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Shylock victim or villain?

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Introduction

Shylock victim or villain? There have been many variations over the hundreds of years in how the character Shylock has been played in productions of "The Merchant of Venice" by William Shakespeare. Shylock is often noted as the most important character in the play, so the way he is performed can change how people interpret the play itself. Shylock can be interpreted as the villain or the victim of the play. Sometimes in productions the audiences' sympathies can swing first one-way then another, the actor will portray Shylock as a consistent character however; certain scenes create sympathy for him. Racism is a key issue in the play. Both the Christians and the Jew (Shylock) indulge in racist acts towards each other. Shylock admits at his first appearance that he hates Antonio because of his beliefs, "I hate him for he is a Christian" this is not a valid reason to hate someone and would illustrate Shylock as a villain. In some people's view Shakespeare has created philosophical characters, Shylock - evil, Bassanio - loving and Antonio- self-sacrificing. Antonio was in some ways willing to sacrifice his life so that his best friend could have a happy one. ...read more.

Middle

He was crying in the streets shouting "My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian Ducats..." Surprisingly Salanio said that Shylock cried out for his daughter first over his money, this shows his daughter is more important to him than his wealth. The fact that Salanio and Salerio are mocking him when they helped cause this anguish creates pity for Shylock and portrays him as a victim. Shylock is often thought of a loveless career minded money-lending Jew. This is because of the stereotypical Jew who only cares about money. In another play "the Jew of Malta" by Christopher Marlowe, made a Jew as the central villain who share some of the same characteristics e.g. bloodthirsty and the unkindness to Christians. At the time the Merchant of Venice was written the Jewish people were subjected to prejudice and regarded as an inferior race. However as we see throughout the play Shylock feels very strongly for his daughter and wishes to protect her at all times and when the Christians masques came he told her to lock up all the doors; this shows that he cares for her and he appears the victim when she runs away. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shylock cannot do much else so his limited choices cast him as a victim. Jessica, Shylocks daughter, wishes she was out of his life and escapes with the race he hates the most- the Christians. Jessica is ashamed of her father, the Christians mock and say "There is more difference between thy flesh and hers than between jet and ivory" meaning Shylock and Jessica are very different; Jessica is so kind and gentle and is the opposite to her father. This would make Shylock out to be a villain as Jessica says how living with her father is hell and she hates it. From analysing the play it is not hard to determine whether Shylock is a victim or villain. Shakespeare created Shylock as a villain; however, in some scenes we do feel pity for him and feel that he is hard done by. In turn making us feel he is a victim. These feelings and opinions change but at the end of the play our sympathies are with Antonio and we are bound to feel hate for his opponent Shylock. We recognise his faults more than his qualities and therefore perceive him as a villain. ?? ?? ?? ?? Patrick Griffin 10M ...read more.

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