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Is Shylock portrayed as a Victim or a Villain?

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Introduction

Do you consider Shylock to be a victim or a villain? In the Merchant of Venice, there are many characters. However, Shylock plays the most important role, by being perceived as a money loving, heartless Jew. Despite his importance he does not appear as frequent as some other characters. Shylock, however, adds the flair, excitement and complexity which really makes a thoroughly interesting play. Shakespeare would have written the play at the time with the view that audiences would have laughed at this heartless, money loving Jew. However, modern audiences will show some sympathy towards this unfortunate Jew, which the characters all dislike greatly, you can argue, for no reason. Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who earns his loving by charging interest on money he lends out. He has few friends, but many enemies. This is clearly made evident by all the insults that are thrown at him. "faithless jew", "currish spirit" and "old carrion" are some of the many insults aimed at Shylock during the play. However it is not possible to find friendly and caring words about Shylock, that are not mockeries. This pretty much sums up the character on the whole. Shylock's entrance to the play immediately hints at his love of money. "3000 Ducats; well", being his first sentence in the play, doesn't immediately suggest his love of money. But after reading on, this is clearly evident that this first sentence is there for a discrete reason, as throughout the play his love of money is clear, with many quotes like "Fast bind, fast find, a proverb never stale in thrifty mind." ...read more.

Middle

He is also repeating the same thing here, "four score ducats", and it comes across like the ducats are his own love in life. Antonio failed to pay back the 3000 ducats to Shylock, and Shylock is out for revenge. Shylock takes Antonio to court and turns down large quantities of gold. He even said "If every ducat in six thousand ducats were in six parts, and every part were a ducat, I would not draw them. I would have my bond". This shows how determined that Shylock is, and for probably the first time in his life, has turned down money in exchange for something worth very little. Revenge is very important to Shylock here, he could have many reasons for doing this. It could be for the loss of Jessica, his daughter, or perhaps, all the severe treatment he has received from Antonio and other Christians in the past. Shylock is confident he will have his bond, and that nothing can stop him from cutting the pound of flesh from Antonio. The court proceedings begin, and Shylock clearly as got all his facts together. He is insanely confident that victory is his and gathers an example the Christians have previously set by saying "The villainy you teach me I will execute." He mocks the saying here by cleverly mocking this Christian saying to go in to what he wants to say. His confidence seems to escalate again when he says "Thou call'dst me dog ... ...read more.

Conclusion

After reading the play, and summing it all up, I think that Shylock on the whole was more of a villain, rather than a victim. He had been treated badly, but in the end he had chances but instead was too insistent on trivial matters. I feel that Shylock went that little bit too far all the time, removing all my sympathy that I may have built up for him. While, I think Shylock was intended to be a villain when it was written by Shakespeare, i do think that modern audiences will sympathise more than the audiences, all those hundreds of years ago. However, in my opinion, there is little doubt in the end that Shylock has been portrayed as a villain and he still is a villain. No kind words are mentioned about him in the play, and there are really no friendships which Shylock had. I think that this, is enough to say that Shylock is just not a nice person, and is a villain. The crucial downfall to Shylock however was in the courtroom. He was far too insistent on getting this bond, and he had plenty of chances too show him self merciful. He even turned down the offer of the repayment of the money three times over. When he was told he was not to spill a drop of blood, he changed his mind right away. Too late. Shylock always went too far with arguments or trivial matters. So that is why I think that Shylock definitely deserves to be known as a villain. Ben Harris 10 JKF Mr Altman ...read more.

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