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The Duke describes Shylock as a ‘Stony adversary, and inhuman wretch.’ Did Shakespeare intend us to hate Shylock?

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"The Duke describes Shylock as a 'Stony adversary, and inhuman wretch.' Did Shakespeare intend us to hate Shylock?" Although there is strong evidence to suggest that Shakespeare did intend us to hate the character of Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice," there are also moments in the play that gain Shylock a lot of sympathy from the audience. It is difficult for us to understand how Shakespeare intended his audience to perceive Shylock's character. Much of this difficulty is due to the change in beliefs and opinions of Shakespeare's audiences as time has progressed. The extent of anti-Semitism amongst the general public has diminished dramatically since Shakespeare originally wrote the Merchant of Venice. Anti-Semitism is the prejudice against Jews, often leading to discrimination and persecution. It originated in the times of Jesus. The Jews were blamed for the crucifixion of Jesus. With this fundamental hatred, anti-Semitism grew as people used the Jews as scapegoats throughout history. By Shakespearean times, Jews were becoming very successful businessmen. For this fact, and the prejudice of the early Christians, Shakespearean Christians held a great anti-Semitic belief. However, as centuries have passed, opinions have changed. Anti-Semitism today has decreased greatly. Much of this is due to the persecution of the Jews by Hitler during the Second World War. Hitler's actions have made the world much less anti-Semitic and more sympathetic towards the Jewish race. Even despite Hitler's actions, the world, on a whole, has a much greater understanding of what is morally right. From the moment we meet Shylock, we see that he is very against the Christian faith. ...read more.


This makes the audience sorry for Shylock but simultaneously evoking a feeling of dislike as they learn more about Shylock's character. In Act 2, Jessica runs away from her father to marry a Christian man, named Lorenzo. This in itself arouses much compassion for Shylock from the audience. However, as Shylock's reaction is seen, the audience loses all understanding and pity for Shylock, as he is much more worried about the loss of money that Jessica has stolen on fleeing. "I wish my daughter were dead at my feet and the jewels in her ear." "I shall never see my gold again!" He is not at all affected by the loss of his daughter, or if he is, he conceals his feelings and concentrates on the loss of his money. This makes the audience feel that Shylock dispassionate. However, there is evidence in the play to suggest that Shylock was deeply upset by the loss of his one daughter. "My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian!..." However, Shylock continues to talk of his ducats and how he wants his daughter dead. This rise and fall of sympathy in scenes is also shown in Act 3. Shylock delivers a speech that, to begin with, wins him much sympathy from the audience. "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christians is? ...read more.


Shylock continues his praise for the doctor of law, as she continues to give Shylock his bond. However, as the doctor of law finds a loophole in the law, and proves that Shylock's bond is void, he becomes distraught and gains a lot of sympathy for himself from the audience. "Give me my principal and let me go." Shylock gains more sympathy from the audience due to the actions of the other characters onstage, and their persecution of Shylock. Gratiano begins as soon as the loophole is discovered, by mocking Shylock's previous praise for the teacher of law. "O Jew, an upright judge, a learned judge!" The audience feels more sympathy for Shylock as the other characters issue him his punishment. Shylock is told that not only must he give half his money to the state and half to his daughter's Christian husband, he must also become a Christian himself. This would have destroyed Shylock, as he is so against the Christian faith. " He presently become a Christian." By the time Shylock leaves the scene, the audience had grown in understanding and compassion for Shylock as he as had the change his religion (this would have gained more sympathy with the modern day audience,) and also give away all his money, probably his most dearest and prised possession. To conclude, I believe Shakespeare neither intended us to hate or like Shylock. The objective of the Merchant of Venice was to make audiences, at whatever time through history, to think about the people they discriminate against, and whether the prejudice is really justifiable. This document was downloaded from Coursework.Info - The UK's Coursework Database Click here to visit Coursework.Info/ ...read more.

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