• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9

Is the Merchant of venice a racist play?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

IS "THE MERCHANT OF VENICE" A RACIST PLAY? It could be argued that "The Merchant of Venice" is a racist play. This is because Shylock, a Jewish money lender, is often presented as a stereotypical Jew. Nevertheless, Shylock has a human side. Shakespeare's Jew is a much more 'sympathetic' character than the Jew Barabas from Christopher Marlowe's play "The Jew of Malta" In this play Barabas boasts openly about his evil actions:- "I walk abroad o'nights And kill sick people groaning under the walls; Sometimes I go about and poison wells" We can also pick up on small forms of racism towards Shylock that would not have been noticed or have had any attention paid to them at the time the play was written. We are aware of racism towards, among others, Jews because of our recent history, i.e. the extreme racism of the Nazi's "final solution" towards the Jewish race. Shakespeare wanted the characters in his plays to seem obvious and recognisable to his audience from the start. So, from his point of view the money lender had to be Jewish and the borrowers had to be Christian. We must not forget that Christians were forbidden from usury (lending money on interest) ...read more.

Middle

ACT TWO SCENE SIX Here Jessica elopes with Antonio's friend Lorenzo, who is a Christian. This scene may be showing the contrast between the disobedient Jewish daughter and the loyal obedient Christian daughter Portia who obeys her father even after his death. It could be argued that this scene is racist for this reason or it could be simply showing that both Jewish and Christian families are the same because all families have problems regardless of their religion. ACT TWO SCENE SEVEN We meet the Prince of Morocco again in this scene when he is about to make his choice between three caskets one of which, if he chooses the correct one, will enable him to marry Portia. From this scene we learn that the Prince is a very shallow person and does not have a strong religious belief. He says "Some god direct my judgement!" He mocks the inscription on the lead casket and says "A golden mind stops not to show of dross; I'll then nor give nor hazard aught for lead" The Prince is unable to see inner beauty unlike Portia which is why he chooses the gold casket. This is showing us that the Prince and Portia are not compatible .This scene cannot be called racist since we see the Prince of Arragon, another of Portia's suitors, who is white, behaving in the same way as the Prince of Morocco later on in the play. ...read more.

Conclusion

It could be considered that this scene is racist as Shylock's punishment is very severe. He loses his money to his daughter and is forced to become a Christian. Shylocks punishment could be considered extreme however most plays of the same time as the Merchant of Venice was written, and modern plays, have the villain either dying or being harshly punished .This is what an audience expects and even demands. CONCLUSION On balance I would have to argue that "The Merchant of Venice" is not a racist play. Shylock is not a very sympathetic character and could be said to deserve the way he is treated. Jessica, even though she is Jewish, is a good person and so is treated sympathetically. Overall it could be said that Shylock and Antonio are only stereotypes of Jews and Christians for that time. These tie in with the main theme of the play which is inner beauty. If both Jews and Christians were able to put their prejudices aside then they would be able to see the inner beauty in each other. It could be said that looking at the Merchant of Venice and calling it "racist" is an anachronism since racism is a modern word, even though racism can be recognized throughout history. Gawain Williams Gawain Williams ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE IS A RACIST PLAY. DISCUSS.

    Since they would always be chasing up debt, they were disliked. This feeling of resentment lasted long after they had been expelled, as well as for the original reason for the hatred; the Jews were the reason for Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

  2. exploring the various forms of love displayed in Shakespeares Merchant of Venice

    This is because she was quick to pick out the faults of her other suitors, but she finds no faults in Bassanio. The relation ship between Portia and Bassanio becomes one of mutual respect, and affectionate love. Their relation ship also becomes physical, demonstrated when Portia says; 'Sweet doctor, you shall be my bed fellow.'

  1. The Merchant of Venice: Who shows more prejudice, the Christians or the Jews?

    They would know that the recent mishaps were not Antonio's fault however, and so would partly on Antonio's side as well. An Elizabethen audience would be very much like the Christians in the play because they would all be Christians.

  2. Merchant of Venice- Scene by Scene summary & analysis

    The Prince looks over all the inscriptions a second time, and decides that lead is too threatening and not worth risking anything for. He also spurns the silver, which he feels is too base a metal to hold such a beautiful woman as Portia.

  1. English - Merchant of Vencice

    In act 1 scene 3 we are made aware of the fact that Antonio spat on Shylock previously. The audience would interpret this differently according to the time at which the play was shown. In the 16th century it was seen as a good thing for Christians to show their deep hatred for Jews.

  2. The Merchant of Venice is a racist play Discuss

    Shylock's cruel nature is partially shown by his sick deal with Antonio. When we first meet Shylock, Bassanio and Antonio are asking him for the loan of three thousand ducats. Here Shylock is clearly plotting his revenge on Antonio so he comes across as a sly and fairly evil man,

  1. Examine how Shylock is presented in The Merchant of Venice.

    Jessica says that home is "hell" and that she is "ashamed to be my father's child", while in Act II scene ii, Lancelot Gobbo, his servant, describes Shylock as mean and "the very devil incarnate." If these two people who know him well see him as wicked, then the audience is being invited to share their views.

  2. Women Struggling To Escape As A Theme In Cousin Kate , A Willing Mistress ...

    So we can see that Jessica is cross dresses to escape her situation, because by acting as a man, no one would question her, however, she would have been questioned if she did not disguise herself because women were not meant to leave their homes late at night in the elizabethan era.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work