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The extent to which Shakespeare allows the audience to feel sympathetic or hostile towards the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

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Introduction

The extent to which Shakespeare allows the audience to feel sympathetic or hostile towards the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice One of the most interesting and interesting characters in the Merchant of Venice is Shylock. Throughout his five scenes in the play he is looked down upon, betrayed, deserted, punished and humiliated by Christian people, his daughter and all those that will eventually need his money. His faith and his way of making a living are the Christians. Shylocks first appearance in the Merchant of Venice is in Act 1 Scene 3, where Bassanio is talking about Antonio taking out a loan on his behalf. Shylock seems jovial in this first scene, before the Christians start to heap insults upon him. I believe that this scene may contain the only true indicator of Shylocks true part, i.e. an agreeable businessman. This view is unfortunately shattered by the arrival of Antonio and his good credit rating. Shylock hates Antonio, not only on principle, as the Christians hate him, but also due to Antonio's own money lending activities and this, his cardinal sin, of charging no interest. As Shylock says, hate him for he is a Christian; but more, for in low simplicity he lends out money for nothing, and brings down the rate of nuisance here with us in Venice. Even now, you can recognise Shylocks hatred, firstly upon principle of religion, and secondly hatred on behalf of his business, which may be the most important thing to Shylock apart from his religion. ...read more.

Middle

For instance, to obtain a good evaluation of Shylock's attitude towards other Jews we must observe his behaviour around his daughter, Jessica, but even this is tainted with family ties. Shylock's absence of a wife does pose questions as to how close he and his daughter are, and if whatever treatment he gives her can be justified by his mourning. Shylock is not portrayed as the model father, but we will have to assume this from his one scene with his daughter, Jessica, and of course the later scene after she has stolen his money. Years of words falling upon Shylock's unaware ears must have led up to Jessica's parting words, I have a father, you a daughter lost I believe that this implies that Shylock believes he acts with his daughters good interest in mind, but will not listen to her. In the second scene there is much evidence for Shylock valuing money over his daughter, portrayed in the internal conflict with his crisis of, my daughter! My ducats this is good source material, even though it comes from a third party. The sheer inhumanity of valuing ducats over daughter, or even the contemplation of such a point, must leave the audience reeling, thus continuing the roller coaster of the audiences feeling towards Shylock: hating him one minute and pitying him the next. Toying with the audience's emotions was always a pastime of Shakespeare. ...read more.

Conclusion

But even this can boil down to money. Shylock talks constantly of money, occasionally valuing it over his own flesh and blood, i.e. his beloved daughter. Antonio had a different love of money; he enjoyed seeing himself as the provider and feeling more important for it. Was this proof to his shallow character? Did he believe that he could make no difference to the world without giving handouts? Proof of this comes at the end of the play, when he finishes alone as Shylock. As poetry goes, it is rather sarcastic. As for Bassanio, why did he ever want to marry Portia? By the end of the play, I had almost forgotten that the only reason was because he wanted a steady source of income without the hassle of working. I think that Bassanio may have been just as tricky as Shylock. He worked out that by showing his greed to Portia during the test, would spell the end of the relationship. Portia could even have been in it for greed. If not for money, then maybe different guarantee, lust for Bassanio could be interpreted as greed, could it not? If you think about it, all the characters are driven by greed when you get down to it. As I stated earlier, Shylock's race had little or nothing to do with the outcome of the play. If he had been a Christian moneylender, the same would have happened. In the end, the saying is true: money is the root of all evil. Michael Sparrow 11DB English Coursework Mr Robson ...read more.

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