• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9

Shylock: victim or villain?

Extracts from this document...


Michael Salisbury 10IJ Shylock: victim or villain? In "The Merchant of Venice" Shylock is a Jewish moneylender. Who can be seen as both a villain and a victim. Shylock is badly treated by other characters in the play; we suspect this is because of his religion although we are not sure. However, he also behaves very badly from time to time, making it very difficult for us to feel total sympathy for him. We first see Shylock as a victim when he angers Bassanio by using the word "good" to describe Antonio. Shylock actually means that Antonio is good for the loan and he can repay it but Bassanio thinks that Shylock is judging Antonio. In the 16thcentury, when this play was written, Jews were seen as being lesser beings and they were not worthy of holding an opinion of a Christian. Bassanio is angry because he believes that Shylock is judging Antonio. We see Shylock as being a victim of his religion in this incident because he is being judged by his religion and not his personal qualities. Shylock is seen as a victim again in Act One, Scene Three when we find out that Antonio, a Christian, lends out money "gratis" meaning that he " brings down the rate of usance" in Venice, which is ruining Shylock's business. Shylock lends out money and charges interest on the loans he makes . Antonio, an important man in Venice, has also publicly humiliated Shylock, calling him a "misbeliever" and "a cut throat dog" and by spitting on his "Jewish gaberdine". ...read more.


Portia behaves like this perhaps to show Shylock's bad side when he gets excited about the fact that he might win the case, or perhaps she likes to see him suffer. Shylock loses the case and according to the Alien law which applies in Venice, must not lose both his life and all his wealth for plotting to harm a citizen of Venice. He is considered to be an Alien simply because he is a Jew. Shylock is due to lose all his wealth. Antonio requests and is granted, partial mercy for Shylock: Shylock can keep his life and half his wealth. Antonio has two conditions. He wants Shylock firstly to "...presently become a Christian; The other, that he do record a gift, Here in court, of all he possessed Unto his son, Lorenzo and his daughter." Shylock is in a humiliating situation. He is being forced to change his religion to be able to keep some of his own money and to save his life. He cannot refuse unless he wants to die. "I am content", he responds when asked how he feels about the ruling. The 16th century audience would probably be extremely happy at this time because of Shylock's misfortune. The audience in the 21st century, will feel more pity for Shylock because our society does not accept the racist ideas expressed in the court of law. The 16th century audiences had not witnessed events such as the Holocaust and the people were jealous of the wealth that Jews seemed to be able to accumulate so they did not feel any pity for the Jews. ...read more.


meaning that if he is denied the right to have his pound of flesh then the laws of Venice are worthless. Shylock is portrayed as a cunning dangerous man in this part of the court case. When Portia reveals to the court that Shylock cannot legally take a pound of Antonio's flesh Shylock expects Antonio to "...pay the bond thrice...' then he will let "...the Christian go." When Shylock realizes that he will not get this he asks Antonio to "give me my principle..." Shylock is portrayed in this scene as a desperate man determined to harm Antonio anyway he can. Shylock seems distraught that his plan has failed and he wants to come away with whatever he can. After writing this essay and studying the play " The Merchant of Venice" I have come to the conclusion that Shylock is a victim of his religion. I believe that he would not have been so sinister if he had been a Christian. However, I think that Shylock is a villain because he creates the reasons for other characters to dislike him; it was not just his religion that provoked the hatred of others, although this is an important factor. The proof of this argument is that there were lots of other Jews at this time; they were also discriminated against because of their religion but not all of them did what Shylock did or anything similar. This means that Shylock's negative attitude and anti-social behaviour were big reasons for Antonio and other characters to dislike him. As a consequence Shylock tried to harm them. I think Shylock is a villain because almost all the reasons for his trying to harm Antonio were due to his personality. 2 ...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. Peer reviewed

    Is Shylock a villain or victim?

    3 star(s)

    This cry out for tolerance is met with ignorance and further hate. Shylock knows he is a victim and is doing his best to deal with that harsh reality. Shylock is a victim that still cares for the people around him.

  2. Peer reviewed

    Is Shylock a villain or victim?

    3 star(s)

    Shylock's hatred for the Christian will never change. Shylock also has no sorrow for the bad things he does from time to time, making it very difficult for us to feel total sympathy for him. The main plot started with Bassanio (Antonio's friend), who needs a loan of three thousand ducats so that he can try his luck with a wealthy heiress names Portia.

  1. Merchant of Venice - Comparing and Contrasting Antonio and Shylock

    However the bounds agreements are some what strange, both audiences would expect Shylock to forget about the bound and come to another agreement. Shylock following through with the bond shows how inhuman Shylock really is. Religion should make no difference in the eyes of the Law.

  2. Imagine you're Antonio, write a diary form essay on what has happened, record the ...

    It has been a very revealing day after witnessing a quarrel between Portia and Bassanio over his ring.

  1. Do you think Shylock was treated fairly by the Christians?Was his behaviour justified?

    Shylock shows no mercy to this insult and still remains stubborn about receiving his bond. 'You'll ask me why I rather choose to have a weight of carrion flesh, then to receive three thousand. I'll not answer that, but say it is my humour, is it answered?'

  2. Is Shylock portrayed as a Victim or a Villain?

    O my daughter! ... My ducats and my daughter!" This suggests that Shylock is more mournful about the loss of his money, rather than that of his daughter. Another prime example of Shylock's love of possessions over his daughter is when he says "Jessica, my girl, look to my house", which is basically telling her to look after his house, and not herself.

  1. Is the treatment of shylock justified in

    I'll plague him, I'll torture him, I am glad of it." Act 3 scene 1 lines 91-92 Shylock now knew that Antonio had lost his wealth and would not be able to repay him. Shylock was now looking to have his bond, one pound of Antonio's flesh.

  2. Shylock - Victim or Villain - What is your assessment of the presentation of ...

    To them this would have been seen as a great thing for her to do, saving her from a damned race, and so no-one would have been thinking or caring about Shylock, in fact they mock him, surely mocking his voice and tone of his words as well.

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