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

Shylock is an ambivalent portrait: Discuss with some reference to the cultural background, how an audience might respond to him throughout the play.'The Merchant of Venice'.

Extracts from this document...


Shylock is an ambivalent portrait: Discuss with some reference to the cultural background, how an audience might respond to him throughout the play. Throughout 'The Merchant of Venice', Shylock is a character with a strong impact on the audience. The response of the audience changes throughout the play, varying from pity to dislike. His Jewish background and persecution provide a case for the audience liking the character and giving him pity, whereas his obsessions with money and his desire to kill Antonio gives the audience a bad impression. The influence he has on the audience has varied over the years, from the Elizabethan times when he first appeared, who saw persecution of Jews everyday, to the modern audience who will dislike characters who are prejudiced. Shylock first appears in Act 1 Scene 1. For the audience, first impressions are vital. His first line when Bassanio offers him the bond is 'Three Thousand ducats - well' (Act 1 Scene 3 Line 1). To any audience this gives the impression that he is very concerned about money, especially when he repeats 'three thousand ducats' throughout the scene. Throughout the scene, there is a repetition of the word 'three', e.g. 'three thousand ducats', 'three months', 'three thousand ducats for three months' etc. This repletion not only emphasises Shylock's obsession with money (as he is still pondering over the bond) but also shows how numerically Shylock thinks. The obsession with money is a key part of his character and the first thing that the audience noticed. Shakespeare himself was interested in money and usances himself, he invested much of his money into his theatre, and his knowledge of that subject is reflected in Shylock's character We also learn from this scene the intelligence of Shylock. As soon as Bassanio propositions him, he considers the offer in his mind, and realises how he can get revenge on Antonio, e.g. ...read more.


In Act 2 Scene 5, Shylock is on his way to a supper with the Christians. He is only going to annoy them; this shows the audience that he is not considerate. Shylock says 'I did dream of money bags tonight' which shows how much he cares about his money. He also ensures that his house and daughter are safe from those 'Christian Fools', before he leaves e.g. 'Lock up my doors, and when you hear the drum and the vile squealing of the wry-necked fife, clamber not you up to the casements then, not thrust your head into the street to gaze on Christian fools'. He is very concerned about his money, but even more he is worried about his daughter seeing Christians, as he considers the Jews a tribe, and they need to marry within the tribe to keep it going, so he feels that she should marry a Jew, not a Christian. At the end of Act 2 Scene 6, Jessica not only leaves her father, but also takes many of his ducats with her and Lorenzo. Any audience would now give pity to Shylock as he has lost a daughter and a considerable sum of money. Jessica's last line before leaving is 'Farewell, and if my fortune be not crossed, I have a father, you a daughter lost.' The audience would not only give pity, but also perhaps see Shylock as a poor father, more concerned about the welfare of the Jewish culture than the happiness of his daughter. In Scene 8, Salerio and Solanio discuss Shylock. We yet again see the Christian persecution of Shylock, i.e. 'Villain Jew', which would influence the audience. Solanio also overheard Shylock earlier on, after he discovered the desertification of his daughter, e.g. 'My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian Ducats!' From this it appears that Shylock is just as upset about his daughter's betrayal as he is of the loss of his money, which again emphasises his obsession with money, and makes the audience think that he is not that caring of his daughter. ...read more.


Shylock makes several powerful speeches throughout the play, the only character other than Portia to do so. He wins battles of words against Antonio many times, e.g. 'Signior Antonio, many a time and oft in the Rialto you have rated me about my money and my usances. Still I have borne it with a patient shrug ...' (Act One Scene Three). Also in Act Three Scene 1, 'To bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me...'. These speeches show that Shylock is quick witted, able to retaliate with words and quite intelligent. The Merchant of Venice could be more described as a romantic comedy than a tragedy. Therefore you would perhaps not expect not to see an evil villain in it. The audience may not be expecting an evil character, so may not consider him a villain, but more of a victim. In many plays, especially ones which have Jews featured, there was an evil character (e.g. The Jew of Malta), so, the audience would be accustomed to this, so may picture Shylock as that evil character. Throughout the play, Shylock is compared to both Antonio and Portia. Whereas Antonio is seen simply as a typical example of mankind (who goes through different stages of emotions), and Portia as Wisdom, Shylock is seen for a lot of the time as the Devil. Throughout the play, there are numerous references to Shylock and the Devil, e.g. 'The devil can cite scripture for his own purposes' (Act One, Scene Three), 'The Jew is the very devil incarnation' (Act Two Scene Two), 'lest the devil cross my prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew.' (Act Three Scene One) Shylock's response to Portia turning the case against him in Act Four Scene One is 'My deeds upon my head'. This recalls the time when the Jews called for the execution of Christ, so this line again shows that he is a Christian hater. ...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. Merchant of Venice - Comparing and Contrasting Antonio and Shylock

    now he says that he hates him purely because he is a Christian. In the first meeting between Antonio and Shylock, Shakespeare emphasises the contrast between the characters immediately. Shylock says, "Rest you fair, good signor." (Bows to Antonio) As a first time viewer of the play, Shylock would appear

  2. The play "The Merchant of Venice" is described as Romantic Comedy. One aspect of ...

    Later, in Belmont, Bassanio must choose between caskets of gold, silver, or lead to win Portia, who he wants to marry. It turns out that lead is the correct choice. This shows that what may appear to be invaluable, can yield the best results is another example of appearance vs.

  1. Shylock is a tragic figure, trapped by prejudice and driven to revenge by the ...

    Portia now begins to take Shylock apart, making him give up all his money and change religion. In conclusion to this play we have to look at all the facts. We are aware Shylock was verbally abused throughout the play, and called name such as: "evil soul, misbeliever, cut-throat dog,

  2. Is Shylock More Sinned Against Than Sinning? Discuss...

    She then asks if Antonio confesses to the bond and he says yes, Portia then defines the word mercy. She tries persuading Shylock, he had been offered three times the amount which he had been lent, after refusing Portia says the bond must stand and Antonio is to prepare to loose the flesh.

  1. The merchant of venice, Modern audiences probably find it difficult to accept Shylock as ...

    In the scene, Shylock sticks firmly to his principals: "And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn/ To have the due and forfeit of my bond" This quote suggests that Shakespeare is attempting to portray Shylock as a moral and honest man - quite the opposite of the typical Elizabethan stereotype.


    "gentle Jew" - 'gentile', in the Bible means 'non-Jew' and 'gentilis' is also Latin for 'belonging to the same clan'. Therefore calling her a "gentle Jew" implies that she was too nice to be Jewish.

  1. In the Elizabethan period it was a literary traditionthat Jews were portrayed in a ...

    done to him which might stop him from lending the money: "You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, ...And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur" 1:3:107-114 As Shylock has been treated like this throughout his life, it has seemed to make him quite

  2. The Merchant of Venice: Who shows more prejudice, the Christians or the Jews?

    They do not even know Tubal, the other Jew, and so are showing great prejudice toward the Jews in general.

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