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Merchant Of Venice

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Introduction

The Merchant of Venice Before the middle ages, the Jews left Israel in the Diaspora (a scattering) and spread all over the world, living in the cities in separate communities going forth and carrying out their lifestyle as normal. But not everyone was happy with this. Jews became enormously hated, were seen as aliens in their new communities and had no kind of social status. English people/audiences knew Jews only from legend. In the popular medieval mystery plays, which lasted until Shakespeare's youth, Jews featured as a cursed race. It was rumoured that they killed children and drank their blood. It was in 1201 when Jews were expelled from England. Jews slowly began to return to England in Shakespeare's time. A way in which people were seen to be anti-Semitic was the time when Fredericko Lopez (Queen Elizabeth's personal doctor) a Jew, was tried and executed for treason, which was very much questioned to be an anti-Semitic plot. Jews were considered by Christians to be 'Christ Killers'. Myths about their rituals and ceremonies were widely talked about and believed, such as in the legend of Little St. Hugh of Lincoln (Chaucer's prioress's tale), where Jews murder a Christian child. ...read more.

Middle

So is surprised by what he sees as the money lenders generosity and signs willingly. With reference to the film, we visually see what a pound of flesh looks like as shylock purchases a pound of lamb. Seeing a pound of flesh looks a very large amount but Antonio still uptakes the agreement. The words 'kind' and 'kindness' are repeated several times at the end of this scene. They have a surface meaning - 'generous' and 'generosity' - which Antonio accepts, and an ironic double meaning. If Shylock 'grows kind' in this second sense, he will become even more like himself, true to his nature. And we have already, in his soliloquy, seen what this is. With regards to the elopement of Jessica, we see another side to Shylock, a deeper, more human side. It was unusual on the Elizabethan stage to have Jews portrayed other than one - dimensional characters (often dressed as devils). But with Shylock we see a father experiencing a confusion of emotions as Tubal imparts various pieces of information in an incoherent manner. He is told of the loss of his daughter, mourning the fact she has eloped with a Christian man, (which in Judaism is said to dilute her blood as Judaism can only be descended from a mother making any children that she has Christian) ...read more.

Conclusion

Bellario (Portia) then puts forward that Shylock can take his pound of flesh but in no way can spill a drop of Antonio's blood. Shylock then realizes he cannot take is pound of flesh and tries to take the money Bassanio is still offering. But it is then when Bellario begins to be inflexible stating that Shylock will have to pay the penalty of an 'alien' trying to murder a Venetian. And this is where we see the key difference between a Christian and a Jew. Antonio shows his generosity. The half of his estate that Shylock is supposed to forfeit to him, he will allow him to keep it under two conditions. The first being he leaves his wealth to his daughter and her husband Lorenzo and that he becomes a Christian. To an Elizabethan audience this would not be such a bad thing as in the bible it says that a Christian should endeavor in converting 'non believers'. This I believe is the worst thing that could ever be asked of Shylock as his religion is all he has left. In conclusion, therefore, I believe Shylock to be the party more sinned against than sinning. Centuries of intolerance shown to his people, married to the personal insults he has undergone have combined to make him a steely adversary but ultimately, a victim. ...read more.

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