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poem of poems

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare's presentation of Shylock affect our response to this character? In the 1590s Jews in Venice were treated differently from Christians; they had to live in ghettos, wear red hats and were generally regarded as inferior. The Elizabethans views of the Jews were the same as the views of Christians in Venice. So the audience of 'The Merchant of Venice' would be very antagonistic against Shylock. A few years before the play was put on show Roderigo Lopez, Queen Elizabeth's physician and a Jew, was executed after being accused by the Earl of Essex of trying to poison the queen. Because of this people watching the play would feel angry with the Jews. The Jews in Venice were disliked because they charged interest when lending money, as Shylock does in the play. In the play Shakespeare shows the relationship between Shylock and Jessica in II iii. Jessica says 'our house is hell', which would suggest Shylock is a bad father. Jessica then says she feels guilty 'to be ashamed to be my father's child!' this could be because Shylock is Jewish. Then Jessica says 'I shall end this strife' which indicates she hates the life of a Jew, in the ghetto, with Shylock as a father. The director can show either of these situations: to direct the audience to either be sympathetic to Shylock, or sympathetic to Jessica, and her life trapped as a Jew. ...read more.

Middle

Then Shylock has a long speech where he talks about what he should be allowed to do, if Christians do it. For example he says 'Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions?' He says this to show they are the same, Christians and Jews. He then goes on to say, if we are the same then 'if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?' This makes Shylock regards himself as a victim, as because he is a Jew, he has no rights. He tries to show the Christians that Jews are exactly the same, apart from their religion, and because of this they should be treated fairly and justly, with the same freedom and rights. He says 'the villainy you teach me I will execute.' He is going to follow what the Christians do, as an example, because surely that is only fair. After this, Shylock becomes more concerned about his money that Jessica stole, than Jessica herself. He says 'and other precious, precious jewels!', which shows he finds his jewels more precious than his daughter. He goes on to say 'I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear: would she were hearsed at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin.' This shows that he is sadder about the loss of his money, than the loss of his daughter. ...read more.

Conclusion

This makes him seem a villain, as he has no sympathy for Antonio. This also shows that he would prefer in order: Antonio dead, then the money, and then he would want his daughter back. This makes him seem an evil, selfish man. The duke asks Shylock to have mercy. Shylock proves to the judge that he is allowed to have his bond; it is fair, and an agreement. Later on in the scene before Shylock takes the flesh, Portia, having left it until the last minute for Shylock to change his mind, stops Shylock cutting the flesh. She says 'This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood'. From this point on, Shylock is down hearted, and could be classed as now the victim, (depending on how the director wants to put the play) because he has to become a Christian and has to give half his money away. At the end, he is presented as the victim, having lost his daughter, his money, even his religion. He leaves the court after saying 'I am not well'. Shylock uses repetition a lot in the play, for example, 'An oath, an oath. I have an oath in heaven!' This shows Shylocks implacable insistence. Shakespeare's presentation of Shylock affects our response to Shylock by making him seem a villain or a victim, depending on the director. ?? ?? ?? ?? Jesse Heasman ...read more.

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