• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Shylock: Victim or Villain? A Merchant of Venice.

Extracts from this document...


Shylock: Victim or Villain? There are several perspectives to the character of Shylock in "A Merchant of Venice." Most of these are deliberately planted in the script by Shakespeare to provoke a negative or positive response from the audience. The author deliberately casts different lights on him throughout the play; sometimes he is the persecuted, sympathy provoking outcast of society; sometimes a cruel, calculating fiend. The background in which the play is set, the Elizabethan era, was in principal a Christian one. However, racial prejudice thrived against most non-Christians, particularly against the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism was socially accepted, mainly because of the bad image of the Jews that had slowly been built up by, and amongst, the Christians. Indeed it did actually get to the point at one stage where keeping a Jewish identity was actually illegal in Elizabethan England. Jews could were not allowed to practise Judaism or profess to be of any Jewish origin. There was a stereotypical pre-judgement of Jews to be moneylenders that led to an all round dislike, and sometimes hate of them. At the time, Shylock would have fallen socially into the lowest of categories, a common thief. ...read more.


He has spat on him for being a Jew, and has kicked him "As you would spurn a stranger cur over your threshold." On line 130, Antonio responds to these accusations, not by denying them, but by threatening that they are likely to happen again. This shows his utter contempt for Shylock's side of events and confidence in his own social status. It is not only Antonio who abuses Shylock, but also Gratiano, who makes several extremely hostile remarks towards him throughout the play. He likens Shylock to something inhuman several times, as do many of the other "good" Christians Shylock reduced to the social status of an animal with; "Oh be thou damned inexecrable dog!" (Act 4 Scene 1, Line 129); "Currish spirit govern'd a wolf" (Act 4 Scene line 133) and; "(Shylocks) desires are wolvish, bloody, starved and ravenous." Shylock is not only likened to an animal, but is also demonised in several instances. He is identified around six times in the play to the likeness of the devil. Only three times in the play is Shylock called by his name, each of those times in the official courtroom. ...read more.


He has Antonio apparently trapped under the law and can not only get rid of a business rival, but can do so with the help of justice. Nothing can go wrong as he delightedly prepares to take a pound of flesh from Antonio's body, preparing his scales and "whetting his knife." This scene shows him as an exaggerated monster with a lust for blood and money, relishing any chance of taking flesh from Antonio. He rejects the large amounts of money offered by Bassanio, showing all he wishes is Antonio's life. In Act 3 scene 2, Jessica declares; "I have heard him swear to Tubal and Chus, his countrymen, that he would rather have Antonio's flesh than twenty times the value of the sum that he did owe him..." When the crunch for Shylock comes, one can only feel relieved for Antonio's sake. However, when the punishment is in fact turned back on Shylock in increasing degrees of harshness it is impossible not to feel sorry for him. Because he has plotted against a Venetian he must now convert to Christianity, give up all his possessions and give anything he has when he dies to Jessica and Lorenzo. For Shylock, this is a feat worse than death. Iain Watts Christian Fellowship School Centre no 34244 Candidate 2422 ...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. The Merchant of Venice - Shylock - Victim or Villain?

    It has as its villain a Jew who is a money lender and a murderer; in fact Barabas even poisons a whole nunnery. This may have influenced Shakespeare to have a Jew as a villainous character in one of his plays.

  2. The Merchant of Venice - Jessica - Victim or Villain?

    This suggests Shylock is now dismissing the fact that Jessica is his daughter in return for the way she rejected him as a father. I think Jessica's selling of her mothers ring for a monkey really highlights her villainy, 'a ring that he had off your daughter for a monkey'.

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

    When Portia enters the courtroom, disguised as Balthazar, there is a decision to be made by Shylock and the observer. Shylock appears totally cold-hearted and villainous as Portia enters, even whetting his knife in anticipation, but the decision that must be made is in fact about Portia.

  2. Explore the conflicting responses, which the character of Shylock provokes in the audience. How ...

    Twenty merchants, the Duke himself, and the magnificoes of greatest port have all persuaded with him, but none can drive him from the envious plea of forfeiture, of justice, and his bond'. This quote shows how unreasonable and resolute Shylock is.

  1. Villain or victim? Discuss Shakespeares presentation of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

    This creates a sense of hatred within the audience towards Shylock, as this is a despicable idea. This is also an action of a typical Jewish villain as Elizabethan's believed that Jews were bloodthirsty from what they had read in the Bible.

  2. The Merchant of Venice: Is Shylock a villain or a victim who deserves our ...

    to make it seem he is going the extra mile of sorts to get the money Bassanio needs. He questions Bassanio with "Me thoughts you said you neither lend nore borrow / upon advantage", showing a witty and clever side.

  1. The Merchant of Venice: Should Shylock be seen as a victim or a villain?

    (Lines 15-22) The entire of act 1 scene 1 is basically an all male scene. The main topics of the men's conversation are money and the suggestion that Antonio is in love, which causes him to reject the idea by shouting "fie, fie" Nevertheless, when looking at the women's conversation

  2. Merchant of Venice- Scene by Scene summary & analysis

    This image is used in connection with Bassanio, the risk-taker, who risks everything to gain everything. The same image will figure later with Antonio, who is represented as a wether, a castrated sheep. Thus the concept is reinforced that Antonio does not make his money breed because he refuses to charge interest.

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