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Shylock- Victim or Villain?

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Introduction

Shylock- Victim or Villain? At the time the play was set Jews were considered 'second class' citizens in Venice despite the fact that Venice was famous for its quality of justice. There was a lot of prejudice against the Jewish minority and they were even forced by the Venetian government to obey special laws. These consisted of wearing distinctive clothing such as coloured arm bands, not being able to be involved in trades such as the military, the government and guilds and most of all they were forbidden to retaliate in any circumstances to the way Christians treated them. These laws meant that most Jews lead a very restricted lifestyle and were often singled out from the rest of the Venetian citizens. The history of Jews around the world is a very cruel and complex one. Jewish persecution dates right back to the middle ages. The Christian church thought that they should be despised for rejecting Jesus. They began spreading rumours about Jews killing children at pass over and using their blood to make unleavened bread. During the fourteenth century, Europe was gripped by fear of the Black Death. Christians did not miss this newfound opportunity to spread anti-Semitist ideas, they accused the Jews of poisoning wells and so anti-Jewish stereotypes were reinforced. ...read more.

Middle

Shylock does not appear to treat Jessica very well ' what Jessica! - What sleep, and snore, and red apparel out. Why Jessica, I say!' This shows that he is a very short-tempered man and does not think it is wrong to shout and order his daughter about the whole time. He also appears to be very over protective of her 'Clamber not onto the casements then, Nor thrust your head into the public street', weather this is because he is worried about someone coming in to steel his jewels or weather he is genuinely concerned about his daughters welfare we do not know. However, I do not think this reason justifies her treatment of him. In Solanio's report of Shylock's behaviour when he finds out his daughter and his jewels are missing there is a lot of evidence to suggest that Shylock is more concerned about his money than his daughter, 'of double ducats, stolen from me by my daughter! And jewels, two stones, two rich and precious stones'. In Shylock's whole speech he only mentions Jessica a few times and when he does he never calls her by her name only 'my daughter', this suggests that they were never very close which maybe the reason he is more upset about his riches which will effect his life more directly. ...read more.

Conclusion

This quote also shows the extent to which she has dishonoured him by what she has done, making his life a futile and wasted one. I think Jessica's selling of her mother's ring for a monkey really highlights the extent of grief she has caused Shylock, 'a ring that he had off your daughter for a monkey'. She knew how much it meant to her father and selling it for a monkey ridicules this by making it worthless. We even start to feel sympathy for Shylock as we know by this quote that he must have treasured it, 'I had it off Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.' This has a big impact on weather Shylock is a victim or villain as it humanises him so he is no longer just a one-dimensional villain. There is a certain amount of Irony in the fact that his 'Christian ducats' are now returning to a Christian through Jessica. Life has become even harder for Shylock because through status you gain power, now Jessica has taken all his money he has the lowest status it is possible to have in Venetian society. Emily Franke 26/10/04 ...read more.

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