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Shylock: Victim or Villain?

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Introduction

English Coursework Shylock: Victim or Villain? "The Merchant of Venice was probably written in either 1596 or 1597, after such early plays such as Romeo & Juliet and Richard III but before the great tragedies of Shakespeare's later life. The Merchant of Venice is an intriguing drama of love greed, and in some aspects racism but most importantly revenge. The cross dressing heroine and the Italian location makes it similar to earlier comedies but the characters of Shylock and Portia Shakespeare's first great heroine, elevate it to the first rank of his plays. (Internet: www.shakespeare.com) Shylock is a Jewish moneylender in Venice; the Christians have abused him in his city, especially Antonio and his friends. I think that this is partly because Shylock is the only Jew in most of the city. "His quest for revenge consumes his cunning one-track mind." (Internet) This makes the audience think whether he is a victim? Or whether he is a villain? In my essay I will be looking for this and supporting my ideas with evidence from quotes from the text. Shylock is a very different character from the others because of his religion, beliefs, and the way he dresses and other characters like Antonio think that he is a target for them to pick on and be nasty and mean to him because of his creed, Shylock tells us some of the names Antonio has called him and also the way he has treated him: "You call me a misbeliever" (1:3:33:108 "Cut dog-throat" (1:3:33108) "Spit upon my Jewish gabardine" (1:3:33:109) These three quotes are a real insult to Shylock by the first quote Antonio cannot judge how much Shylock believes in his religion, or if he even follows the rules of his religion that is up to Shylock to decide. What is even worse is that Antonio refers to him as a "dog" this has terribly offended Shylock because Jews think that dogs are not sacred animals and that the devil lives inside them. ...read more.

Middle

The 3 months have ended and Antonio hasn't succeeded to pay back Shylocks money, because all his ships have been shipwrecked whilst out at sea. Bassanio receives a letter from Antonio; he sends his sends his final regards, saying how happy he was that Bassanio and Portia have at last got engaged. He then goes on and says his final farewells, at this point Bassanio feels sorry for him and he thinks that this is all his fault: "The paper as the body of my friends" (3:2:264) This quote is saying that a pathetic little bond written on some paper is costing him Antonio's life. This quote is also a metaphor because how can a bit of paper be your body it can't, it is impossible, and Shakespeare uses this to express that the quote means that the paper is responsible for Antonio's life. Shylock has been to the government to change the law because he wants his rights also before this scene he has a bit of anger to let out because Salerio says to Shylock oh if Antonio doesn't pay you back the money you're not really going to take a pound of his flesh are you? This really set the spark to the fire: "Feed my revenge" (3:1:50) Shakespeare has used some personification because you can't really feed revenge can you? This means that Shylock has been through a lot and now he wants to get his revenge, the word "feed" meaning like without food nobody can live so he is saying it keeps Antonio alive to pick on people this makes him look as if he is a villain. "He... laughed at my loses mocked at my gains scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains." (3:1:51-53) This is a very strong part of his speech because he is once again telling us how Antonio has been treating Shylock and as we can see he has been racist, insulting he has teased and has humiliated him, so in a way I think ...read more.

Conclusion

has got now where to go or live this is very upsetting and at the end of the play he is a victim. I don't think that Shakespeare is racist but the audience during his time were because they were not as understanding as us. They thought that, yeah, he is a different religion we won't talk to him he seems a bit weird or he is not the same as us. But today we are willing to bring this issues out into the world an debate or discuss them even though some people are still racist but that will always will be there it is not going to go away in a day or two it depends on the person. If I was a director of the play I would make Shylock look more religious and make him into a person who stands up for himself and who cares for people, he would be a very strong character but I would still include he issues of religion and racism because it makes the play more realistic and it shows people that every one was equal. As for Antonio I would make him a lot more caring but at the same time sly and evil but as well as that he would have to face a big change in his lifestyle as well as Shylock. In some parts of this play I thought that Shylock was a victim and in others I thought that he was a villain because of the bond but if that weren't in it then he wouldn't be a villain because Antonio would always be abusing him and picking on him. Antonio was always switching places with Shylock because sometimes when Shylock was a victim he would be a villain and when he was a villain Shylock would be a victim. Have you heard of the saying: "Never judge a book by its cover" well I am saying: "Never judge a person by their religion or race" 1 Saira Hamid ...read more.

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