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Is Shylock Villain or Victim?

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Is Shylock Villain or Victim? I am going to write an essay about whether shylock depicts a villain or victim. We are first introduced to Shylock in Act 1 Scene 3. In this scene, Bassanio asks Shylock if he can borrow money from him in Antonio's name as Shylock is a usurer. We then learn about Shylock's hatred for Christians: "I hate him for he is a Christian." We also know that he despises Antonio personally and not only discriminating him as a Christian: "How like a fawning publican he looks." As it stands so far, Shylock is discriminative person and can be extremely abusive for whatever reason. These are typical attributes of a villain but we are yet to know why Shylock feels this way. Shylock then mentions that he will never forgive Christians. He also has a grudge against Antonio: "I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him." For Shylock to say these two, all this hatred and anger must have formed from the treatment he may have received from a group of people or a certain particular such as Antonio. It is now debatable whether Shylock is a victim because although he emphasises how intent he is on getting revenge, the word revenge itself indicates that he must have been mistreated poorly himself and consequently, as humans it is natural for it to be in our nature to retaliate. ...read more.


Antonio is also very resentful about the way his race has been tormented by the Christians. Shylock speaks in a way that he sees himself as a representative of his nation, the Jews. "He hates our sacred nation." Shylock feels this is a perfect opportunity to relive his hatred for Antonio as well as Christian's and goes for Antonio's life. This is an act of villainy. Shylock then says he will avenge the treatment of his 'clan' and feed his revenge using the villainy Antonio and his nation supposedly taught him: "It will feed my revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute." By saying this, Shylock will copy the example of Christians showing he is no better than they are even though he complains about their behaviour towards him. This shows that Shylock could also be a victim as much as he sounds a villain because it is as if all this villainy has come from the way Christians have been treating him in the same villain-like manner. Another point I have picked up on is that he mistreats other people, even those close to him, even as close as his own daughter, Jessica. In Act 2 Scene 5, Shylock is ordering her about in a harsh way as if she is a slave: "Hear you me, Jessica. ...read more.


This really emphasises Shylock as being victimized and makes the majority of the audience feel a sense of sympathy as well as sorry towards Shylock. These are other emotions Shakespeare cleverly draws from the audience which makes Shylock seem even more of a stereotypical character which I'm sure Shakespeare would have intended. Shylock is also a victim of society. At the time, almost all of the laws were in favor of Christians. Jews had very few rights and depended only on the mercy of the society they lived in. This is the main reason why Shylock lost the trial in Act 4. Shylock's life was then put in the hands of the Duke. His punishment was a religious conversion from Jewish to Christianity. Shylock now has no daughter, no money, and no wife and has now lost his religion. He now has nothing to live for, all because he was treated in a villainous manner by Christians and seeked vengeance. However, this would have almost been inevitable as he is living in a Christian society and consequently, he is being victimized by the laws as well as the people around him. Having said all this, I'd say Shylock is a victim more than he is a villain despite the thin borderline although I think this was what Shakespeare intended, for the distinction between villain and victim to become indistinct which is what he does very well throughout the play. 30/04/2007 DAVID POLLON ...read more.

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