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Is it true that Shylock is 'a man more sinned against than sinning'? In your answer you should consider the different perspectives of Elizabethan and contemporary audiences.

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Introduction

Is it true that Shylock is 'a man more sinned against than sinning'? In your answer you should consider the different perspectives of Elizabethan and contemporary audiences. Shakespeare's romantic comedy 'The Merchant of Venice' features 'Shylock', although he is referred to by most of the other characters as 'the Jew'. Despite all the wrong doings committed against him, it is suggested to us by Shakespeare that he is more of a villain than a victim; this is because Shakespeare uses him as a Daniel to test the personalities of the other characters and the audience. However we must consider the misconception of Jews and the anti-Semitism shown towards them in the Elizabethan era, which may be responsible for the treatment of Shylock. When we first meet Shylock in the play it is no coincidence that his first words are 'three thousand ducats'. Shakespeare is subtly trying to suggest early on in the play the importance of money to Shylock. With our perception of Shylock of being attracted to money it automatically makes the audience think he is greedy and selfish. Shakespeare is trying to hint to us that perhaps Shylock isn't the kind of character you would like to be associated with. This is re-enforced by the fact that he says he hates Antonio. 'I hate him for he is a Christian; but more, for that in low simplicity he lends out money gratis'. ...read more.

Middle

'Farewell, and if my fortune not be cross'd, I have a father, you a daughter, lost'. It seems that she had planned her runaway before hand so this sort of treatment was probably normal for Shylock. In contrast to the Elizabethan way of thinking, the modern reader might think that running away isn't such a bad thing to do seeing as she is capable of looking after herself. Even though we know the way in which Shylock treats his daughter, we have to sympathise with him because Jessica is his only child and however harsh a father he might be it obviously hurt him a great deal to lose her by the way he acts in the next scene. 'my own flesh and blood to rebel'. The repetition of this phrase implies that Shylock is very upset by the loss of his daughter, we recognise this because the strong language he is using, for example 'to rebel' is repeated along with 'flesh and blood'. The repletion of these words suggests Shylock has become fixated on his daughter being his own flesh and blood. This suggests that because he has been tormented so much he has to hold on to the fact that his daughter is his flesh and blood as if it were slipping away. We are made to sympathise further with Shylock because as well as having to deal with the loss of his daughter he has to come to terms with the fact that she took money from him and also his dead wife's ring. ...read more.

Conclusion

'He seeks my life, his reasoning well I know' (Act 3 Scene 3). The terms he has to deal with are very severe, he has to be content with losing all his possessions and horrifically he is forced to convert to the Christian faith. It is because of these conditions that it doesn't come as a shock that his last lines are 'I pray you give me leave to go from hence; I am not well'. These touching words are the last of a man torn by anger, hate and sorrow. This is where Shakespeare's genius shows because it leaves us with the difficult task of deciding whether Shylock has got what he deserved or has been subject to an incredible injustice. To say that Shylock is a man more sinned against than sinning is a reasonable thing. As we have heard, Shylock has had so many wrong doings against him and was constantly being bombarded with acts of cruelty, that it has ultimately resulted in him losing everything he has ever cared about including his sense of self and his health. Shylock is meant to be ridiculed by the audience and even though the play is supposed to be a romantic comedy there is a hidden depth to the play. We must recognise the difference between Shylocks apparel and his personality and if we look deeply we can see that Shakespeare's Shylock is not the villainous character he is made to be. English Coursework 07/05/2007 Andy Boateng 1 ...read more.

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