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Shylock - Victim of Villain?

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Introduction

Shylock: Victim or Villain? Discuss The play, The Merchant of Venice, is set in a time when Jews were feared and despised by the Christians, especially in a city like Venice, where the play was actually set in. The main reason for the Christians to hate the Jews so much was because Jesus Christ, known as the son of God by the Christians, was believed to be killed by the Jews. From the twelfth century onwards, they were often expelled from Christian controlled countries and cities. The ones who remained were forbidden to own property or to engage in any of the professions. They were forced to lend money with interests (known as usury) as it was their only way to profit. The Christians who disapproved this practice distrusted the Jews even more. Shylock is a Jewish moneylender who prospered with the practice of usury. He is considered to be the main antagonist in The Merchant of Venice. However, he is also portrayed as a victim of discrimination and prejudice. Through out the play he wanted revenge on the Christians, especially Antonio, who perhaps behaved most irrespectively towards Shylock. - - - - - - - - - - - Act 1 Sc. 3 is the first scene we come across Shylock the usurer. Here Bassanio is in the middle of a discussion with the Jew about borrowing three thousand ducat. ...read more.

Middle

On the other hand, Jessica's actions in the play also portraits Shylock as a victim. While he might not have been the best father he can be, Jessica's plot to abandon Shylock for once and for all is perhaps too cruel in Shylock's part. Does he really deserve this? Her action later in the play further victimises Shylock In act 2 scene 6, we learn that not only does Jessica leave her father, but also with her a large quantity of his jewels and ducat. She is to marry a Christian man and become a Christian woman. To be betrayed by his own daughter is perhaps the biggest insult to Shylock. - - - - - - - - - - - Shylock appears once again in Act 3 scene 1. When Shylock hears the rumour of a trade fleet is wrecked on the Narrow Seas, which could have been Antonio's ships, he comments on Antonio and his bond with him: 'a bankrupt, a prodigal...a beggar...He was wont to call me usurer...He was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy; let him look to his bond.' From this, we seem to get the idea that Shylock is actually taking his bond with Antonio seriously. But when Salarino taunts Shylock, saying that he would never take Antonio's flesh because there is no use for it, Shylock replies: 'To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.' ...read more.

Conclusion

But lend it rather to thine enemy, who if he break, thou mayst with better face exact the penalty.' Antonio has in fact accepted the consequences of the bond, and in a sense Shylock has the right to take it. It is hard to decide whether Shylock should have his bond. Later in the scene, Portia, disguised as a lawyer, pretends to allow Shylock to preceed with the bond. This somewhat makes Shylock even more excited. He continously applause Portia as an excellent judge. This emphasises his anxiety to have his bond. She also asked him for a surgeon, which Shylock refused. He simply replies: 'I cannot find it, 'tis not in the bond.' It is obvious that he wants Antonio's life. In the end, however, Antonio is saved when Portia announces that Shylock must take his pound of flesh without a drop of blood because the bond specifies that he is to take only a pound of flesh. This is of course impossible, and Shylock is charged because he has attempted to take the life of a citizen. 'That by direct or indirect attempts He seek the life of any citizen, The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive Shall seize one half of his goods...' Act 4 scene 1 ll. 348-351 Shylock his been tricked by Portia into breaking the law, not only he fails to take the life of Antonio and loses the three thousand ducats, but also everything he has including his Jewish faith and tradition. Shylock is portrayed as a victim here. In my opinion, the punishment is too harsh. Kelvin Cheung ...read more.

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