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Shylock - Victim or Aggressor

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SHYLOCK: Victim or Aggressor "Since I am a Dog, Beware my fangs" There is a lot of controversy over whether the character Shylock in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' is a racial stereotype of a Jew, or whether he is actually the victim of a hostile Venetian society. The idea of Shylock as a bloodthirsty and mercenary individual is contrasted with his portrayal as a man with human instincts and feelings who understandably responds with hostility, to the relentless insults and abuse he receives from Christians. We first learn of Shylock's victimisation in Act 1 scene 3, where the bond is made between him and Antonio. We are told that Antonio has in the past insulted and abused Shylock without any regret just because Shylock is Jewish: You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine. I feel that Shylock has the capability of handling confrontations with the Christians very well, as he can be humorous when he controls his temper by making sarcastic comments instead of insulting ones. For example, when Antonio has spoken about the bond, Shylock questions his request, stating there is not one thing Antonio has ever done to warrant Shylock lending him the money. Here he uses humour in a bitter manner: Fair sir you spat on me on Wednesday last, You spurned me such a day, another time You called me dog; and for these courtesies I'll lend you thus much moneys? ...read more.


Those actions cause Shylock much grief, which the Christians find hilarious and see it as their role to mock him. There are two other ways in which Jessica shows total disrespect towards her father. These are that she is ashamed to be her father's daughter, and a Jew, which she makes public knowledge, 'I shall be saved by my husband, he hath made me a Christian', and she sells Shylocks jewels in return for a monkey, 'One of them showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey', revealing that she doesn't value her father's money and possessions which have been his 'armour' against the ridicule and abuse, even though we assume it was a ring given to him from his late wife. Jessica has no respect for her father's loss of his wife, who is presumably her mother, showing that Jessica isn't a loving, dutiful daughter, sharing her father's grief.. When Shylock hears that his daughter has sold his ring, we are shown a side of him which we have never seen before, a compassionate side: It was my turquoise, I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I Would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys. This illustrates that he is capable of love and sentiment, despite what some people may think. After losing his dignity and pride, the one thing he had was the power and influence brought by money. ...read more.


The end of the trial scene victimises Shylock the most: when he is told that no blood is allowed to be shed, the bond cannot be carried out and Shylock cannot receive what is rightly his. The Christians are extremely hypocritical and show him no mercy by making him convert to their religion, and give all his possessions to his daughter who betrayed him, 'he presently become a Christian.' I think this is a spiteful act designed to cause Shylock as much suffering as possible, which goes against Christian laws of showing mercy. I think that if Shylock was given a chance and not discriminated against because of his race; the people who believe he is an aggressor would perceive his character differently. I think Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant Of Venice' to illustrate how racist the Elizabethan society was and highlight that no race is superior to another. He does this by showing Shylock to appear as a typical stereotype of a Jewish person; avaricious, bloodthirsty and merciless, but who is in fact victimised throughout the whole play. For example, the bloodthirsty bond, 'an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken from what part of your body pleaseth me' results in Shylock converting to Christianity, and leaving all his possessions to his disloyal daughter Jessica. The Christians have to "succeed" because there was great fear of "heathens" and "infidels" at that time, making it a very popular theme for a play. Francesca Meyrick-Cole Shylock: Victim or Aggressor? ...read more.

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