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Shylock: Victim Or Villain?

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Introduction

The Release of "The Merchant of Venice" came at a time in the 1580's and 1590's when Jews were hated and subjected to Anti-Semitic abuse. It is believed to have been based around an Italian short story written in the fourteenth century. It included many similarities such as the "lady of Belmont", or as she is known in Shakespeare's rendition, Portia. Although the lady of Belmont sets a different task for her suitors, the core events of "The Merchant of Venice" are in there such as the young man who borrowed money from his benefactor to see the woman of his dreams. The benefactor had to pledge a pound of flesh to a Jewish moneylender. The story of the two rings is also apparent. Shakespeare is also said to have used some of the ideas from Christopher Marlowe's play "The Jew of Malta". One of the reasons that Jews were despised was because of a famous trial that occurred not long before the play's release. The trial involved Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I and her physician, one Doctor Lopez. The doctor was accused of high treason and subsequently executed. ...read more.

Middle

The fact that Launcelot claims that Shylock mistreats him contributes to the already negative image of Shylock, but who is telling the truth? The 'good' and honest Christian or the filthy money lending Jew? When Jessica exclaims she is "ashamed to be my fathers child", I think this is because of her religion, as she is her father's child, it makes her Jewish and therefore unable to marry the Christian she loves, unless she converts to Christianity. I do not think she is deeply ashamed, I think she just resents her religion, rather than her parentage. In act 2, scene 8, Salerio and Solanio discus Shylock's actions after Jessica's flight. They mimic his words and inform us that he runs around distraught and panic stricken saying "My daughter! O my ducats, O my daughter! Fled with a Christian". This gives me the impression that Shylock's main priority is his money, rather than his daughter. In this scene, I think he shows characteristics similar to those of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' play "A Christmas Carol". Scrooge is a very morose character and is concerned only by financial gain. ...read more.

Conclusion

So if one drop of Antonio's blood is spilled upon the ground, Shylock will be guilty of endangering a Venetian citizen's life and he feels guilty. Shylock realizes his foolishness and hastily accepts the offer of "thrice the bond" in return for Antonio's freedom. Just as Bassanio is about to hand over the money, Portia states that there is a penalty for not carrying out the bond. The duke shows "difference in our spirit", our being Christian, and reduces the fine to a penalty and he must give half his goods to Antonio. They eventually come to an agreement where Shylock gives half his belongings to Jessica and lover Lorenzo and that he leaves his belonging to them when he dies. The second point Antonio makes it that Shylock must convert to Christianity. Shylock quickly agrees and tells us "I am not well" and is excused from court, and that is the last we see of him. In the beginning, Shylock had good intentions and was a nice person, but was driven to this tyranny be the constant abuse and insults aimed at him, his business, his friends, enemies and Religion, pushed him towards the extreme measure of almost taking someone's life, ...read more.

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