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In your opinion does Shakespeare portrayShylock as a victim or a villain

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Introduction

In your opinion does Shakespeare portray Shylock as a victim or a villain Throughout the play 'The Merchant of Venice' there are constant references to various characters and the way they relate to one another, however there is no character so diverse and so complex as Shylock's character. Shakespeare tries to portray Shylock in a number of ways however I believe his main focus in the play, is on his villainous side. This may be portraying the time of Shakespeare where ethnic minorities like Jews were hated and condemned for their religion. Jews like Shylock weren't awarded equal rights during Shakespeare's times and there was definitely a lot of prejudice against them. They were forced to earn a living in ways not practised by Christians like lending money. However this was against Christian religion and therefore Jews were seen as villains for taking part in this type of business, as they were seen to be exploiting their religion to earn money from the Christians. So this is most likely why Shylock is portrayed as such a villainous character; or is he? There are definitely a lot of instances in this play where Shakespeare portrays Shylock as a villain however there are also instances where he is presented as a victim and I believe that in Act 1 scene 3 Shylock is being portrayed as a victim. In this scene Shylock is explaining how Antonio has been abusing him, " Many a time and oft in the Rialto you have rated me about my moneys and my usances." In this case Shylock is saying that Antonio is always abusing him about his money and his interests, so in this instance Shylock is most definitely being portrayed as a victim. As well as Shylock being abused by Antonio with words, Shylock also describes how he is abusing him physically. " And spit upon my Jewish gabardine." ...read more.

Middle

Therefore in this case Shakespeare is portraying Shylock as a victim because clearly he did trust Jessica and she has betrayed his trust. Now we come to the scene that never was. The question is why didn't he have a scene that shows Shylock's reaction to his daughter leaving him? Instead of doing this Shakespeare portrays his reaction through Solanio, a Christian who is contemptuous of Shylock, and his description. This means Solanio can show his hatred for Shylock and there is great prejudice against him, as he is also laughing at his grief. Therefore Shakespeare, by cutting out this scene, makes us think he is the nasty piece of work, because Shakespeare purposefully leaves out the scene that could be used to make us feel sorry for him, in turn giving us the feeling that Shakespeare's intention is to portray Shylock as a villain not a victim. However because of this it could also sway the audience to think that Shylock is a victim because he is being made to look like a villain by Shakespeare. Shakespeare also chooses two Christians, who are friends of Antonio to portray the scene with Shylock. Therefore we are influenced to mock Shylock and laugh at his expense. " My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian!" Here Solanio is mocking Shylock and in turn making us think that Shylock is mourning the loss of money rather than his daughter, consequently making Shylock seem like the villain. However once again is this just down to Shakespeare? Is it his fault that we see Shylock as a villain and possibly this is Shakespeare reflecting on the time and shows that many people were anti-Semitic. We can eventually see Shylock's true feelings to Jessica deserting him. " She is dammed for it. My own flesh and blood to rebel." Here Shylock is taking about her daughter and how she has deserted him. ...read more.

Conclusion

However this stance backfires on Shylock as Portia makes the point that. " This bond doth gives thee here no jot of blood." Portia here is arguing that Shylock can't spill any blood when he takes the pound of flesh, as it also, isn't in the bond. She also adds by saying that if he does shed any blood then all his lands and goods will be confiscated under the laws of Venice. Then Portia goes onto say that Shylock can't even have three times the money, which he was promised in the first place and instead must take the forfeit. "Soft, no haste, he shall have nothing but the penalty." Overall I believe that this isn't Shakespeare trying to make us see Shylock as the victim of this court case but instead make us mock him and ridicule him for losing both his forfeit and his pound of flesh. And this probably is Shakespeare trying to convey a morale that a ruthless man will never prevail. This trial eventually gets worse for Shylock as he has to plead for his original money and has to plead with the Duke, " Give me my principal, and let me go." Shylock is on his last legs mercifully bleeding to just get his money and leave. So in this trial Shakespeare portrays the fall of Shylock, from a strong, ruthless and charismatic man to a man who is willing to grovel and who has nothing left in his life. Overall in "The Merchant of Venice" Shakespeare portrays various sides to Shylock's character. He portrays his ruthless and cruel side which overall makes us see him as a villain. He also shows us his sensitive side, a caring father who really does love his daughter, which ultimately makes us see him as a victim. However overall I believe that Shakespeare portrays Shylock predominately as a villain and he probably does this do convey the true feelings of people to ethnic minorities during the time. ...read more.

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