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

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Introduction

In your opinion, is Shylock a villain or just a victim in the society he lives in? Shakespeare's play, 'The merchant of Venice', is set in 16th century Venice, which was the time of Shakespeare. The play starts off with a deal made between Christian, Antonio, and a Jewish moneylender, Shylock. A pound of flesh was to be owed if Antonio didn't repay the money back in time. There was a massive separation between Jews and Christians, where Christians held dominance over the Jews. Antonio gives this money to his best friend, Bassanio, so that he could appear rich and to create hope of winning a lady called Portia. He eventually wins Portia through a trial of three caskets, through a will left from Portia's father. Meanwhile a Christian friend of Antonio and Bassanio, called Lorenzo, runs away with Shylocks daughter, Jessica. Shylock's loss affects him deeply, with the need for revenge. Shylock then requires his pound of flesh from Antonio, whom had not repaid him. ...read more.

Middle

This is because the play was written in their period of time; the culture didn't come as a shock, therefore seeing racial prejudice as normal. In their era, Jews were put below Christians, they were even seen as a different species compared to Christians. The audience would have seen Shylock as scum and a disgrace, taking more notice of his selfishness and greed, "I am right loath to go; there is some ill a brewing towards my rest, for I did dream of money bags tonight. Shylock was very determined to have justice for how the Christians had previously treated him, which the audience would have disliked, as Christians were above everyone else. Shakespeare showed how Shylock and his daughter, Jessica, had a rocky relationship. Shylock was shown not to treat Jessica very well, "Alack, what heinous sin is it in me to be asham'd to be my father's child!" An audience in Shakespeare's time, would have found this a disgrace, and would hold sympathy for Jessica. ...read more.

Conclusion

"Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause, but since I am a dog, beware my fangs. The duke shall grant me justice." This quote shows Shylock's determination t not give up. However, it is hard to notice some of Shylock's cruel acts towards the Christians he comes cross, but we see that Shylock has only become a villain through being a victim, "The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction." In my own opinion, I would portray Shylock as a victim more than a villain. This is based on the way Shylock was treated, and how he wasn't accepted because he was a Jew. I see that the only way he was villainous was because Christians treated him unfairly. I therefore see expectable excuses for the way Shylock acted, but I see no excuse for Christians to push Jews out of their society, and treat them like scum. If Christians didn't separate the Jews from themselves in the first place, then there wouldn't be so much anger and disagreement. ...read more.

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