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Shylock, the ogre or the human?

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An ogre is according to the Collins Dictionary "a monstrous or cruel being" but more significantly as "something or someone who eats human flesh." Is this how Shylock is portrayed in the play or is he a simple human being, a species capable of showing emotions and feelings such as vulnerability and love. Certainly, Shylock is presented to the audience in so powerful a way that even though he only appears in five scenes, many consider him the central character. Throughout the play Shylock appears to be the butt of all the jokes and many critics see his status in the play as the tragic hero. In this play Shakespeare achieves the near impossible because for most of Shylock's scenes, one can have as many as three interpretations for its meaning and as displayed by the title, the reader has to decide for themselves as to how they will interpret Shakespeare's descriptions. During the play we find that the odds are stacked against Shylock. My opinion on this is that Shakespeare did not want to be seen as a pro-Jew or siding with the "enemy" so he gave in and sided with the majority of his prospective audience's beliefs and views on Jews. ...read more.


What I mean is he is there to make sure we don't have too strong of a feeling on a certain point or opinion. Basically we understand the book the way Shakespeare intended it and that the only view that is right is his (Shakespeare). This is such an inspirational and influential method of writing that I think all modern writers should try to emulate. Throughout the play Shakespeare makes many comic references to the popular prejudices of his time; these references were just enough to prevent Shylock becoming purely formidable and fearsome to the Shakespearean audience, yet a lot more is needed to fulfil or satisfy today's audiences. In today's world, such racially degrading jokes would cause outrage. Personally, I believe that we are not witnessing outright racial degradation but Shylock himself is coming under fire. I say this because even when Shylock is having a conversation with one of his own people his speech and mannerisms seem ridiculous which demonstrates that we are laughing at an "individual" not an individual race. I believe this because Tubal (also a Jew), who is quite a minor character in the play escapes relatively unscathed from this conversation. An example of these comical mishaps was when Solanio reports of Shylock's reaction to his plight. ...read more.


This suggests that Shylock is at his most sinister when he is pretending to be kind. I believe that Antonio was very foolish in accepting this bond because if Shylock was not intending to gain any interest on this bond he is bound to enforce the terms of the bond as revenge on not only Antonio but the entire Christian race. I will now go on to comment on one of the rare moments in the play where we see a partly human side to side to Shylock. This is the speech which he makes claiming that Antonio has thwarted for one simple reason that he was a Jew. Shylock might actually have some justification in this statement as we have no evidence that Antonio is any less anti-Semitic than the rest of his fellow Venetians. He then points out that he is as much a human as any other man. Yet many critics and commentators on the play believe that this is not a plea for equality but to justify his imminent revenge. In conclusion, throughout this play we discover Shylock has as many faces and personas as a Mexican wrestler. We have quite literally seen the good, the bad and the ugly which makes this character so powerful and the focal point of the play. ...read more.

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