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

Shylock: villian or victim

Extracts from this document...


To What Extent, In Your Opinion, Is Shylock 'a Complete and Inhuman Villain'? The way in which Shylock is played on stage has changed greatly since the play was first performed, when he was made out to be a villain and a clown. This altered in the nineteenth century when Shylock was portrayed as an intelligent man who had been victimised. Undoubtedly, Shakespeare did not write Shylock as a simple, one- sided part. To a modern audience, Shylock is sometimes a villain and sometimes a victim. However, in Shakespearian times, they would have had the much simpler view that Shylock was in the wrong and they (The Christians) were right. In Shakespearian England anti- Semitism was rife. Jews were widely regarded as evil and the entire community had been expelled from England in 1290. Jews were persecuted worldwide and forced to live their lives in ghettos. Audiences in the Elizabethan era who were predominately Christians would have delighted in Shylock's defeat, where as today's society is multicultural and diverse, hence we may have an entirely different view on this topic. Throughout the play we hear evidence that would justify Shylock's wickedness towards Christians, 'you call me misbeliever, cut- throat dog'. Anyone who is called these names, 'spat upon' and 'spurned' is not going to behave in a polite way towards the source of rudeness. ...read more.


Shylock is preyed upon by many Christians, but it seems by Antonio, more than any. Indeed Antonio seems to be the source of much of Shylocks' abuse. He has 'disgraced me, laughed at my losses, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains and heated mine enemies' and his reason, 'I am a Jew'. Antonio also shows that that he has no remorse for what he has said and done to Shylock, he openly states he would 'call thee so again, spit on thee again...'. Here we can see how Shylock can have extra vengeance for Antonio and how no-one could blame him for being angry at this deliberate racism. When they first meet in the play, Shylock says, 'many a time and oft in the Rialto you have rated me'. This shows how readily Shylock accepts being abused and installs our sympathy in him. It also displays how much Shylock has endured from haters. During the play it becomes obvious that the mistreatment of Shylock comes from Christians, therefore it is understandable that he has a certain loathing for them. In Venice, 'if a Jew wrong a Christian' the Christian will seek revenge. So it seems only fair that 'if a Christian wrong a Jew', then the Jew will take lead and, 'by Christian example' seek revenge too. ...read more.


Furthermore, his only daughter runs away with one of his persecutors. She steals his money and the ring his wife gave him. It seems justified that he should feel betrayed and hurt. Shylock only demanded a bond that Antonio had accepted to. It could be argued that if Antonio was not willing to die, then why did he consent to Shylock's contract in the first place. We can only guess at how Shakespeare intended Shylock to be played. He becomes throughout the play, an increasingly lone figure and is portrayed by Shakespeare to be in some ways very 'human'. Shakespeare could have decided to show Shylock completely defeated at the end of the play, not even to have his religion to hold on to, which would indicate that he was intended to be a villain. On the other hand, I think Shylock was intended to be a victim and was created to challenge the pre- conceptions and ideologies of the Elizabethan era. Also I think that he is not a villain because he inspires too much empathy in an audience. Having said all this, I believe that it is no useful for us to simply categorise Shylock as either victim or villain. Through Shylock, Shakespeare explores the way in which the line between the oppressed and the oppressor can become vague. ?? ?? ?? ?? Katrina Duncan Monday, 15 September 2008 ...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. Peer reviewed

    Shylock - villian or victim?

    4 star(s)

    Throughout the play Shylock's name is overlooked and rather than being called by his name he is referred to as "the Jew". The fact that Shylock is being alienated (by being classed as "the Jew") underlines the social deprivation of Jews at the time the play was written.

  2. 'How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a ...

    Shylock shows that now he has the upper hand and that they should have had respect for him, "Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause, but since I am a dog, beware my fangs." This is effective because Shakespeare uses how Shylock was branded a dog in the

  1. "The Merchant of Venice": Shylock: Victim or Villian?

    In Act I scene (iii) Shylock is introduced immediately as a greedy and deceptive man by his first sentence, "Three thousand ducats -well." This contrasts strongly with Portia and Antonio's characters instantly identifying Shylock as the bad guy. In this scene Shylock is shown to be scheming against Antonio and Bassanio, which the audience will not have responded positively to.

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

    Shakespeare makes it this way so as to create a sense in the audience's mind of Shylock stood over his daughter's lifeless body, with his riches returned to him. The effect of this on the audience's opinion of Shylock is that of Shylock being ruthless and overwhelmingly materialistic.

  1. To what extent would an audience have sympathy for Shylock?

    She hath the stones upon her, and the ducats!'. In this quote, he is describing what Shylock shouted in the streets after Jessica had stolen her father's possessions. An audience may feel sorry for Shylock here as Solanio is making fun of him but an audience would also feel unsympathetic for Shylock because he is more concerned about getting his ducats back than his daughter.

  2. Do you think Shylock was treated fairly by the Christians?Was his behaviour justified?

    Like Lancelot, Jessica has no respect for Shylock and is willing to disrespect him by becoming a Christian. 'I shall end this strife; become a Christian and thy loving wife'. She dislikes him as Shylock treats her strictly and restricts her and she shows this by saying.

  1. Should I Feel Sympathy For Shylock Carstens denied doggiejoy's structuration idea.

    Early on in the play we learn that Shylock is a moneylender, however, we also learn that he is just as prejudice as the Christians. SJTlhghWE from SJTlhghWE coursewrok SJTlhghWE work SJTlhghWE info SJTlhghWE "I hate him for he is a Christian:"coad adr seadadw orad adk inad foad ad.

  2. In the Elizabethan period it was a literary traditionthat Jews were portrayed in a ...

    Antonio and Bassanio nevertheless still needed to borrow money from Shylock despite these feelings, and Shylock is the first to notice the irony. "Fair sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last... You call'd me dog - and for these courtesies I lend you thus much moneys?"

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