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

In your opinion, is Shylock a victim or a villain of the society he lives in?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

In your opinion, is Shylock a victim or a villain of the society he lives in? The 'Merchant of Venice' was written at a time when there was great prejudice towards the Jewish race. They were known for their intelligence, hard work and business acumen, which later led them to be mistreated and resented. They were made to wear distinctive clothing in order to be identified, and citizens of Venice could treat Jews in any way they wished. The Christian church also taught that Jews should be despised for their rejection of Jesus and that money lending was morally wrong. The Jewish people were also not allowed to work in the government, military or guilds. This meant that their lifestyles were restricted and uncomfortable. 'Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation.' This is generally how the Jewish race was stereotyped at the time, and throughout the 'Merchant of Venice,' they are continually conveyed as such. Shylock is a Jewish money lender who is hated for his greed and his religion. In the late 16th century, Christianity was the main religion in Europe and as a result a very powerful force. Therefore many people feared the Jews and did all they could to convert them to Christianity. Hence, for that reason Judaism was extremely important to Shylock and the rest of the Jewish nation. At the time of Shakespeare there was also a certain duty that a daughter owed her father, she had to honour his wishes and marry whomever he decided was suitable. ...read more.

Middle

'I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.' Shakespeare conveys Shylock's reaction, illustrating that he is capable of feelings beyond the emotions of loosing his money. The elopement of Jessica is a major turning point in the development of Shylock's character. When Salerio and Solanio, two of the less important nobles in the play, talk about this, they provide an example of how the Venetian society views Shylock. They refer to him as "The villain Jew" and their hatred of him means he can be seen as a victimized character. This therefore creates sympathy for Shylock because he is very religious and he clings to his faith and money for support. A Shakespearean audience would, most probably, have laughed at Shylock's misfortune, as the play is meant to portray him as a comic character. This means that although we feel compassion towards Shylock, the audience should also understand that it is not a tragic play. In act 3 Scene 1, Shakespeare illustrates Shylock's desire for equality and evokes sympathy from the audience by depicting him as a victim. 'Hath a Jew not eyes? Hath not a Jew hands......fed by the same food, hurt by the same weapons.' Shakespeare uses repetition to enforce the idea that both the Jew and the Christian are made up of the same organs and that in being prejudiced towards the Jewish nation, the Christians are mocking their own lifestyles as well. ...read more.

Conclusion

He could be seen as a bloodthirsty fiend who cares more for his money than his runaway daughter and is given several chances to beg for mercy. For example; In Act 1 Scene 3 Shylock decides that he will lend money to Antonio on the condition that if it is not re-paid within the three months then a pound of flesh will be taken from Antonio's body. 'A pound of man's flesh taken from a man.' This portrays Shylock a man who is intent on taking revenge on the Christians. It also illustrates his villainous character as he hopes that Antonio's merchant ships will not return. Later on in the play Shylock finds out that the vessels have sunk and he becomes filled with excitement at the prospect of carrying out the bond. 'Good news, good news. Ha ha! Heard in Genoa!' Shakespeare shows that although there is great prejudice towards the Jews, Shylock is cold hearted and in a sense acts in the same way as the Christians he despises. After Shylock finds out about the disappearance of his daughter along with his precious jewels and riches his priorities are soon brought to light. 'O my ducats! O my daughter!' Although this is only Solanio's account, and could be the contortion of the truth, Shylock later mentions his hatred for his daughter as he wishes she were dead. 'I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear; would she were hearsed at my foot and the ducats in her coffin.' Shakespeare illustrates that although they are related, Shylock has no intention of forgiving her and would rather she were dead with her crime placed upon her. ...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. Marked by a teacher

    From the study of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is shylock presented as a villain ...

    5 star(s)

    At this point the audience would not need any persuading to believe that he was a villain as it is an evil thing to want! "I am glad of it- I'll plague him, I'll torture him-I am glad of it" this is a very violent thing to say and we

  2. The Merchant of Venice - Shylock - Victim or Villain?

    At several points in the play, Shylock says something which makes us feel sympathetic towards him, but straight after this change in feelings he usually says something which makes all pity vanish, and he's presented as a villain once again.

  1. Shylock - Victim or Villain - What is your assessment of the presentation of ...

    Shylock also appears to have had premonitions about this event as he "did dream of money-bags to-night" which was thought to be an ill omen. Because of this 'warning' Shylock delivers strict instructions to shut all his windows and keep his "sober house".

  2. The merchant of venice, Modern audiences probably find it difficult to accept Shylock as ...

    Another example of Shylock being murderous is in the court scene, when he becomes obsessed with wanting Antonio dead - he even turns down Bassanio's

  1. How Does Shakespeare Influence Audience Opinion Of Shylock in 'The Merchant Of Venice'.

    The contrasts between Shylock and Antonio influence audience opinion greatly. The main reason for disliking Shylock is the fact that he is a Jew and most of the Elizabethan audience, as well as the majority of the characters in the play, are Christians.

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

    for the one person in the world he had a real connection with. This quote in particular shows Shylock, as being a villain, as the audience would find it hard to relate to a man who wishes his own daughter be dead, let alone sympathise with such a person, no matter what has brought this wish to his mind.

  1. Shylock - Victim of Villain?

    This once again highlights the discrimination of Jews in Venice, and also Shylock as a victim. The way Duke treats Antonio and Shylock is also very different. For example, at the start he calls Antonio in politely; conversely he orders Shylock around crudely, calling him 'the Jew' instead of his

  2. Shylock - Victim or Villain?

    that Antonio will not be let off lightly, and Shylock will be vicious with him. Here, he uses sarcasm to help state his point, as this gives a distinctive impression of Shylock being very vicious. Repetitive use of "I will have my bond."

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