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Many theatrical producers are uncomfortable about staging "The Merchant of Venice", because of suggestions that it portrays Jews unfairly. How would you defend the play against charges of anti-Semitism?

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Introduction

Many theatrical producers are uncomfortable about staging "The Merchant of Venice", because of suggestions that it portrays Jews unfairly. How would you defend the play against charges of anti-Semitism? "The Merchant of Venice" has caused a great deal of controversy over whether or not it should be staged. People are worried about the play because they are afraid that it portrays Jews unfairly and can be seen as extremely offensive. Because of this, producers have to deal with the play in a sensitive way, especially since World War 2 when millions of Jews were treated in a devastating manner during the Holocaust. Over 6 million people died in gas chambers and other such methods of torture. This would be a very sensitive issue for all Jews and for all of us who have been shamed by such persecution being possible because it is most likely that all Jews today knew at least someone who had to go through those awful experiences. For this reason, any prejudice shown towards Jews in this play has to be dealt with extreme care. The reason there is so much prejudice shown towards Jews in this play, is because of the views of people who were living in England at the time Shakespeare wrote it. Jews were thought of as inferior, and if a Jew wanted to live in England they had to convert from being Jewish and become a Christian, because Christianity was thought of as the "correct" religion. ...read more.

Middle

This shows him refusing any amount of money; he just wants Antonio to die so that he can have his revenge. His determination to have the bond portrays Shylock as someone who has no mercy, and he almost seems to gloat over his moment of power, which seems sickening in that he is prepared to go to great lengths to get his bond. The fact that Shylock sits and sharpens his knife on his shoe and wants no surgeon present when he cuts the pound of flesh from Antonio is Shakespeare showing Shylock in a very negative way. At the end of the play when Shylock has all he owns taken from him because he has lost the bond, shows a great deal of anti-Semitism. The Christians triumph over the Jew and the audiences of Shakespeare's time were supposed to find this amusing. Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence to show anti-Semitism, is the fact that even though Shylock lost his daughter and money, he was also made to give up his religion and become a Christian, like all people were supposed to be at the time. "Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that: you take my house, when you do take the prop that doth sustain my house; you take my life when you do take the means whereby I live". ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare makes this happen to make his audience feel that this treatment towards Jews is totally unfair. At the end of this scene Shylock is asked to sign the bond, which will sign away everything he has, and we can sense that he is a broken man. All the other characters in the courtroom act triumphantly and are so relieved that they have saved Antonio from giving Shylock a pound of his flesh, that Shylock says, "I pray you, give me leave to go from hence. I am not well. Send the deed after me, and I will sign it. He shows here that he has been too hurt and cannot bear to stay in the court any longer, and this last quotation from him, makes the audience feel very sympathetic towards his lonely, isolated figure as he leaves the courtroom. Although Shakespeare's audience may have felt Shylock got his 'just deserts' it is hard for a modern audience not to sympathise with his plight here. Although, there is a lot of evidence to support the views of the play being anti-Semitic, and that Shakespeare goes along with the accepted views of Jews at the time, there is also evidence to suggest that the play is not completely anti-Semitic and it shows Shakespeare challenging the prejudiced views of Jews. He tries to show the unfairness of the way Jewish people are treated, just for having a different religion. ...read more.

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