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Shylock - Villain or Victim? Examine the language and behaviour towards others, as well as the way he is treated both personally and as a Jew.

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Introduction

Rachel Searle Shylock - Villain or Victim? Examine the language and behaviour towards others, as well as the way he is treated both personally and as a Jew. Shylock is portrayed as both a villain and a victim throughout the Merchant of Venice. This could be because of the way he is treated as a Jew or just because he feels bitter as a person. In the play Shylock is a wealthy businessman. As a moneylender he deals with both Jews and Christians. As a Jew, Shylock can charge interest on the money he lends, unlike Christians who have to lend 'money gratis' Even before we meet Shylock, his reputation is shown to us in Act 1 Scene 2, when Antonio suggests his name to Bassanio as a man who will be able to lend him 'Three thousand ducats.' (Act 1 Scene 3 line 1) He is obviously a successful professional moneylender. We meet Shylock in the play in Act 1 Scene 3. Bassanio, a Christian is asking Shylock, a Jew, for the loan, using Antonio's name as a guarantee that the money will be repaid. ...read more.

Middle

Shylocks tone in this speech makes him seem bitter, angry and victimised. Shylock is speaking on behalf of all Jews in this speech. He believes that everyone should be treated equally, no matter of their race or religion and beliefs. Shakespeare has written this speech in prose and is making a social comment to his audience, but is using Shylock and the play to express his opinion. Even today Jews are still persecuted for their race and religion. Shakespeare was obviously aware of this problem and using the play, made his audience aware of this controversial issue. Still this play is telling its readers of the conflict between Jews and Christians. Shylock and Antonio are the representatives of each religion. Shakespeare, a well-educated man is trying to express this to all his readers and audiences. Fortunately his plays are still studied today and the same message is still being passed on hundreds of years later. Again in Act 3 Scene 1 line 71 Shylock remains to be a victim. 'Hast thou found my daughter?' Shylock is asking Salarnio of word from Jessica. This shows his concern for his daughter's whereabouts and safety. ...read more.

Conclusion

Line 372 'Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that:' Shylock feels his life should be taken because without his money, he has nothing. Line 392 'I am content' Shylock now knows he has been beaten. The audience sees Shylock as a villain but does spare some sympathy for Shylock as he has fought throughout the play to keep his dignity, but now he has lost his battle. The audience has to consider if Shylock will convert to becoming a Christian, or will he end his life, as he now has nothing. No money, no home and no daughter. Everything Shylock has fought to keep he has now lost. Shylock leaves the play a victim but overall you could consider him to be a villain. After carefully considering all of the facts I personally feel Shylock is a victim rather than a villain. Although he feels hate towards Christians, this should be expected, as he himself and all the Jews in the play are persecuted for their religion. They are the minority race in Venice and face daily struggles to remain successful businessman as Shylock was at the very beginning of the play, until his feelings and differences with Christians and Antonio jeopardised his career and life. ...read more.

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