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Is Shylock a villain or victim?

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Is Shylock a villain or victim? In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock does not have the biggest role in the play but he is the character that everyone remembers. Our attitudes to Shylock change throughout the play, and he is one of Shakespeare most complicated characters. During the play Shylock is seen as both a villain and a victim, but which is the true shylock? In the middle of Act 1 we are introduced to Shylock straight away. We have clues as to his personality and his motives within his first speech: "Three thousand ducats, well". His tone sounds interested, evil. In the play Shylock is a moneylender. Another example of Shylock showing his personality is when he comments in Antonio as a "good man". It does not mean that Antonio is a good person or good to be a friend but it means Antonio is worthy of credit for a loan. He used the word good because he wants them to borrow the money so Shylock may have a chance to take revenge. ...read more.


In the scene we also see Shylock as a victim for Antonio continues to mock and insult him: "The devil can cite scripture for his purpose", "The Hebrew will turn Christian, he grows kind". From this scene we can tell that Antonio is prejudiced and he is willing to gamble with his life for Bassanio ignoring the fact that he knows he has got a bigger chance to win. Shylock tells the audience aside that "I hate him for he is a Christian" this shows that he judges Antonio by his religion before having properly met him and because Antonio lends out money gratis. He also shows that's he is greedy and cold-blooded when he is speaking to Tubal in Act 3 Scene 1: "Two thousand ducats in that and other precious, precious jewels" and "I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ears". Shakespeare also shows that Shylock is a greedy person because he gives little clothes and food to Launcelot and he doesn't spend much money, even though he is very rich. ...read more.


It is natural human imperfection to avenge when you have been wronged. In Act 3 Scene 1, Shylock's speech is written to call up our sympathy to mind "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" In the trial scene, Shylock is portrayed as both villain and victim; he is mocked by the Christians, especially Gratiano. Even the Duke is against him when he is a fair judge. Portia is also acting as Balthazar; Shylock refuses to show mercy when asked by Portia and the Duke. "On what compulsion must I? Tell me that." But Portia is cunning; she makes Shylock draw his knife and humiliated him with the law. At the end Shylock has to convert to Christianity and lose half of his fortune. Shylock's punishment was too harsh with Antonio forcing him to convert to Christianity. Shylock did not have to die but it would probably be better for him if he did because he has nothing left in the world. ...read more.

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Here's what a star student thought of this essay

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Response to the question

The candidates introduction is actually quite good, it introduces the play and the character Shylock and is interesting to read. However I feel it would have been more appropriate to split this into two paragraphs. The candidate continues the introduction ...

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Response to the question

The candidates introduction is actually quite good, it introduces the play and the character Shylock and is interesting to read. However I feel it would have been more appropriate to split this into two paragraphs. The candidate continues the introduction by discussing scenes from the play and includes quotations, these are best left for the bulk of the essay. An introduction should outline the topics that you plan discuss, state any questions that you intend to answer and summarise any relevant points.

Level of analysis

In general the level of analysis the candidate provides is poor, though they do discuss different scenes in which Shylock is portrayed as either a villain or a victim, they mostly retell parts of the play. You need to mention how the character's are felling and what they might be thinking, even if its just a guess, your opinions matter. In addition the candidate has undergone some independent research as they mention the way in which Jewish people were perceived in the time this play was written. This makes the essay more enjoyable to read and shows the candidates interest in the play. However the information they give is a little brief it would have been interesting to read more about this. Unfortunately the candidate fails to provide a conclusion to this essay. A strong conclusion should answer the initial question, summarise your key points and ideas and include your personal opinions (in this case do you think Shylock is a villain or a victim, why do you think this?). This is important as it brings the essay to a close and gives you a chance to leave the reader with a good impression.

Quality of writing

The candidate fails to mention the use of language within the play, It is necessary to discuss various linguistic techniques, such as metaphors and smilies, in order to achieve a higher grade at this level. There are also a few issues with spelling and grammar throughout the essay, I’m sure the candidate could have picked up on these if they had taken the time to carefully proof read their work. However The candidates use of rhetorical questions is a good way to engage the reader, which makes the essay more enjoyable to read. Plus they have used a good range of vocabulary throughout the essay.

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Reviewed by PicturePerfect 17/04/2012

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