• 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 also refuses to listen to the Duke's pleas of humanity, but the Duke's views are from a Christian point of view so Shylock may not agree with them. We can also see the extremity of Shylock's hatred towards Antonio when Bassanio asks a reasonable question "[Bassanio]Do all men kill the things they do not love?"

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

    The other love theme that links in with the theme of bonds and promises is when Jessica elopes with Lorenzo. This shows that Jessica has chosen to break the relationship she had with Shylock for the relationship that she has for Lorenzo.

  1. 'How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a ...

    Shylock shows Christians even though they treat him dismissively, the truth of the matter is that they are really all quite similar. It is obvious that we are all unique, yet Shylock concentrates on what makes us the same, such as our eyes, hands and organs and doesn't mention what divides us.

  2. Free essay

    Belmont is a place of youth, happiness and concord, Venice a place of age, ...

    Following this, Portia begins to plot and set up the ring trick which is another Venetian theme creeping back in to Belmont. "I give them with this ring, Which when you part from, lose or give away, Let it presage the ruin of your love, And be my vantage to exclaim on you."

  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 ...

    The problem is that the fiend he refers to is a devil, so he must decide which devil he will side with, Shylock or the 'fiend'. He refers to Shylock as 'a kind of devil' and 'the very devil incarnation'.

  1. Merchant of Venice - A General Overview

    show the attitudes of Venice towards Jews and he also shows us that women were not recognised in court through Nerissa and Portia dressing up as men to save Antonio. This scene also shows a change in attitude over time because in Shakespeare's time a Jew having to change to

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

    Try as they may, they can never cut themselves loose from the standards of absolute morality dictated by the Torah. Stuck in this "Catch-22" situation, people turn with their mounting frustrations against the Jews, who they perceive as personifying humanity's collective conscience.

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