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Is Shylock A Villain Or A Victim?

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Is Shylock A Villain Or A Victim? The Merchant of Venice was written by William Shakespeare, towards the end of the 1500's. When it was written it was supposed to be a comedy but now it is often considered as one of his problem plays. It is set in the Italian trading city of Venice. The main story line is that Bassanio, good friend of Antonio and a Christian, needs some money to be able to woo a woman that he wishes to marry. However he had a very poor credit rating in Venice so he had to ask Antonio the merchant of Venice and a Christian, for help. Antonio goes to Shylock, a money lender and a Jew, to organise this. However Shylock decides that instead of wanting interest on the money, if Antonio cannot pay it back in time then Shylock would be able to take a pound of flesh from wherever he wanted on Antonio's body. There were many reasons for this such as Shylock wanted his revenge against Antonio for ruining some of his business deals, he wanted to fight back against the Christians for the way they treat the Jews and he was generally a very eccentric man. Antonio agreed to this thinking as he did that there was no way that he wouldn't be able to pay back Shylock, Bassanio didn't like this because he knew it would be his fault if Antonio couldn't pay him back. ...read more.


There are many reasons that Shylock could be thought of as a villain, firstly the main reason is that he does want to kill Antonio, "let the forfeit be nominated for an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me," "If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him," this is showing that Shylock is actually quite a sadistic man, he could have just charged an extortionate amount of interest, but instead he makes a deal that wont really benefit him apart from him being able to kill Antonio. He is always saying that he will get revenge on the Christians, "Revenge! If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why revenge." This shows that he will go to any lengths to get revenge on the Christians, and seeing as Antonio is a Christian, it is the perfect opportunity. He is also cunning and devious in the way he does business, "Yet his means are in supposition, he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies. I understand, moreover, upon the Rialto, he hath a third in Mexico, a fourth for England, and other ventures he hath squandered abroad......Three thousand ducats - I think I may take his bond." ...read more.


His own daughter runs away with a Christian, Shylock's biggest enemies. "I say my daughter is my flesh and my blood." He is very upset when his daughter runs off with a Christian, firstly because she ran off with a Christian, and lots of his money and also because Jessica was the only family that Shylock had after his wife had died, meaning that he is left completely alone in the world without any relatives. Shylock gets his business ruined by the outcome of the trial. "For half thy wealth, it is Antonio's, the other half comes to the general state." This shows that Shylock has come off a lot worse from the trial than anyone else, and all he was doing was sticking to the agreement he and Antonio had made. Another outcome of the trial is that he must convert to Christianity, "Two things provided more: that for this favour he presently become a Christian." He is forced to change his religion, something completely unheard of nowadays, and all because of a deal he made with Antonio, which Antonio agreed to completely. There are reasons to suggest that Shylock is a villain and that he is a victim, but there is no clear outcome from the facts. I think that if Shakespeare had created him as just a villain or just a victim he wouldn't have got the desired effect from the audiences, that they didn't know whether to like him or hate him. By Steve Jones ...read more.

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