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Shylock and Anti-Semitism

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Introduction

In Elizabethan England, many people were anti-semeitic, these people were driven by hatred. In the middle ages, Jews were accused of exploiting Christians, spreading the plague and murdering babies. They were banned from England in 1290, and were not officially allowed back into the country until several decades after the Merchant o Venice had been written. Centuries later Jews were targeted again by an economically depressed Germany and Adolf Hitler aiming to exterminate the Jewish race forever. Fortunately Hitler failed, but he did slaughter millions of innocent Jews. People of Jewish religion have been despised for centuries mainly by Christians as it was against their religion to to lend and extort money. Shylock was automatically hated as he was a sterotypical jew in appearance and profession. Shylock was a victim of Christian hatred channelled through abuse and violence. He was regularly called such names as "a cur" or a "cut throat dog", this hatred turned physical when he was spat upon and pushed out of the way. He may exploit people in his profession, but even after the money has been payed back, Antonio admits he still would not be civil with Shylock, because he is still a money lending Jew. Jews are portrayed as a similar character to Satan, Antonio even calls Shylock a devil to his face. ...read more.

Middle

They bleed, they feel pain and exactly as anyone, Christians, Muslims or anyone. All he asks is to be treated with the same dignity and respect. When Shylock says this, he as a character is put to the front of the stage, at the forefront trying to prove his point. Shylock seems to get angry and frustrated during the speech, trying to get his point across to the audience and to the two characters he is talking to. The Christians pick on Shylock at his weakest, when they tell him that his daughter is so different to him, almost like "jet and ivory". The Christians may be cruel to him, but as he says himself, he can be even more evil, "The villany you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction." We see the other side of Shylock at the start, when he dreams of money, and seems to be obsessed in everyway possible, His first words in the play are " Three thousand ducats-well ". The mear fact of the agreement of the 'bond' gives the idea he was evil minded. It also shows he must hate the Christians and is a oppatunist. ...read more.

Conclusion

The audience can feel sympathy for shylock for the way he has been treated by the people of Venice. Also the portrayal of Shylock may offend some people as the image he omits is of a stereotypical , 'Fagin' type character character , which is not politically correct, but may have been a popular feeling when this play was written. The people of Venice do treat Shylock as a social outcast, because of his religious beliefs, In today's, this would be an infringement of his human rights, In a certain way he was treated completely unfairly, but Shylock did take the revenge issue too far. The idea of taking a mans live flesh was evil by any standards ; he wanted to seek revenge on the Christians for several reasons. He even chose revenge over money, the thing he cherished so much. He is eventually punished for his crime, and given a rather harsh punishment. He loses his religion which he so strictly practised. After assessing Shylocks behaviour, I feel he was treated badly by Venitian society, but he took his revenge too far. "Shylock is far from being a blackhearted monster...while there is much cruelty and evil in him, there is equally a good dose of suffering humanity". In my own person opinion Shylock is a victim of Venetian society. I think society made him evil, but he was driven by his ideas of revenge. ...read more.

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