• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Merchant of Venice essay

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Is "The Merchant of Venice" a prejudiced play or a play about prejudice? Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is a play that involves prejudiced views and ideas throughout. Although it does involve prejudice towards various people and groups, the bulk of the prejudiced language is aimed towards the Jewish religion and in particular the Jewish money-lender, Shylock. I am hoping to look at the use of discriminatory language and the way that certain characters (particularly Jews) are portrayed to an audience. I also need to try and understand the feelings and actions of the characters which will help me to make a conclusion on what Shakespeare's views were and the opinion he wants to give the audience. Shakespeare wrote the play at the height of his popularity and he knew that this play would be viewed by a lot of people. Was he trying to entertain his audiences with 'humorous' depictions and suffering of Jews or was he trying to open the eyes of his audience to the harsh cruelty expressed in white, Christian society? Shakespeare also features prejudice based on skin colour and social classes. Clearly the target of most of the prejudice is Shylock, who is hated by most of the play's Christian characters for two reasons: firstly is that he is a proud Jew and secondly because he is a cruel, greedy man with an obsession for money. To a modern day audience these may seem like two very distinct reasons, with the latter almost being justifiable; but in Shakespeare's time the characteristics of Shylock would have been seen as 'normal' for a Jewish person to possess. ...read more.

Middle

It appears that Portia holds no racial prejudice against the prince, but when the Prince fails the casket challenge and has left, Portia tells Nerissa "Let all of his complexion choose me so" a direct insight into her true feelings towards the Prince. She is clearly stating that she does not want any suitor who is not white to become her husband; I think that this brief statement has been included by Shakespeare because it reflects the views of nearly all of Shakespeare's audience. Had Portia, a wealthy white heiress been willing to marry a foreign, black prince it may have perhaps seemed unrealistic and bemusing to Shakespeare's audiences. I again think this does not show Shakespeare's views but he has included this so that his audience can relate to his play and its characters. When trying to determine whether the play is prejudiced or simply about prejudice there are two key parts of the play to look at in depth. They are Shylock's speech about the treatment of Jews and also the court scene. Firstly Shylock's speech in which he questions the way that he has been treated; this speech I believe supports the idea of the play being about prejudice and not being prejudiced. Shylock raises many questions such as "Hath not a Jew eyes...healed by the same means...as a Christian is?"; this shows that Shakespeare is against the behaviour of the Christian characters and is trying to open the eyes of the audience by making them feel sympathy towards Shylock. ...read more.

Conclusion

but more importantly because Shylock was following Christian example- this results in him losing all that matters to him whilst all of the Christian characters enjoy a perfect life. In conclusion, I believe that this is a play about prejudice not a prejudiced play. Shylock is a grotesque, sinister character but I don't think that this is because he is Jewish; had Shakespeare been prejudiced towards Jews he wouldn't have made Shylock stand alone throughout the play, Shylock is left by his daughter and when he is in court he does not have other sinister Jews supporting him as they can see that he is too extreme in his views. A better idea of what Shakespeare sees as a 'typical Jew' may be Tubal, who practises usury and receives harsh judgment from the Christians but does share the vicious mind of Shylock. It is also important to see the transition of Shylock from being similar to Tubal and quite 'normal' to being a dark and evil character' a transition that is caused entirely by the Christians who take his money , his daughter and his religion away from him. Shakespeare is showing how unjust prejudice can ruin the life of an innocent individual and turn him into a monster like Shylock became. The play is about Christian hypocrisy and the suffering of Jews, I expect however that many of Shakespeare's audience did not see it like this and believed it to be a fun tale that mocks Jews. Shakespeare did not classify it as a tragedy but I cannot see it as being anything else. ...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. How Does Shakespeare Influence Audience Opinion Of Shylock in 'The Merchant Of Venice'.

    Shylock response has extreme implications "[Shylock]Hates any man the thing he would not kill?" Shylock is saying that Antonio symbolises everything he hates, and that is why he is so insistent on the bond being carried out. The characters in this scene are all human, but they also stand for concepts.

  2. How important are bonds and promises in ‘The Merchant of Venice’?

    swear I never more will break an oath with thee The effect of this is that it shows the audience and themselves that the bond between them is reinforced and of great importance. It is a key role not only to the theme of bonds and promises but also to the theme of love.

  1. Critical Essay - Merchant of Venice

    For example in Act 1 Scene 3, Shylock says, "I hate him for he is a Christian." This comment shows Shylock's prejudice towards Christians for, as far as we know at this point, with no apparent reason. However as the scene progresses we can start to see the reason for

  2. Is Shylock treated fairly?

    when you have cared and looked after them for their whole life? But wait, this isn't the case with Shylock's daughter, from what she has said, she hasn't been cared for and looked after. She is unhappy at home, therefore why should she stay when there is no lovingness.

  1. Discuss in which Stereotype and prejudice is presented in the play The Merchant of ...

    4. Detriment or injury caused to a person by the preconceived, unfavourable conviction of another or others. In the play 'The Merchant of Venice' the theme of prejudice and Stereotype is shown in many different aspects. It can be seen when Men from all over the world came to woo the

  2. In detail explain how Shakespeare creates and draws out the character of Shylock as ...

    This shows that Bassanio does not trust Shylock, and also his resentment of Jews. In Act 2 Scene 2 we have further examples of Elizabethan people's prejudice against Jews in Launcelot's soliloquy. Launcelot is a servant of Shylock's who brings comedy to the performance, he is a clown who is

  1. It is suggested that Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant of Venice' sometime between 1596 and ...

    Sigmund Freud recognised this tendency, and explained: "Jews are hated not so much because they killed Jesus, but because they produced him." On a certain conscious level, people recognise the Jews' message as truth. Those unwilling to embrace the truth have found that the only way to rid themselves of

  2. Merchant of Venice Essay

    Shylocks problem with Antonio is that Antonio doesn't let people see Shylock in a positive light; instead Antonio makes us see Shylock as a miserly, cruel and in a tedious form. Christians treat Shylock as if he isn't human and that he shouldn't deserve to live.

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