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Shylock is a tragic figure, trapped by prejudice and driven to revenge by the treatment he receives" Discuss this statement with close reference to text and the language in the play

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Introduction

"Shylock is a tragic figure, trapped by prejudice and driven to revenge by the treatment he receives" Discuss this statement with close reference to text and the language in the play Shylock is one of the interesting and intriguing characters in The Merchant of Venice. Those who agree with the title statement believe that throughout the play he is looked down upon, betrayed, isolated, punished and humiliated by Christian society and even by his own daughter and that it is this which leads him to madness and evilness and that he was always a good person underneath. The other argument is that Shylock is a greedy character and that he always was. A character that does anything he can to cause unhappiness for others and benefit financially from his evilness. The audience may believe that his greed and evilness may have started out with petty crimes, but have resulted in Shakespeare exposing the true extent of his evilness at the end of the play. Those who defend Shylock's actions or label his actions as understandable or comprehensible, are adamant that his wickedness which he shows towards Antonio at the end of the play coupled together with his attitude and heartlessness, are a result of alienation from his fellow Venetians, although they cannot argue against the merciless actions of Shylock throughout the play. Their belief that Shylock started off as a nice man looking purely for business is shown in Shylock's first appearance in the play in Act 1 Scene 3 when Bassanio is talking about Antonio taking out a loan on his behalf. ...read more.

Middle

His character is one of greed and hatred, though there may be some reasoning behind it. There is a much notable wordplay between the two characters in their first scene together. Shylock talks of the hundreds of times Antonio has shunned him and looked down upon him. Antonio interrupts him, but then makes the mistake of saying "With better face, exact the penalty". This almost invites Shylock to choose the most gruesome forfeit that he can. From these writings the audience can assume Shylock is nothing more than a persecuted Jew, trying to make a living that is acceptable to his people. However we cannot draw conclusions from this scene alone, but must draw evidence from a number of scenes involving Shylock to ascertain a good, well rounded evaluation of Shylock. For instance: to obtain a good evaluation of Shylock's attitude towards other Jews we must observe his behaviour around his daughter, Jessica, but even this is influenced by family ties. The first time that we witness a conversation between Shylock and his daughter, Jessica, is in Act 2 Scene 5. Shylock is not portrayed as the model father, but we will have to make judgement on his character from his one scene with his daughter and of course the later scene after she has stolen his money. The first is not an ideal scene to draw upon, as Shylock may seem ill-attentive, but may simply be worried about his business matters. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is portrayed, by Shakespeare as a character who values money over life, and this is quite apparent throughout the play. Any man who thinks in this way does not make a very popular character in a play. I feel that the audience of the play would not sympathise with Shylock, although they will have to acknowledge that Shylock has suffered abuse and that Shakespeare might have been anti-Semitic and might have purposefully portrayed Shylock as a miser. Shylock is drawn as being a person of darkness, his suffering is overwhelming, this rage for revenge must for the satisfaction of the audience, be punished. Shylock is essentially a complex character. At the beginning Shylock is simply a miser, during the five scenes Shakespeare turns him into an intensely complex character. He is : comic, savage, crafty, deeply suffering. Things do not go well for Shylock, too much is weighted against him and the contempt for him reaches its climax in the trial. He is taken to pieces under an avalanche of penalties He is reduced as a person. Shylock may die with money but his reputation has been torn to shreds. Even though he has been abused by Venetians, I think that this is not the reasoning behind his evilness. The reason behind it is greed. In response to the final courtroom scene, if he had to be called a victim, he was a victim of his own greed. By Kashif Hussain 11H ...read more.

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