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In the play the merchant of Venice Shakespeare deliberately crafts Shylock into a villainous character that is justly punished by the end of the play. To what extent would you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

In the play the merchant of Venice Shakespeare deliberately crafts Shylock into a villainous character that is justly punished by the end of the play. To what extent would you agree with this statement? In the play 'The Merchant of Venice', I think Shylock is portrayed as both a victim and a villain. Mainly though we can certainly say that Shakespeare portrays Shylock in bad light - he is shown as both a stereotypical Jew of that time; vicious and cunning. His role can be seen in two different ways. At the beginning of the play, we find out that Shylock has suffered lots of abuse from the nasty Christians. Antonio publicly humiliates Shylock and criticises him about the way he lends money, which suggests he is a victim. In Act 1 Scene 3, Shylock says to Antonio: 'In the Rialto you have rated me About my moneys and usances: Still I have borne it with a patient shrug, For sufferance is the badge of our tribe.' This makes the audience give sympathy for Shylock because of the way he is humiliated, but does nothing. He doesn't stand up for himself, and this suggests he is a victim not a villain. ...read more.

Middle

In the play, many people refer to Shylock as the devil, Antonio: 'The devil can cite scripture for his purpose', Solanio: '...lest the devil...here he comes in the illness of a Jew', 'a third cannot be matched unless the devil himself turn Jew', and also Solerio: 'That's certain, if the devil may be her judge'. They also refer to him simply as 'the Jew'. This suggests Shylock is hated solely because of his religion. In Act 3 Scene 1, Shylock makes us feel sorry for him because he shows that the Christians' racism is really affecting him. He says: 'If you prick us do we not bleed...If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?' He is saying that Jews are human just like Christians, and he is trying to justify his want for revenge on Antonio by saying that Antonio has 'wronged' him. This portrays Shylock as a victim of racism. There are also a lot of ways in the play in which Shylock is seen as a villain. The way he behaves towards other people is seen as very villainous. He treats them and talks to them depending on how it will affect him financially. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shylock tries to justify this by saying that he has sworn an oath to have his bond, so he cannot go back on it. He refuses to take the three thousand ducats he is offered. This makes him seem like a villain to us. When Portia says that Shylock cannot have his pound of flesh, Shylock knows he is beaten, but still asks for as much money as he can get; first three times the bond, then twice the bond, and then the original three thousand ducats. This shows his obsession with money, and his determination to get revenge. I slightly agree with the question of the essay in way in which Shakespeare proposed us to think in a way which would cast Shylock as a nasty villain. This is because of the racial prejudice people were made to believe at the time the play was written. Because of the time in which we read his play, where racial prejudice is coming to a minimum, we find ourselves taking sympathy for Shakespeare and his constant harassment. So in answer to the original question of the essay, yes Shakespeare does twist Shylocks character to make him seem nasty, but only as a product of their institutionalised racism of the people of the time the play was written. 10/05/2007 9:37 AM Harry Wright ...read more.

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