, 'The merchant of Venice' - what do we learn about the character ...

    Bassanio is thinking that outward show must not be trusted and that the eyes must not deceive the heart. This comment shows us how Bassanio actually believes in love and knows that his heart will tell the truth. Bassanio's approach to the caskets is very different to that of the two princes.

  1. Free essay

    Belmont is a place of youth, happiness and concord, Venice a place of age, ...

    This first line primarily helps to set the impression that working in Venice is risky business and that the merchants lives are full of worry and anxiety. The majority of the first act is written in prose which was used, in the Elizabethan era, to show gossip or low life characters.

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

    Again this is showing shylock as a typical Jewish stereotype losing sympathy with the audience. Also in the speech he makes aside to the audience Shylock states that: "If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him" This statement again,

  1. English - Merchant of Vencice

    When Antonio is played in this way he sees this as another way to be better than or beat the Jew, Shylock. It is easy to interpret how Shakespeare would want these characters to be played. However the way that the play would be directed over time would change according to the general views of Jews in the country.

  2. What are the main themes in "The Merchant of Venice"?

    There is not just one type of love explored in the play; there are many. Such as the love of a friend which is explored through Antonio and Bassanio, These two friends are extremely close and Antonio would just about give his live or do anything for Bassanio.

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