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The Merchant of Venice. Consider the complexities of Shylock's character with detailed reference to and evaluations of different interpretations.

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Introduction

The Merchant of Venice. Consider the complexities of Shylock's character with detailed reference to and evaluations of different interpretations. The Merchant of Venice was written in 1599 and set in Italy; However as Shakespeare lived in England, it is more likely that he wrote the play depicting London. At the time it was classed as a comedy this is because Shakespeare wrote for the common people, and they would have the same prejudices and attitudes of ancient Christian Jewish hatred and seen Shylock as an outsider. The Christians looked down upon the Jews; they saw them as 'scum', this could be because the Jews were better businessmen than the Christians. Shakespeare shows this in The Merchant of Venice, as he has portrayed Shylock as a moneylender who is successful at his business and is very wealthy. Then we have Antonio who is a Christian merchant, who has been spreading lies about Shylock being a liar and cannot be trusted. This leads on to whether Shylock is really evil or has he been made this way by the Christians? We are first introduced to Shylock in Act One, Scene Three. We learn of the abuse he has suffered at the hands of the Christians, which shows him as a victim. ...read more.

Middle

"I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor, I would not of given it for a wilderness of monkeys" The actor Laurence Olivier cries over a photograph of his wife when he realises the loss of his wife's ring, this portrays Shylock as a victim. Salerio and Solanio are constant tormentors of Shylock and mock him at every opportunity with these words, 'as the dog Jew did utter in the streets in the streets: "My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!"' They mock him for speaking aloud in such shock in the streets when Shylock was repeating 'my daughter! O my ducats!' This is quite important because here Shylock is weighing out each loss- his daughter, and his wealth. The repetition of daughter and ducats seems to be equal but then his words sway as Shylock repeats O my ducats further. This suggests that Shylock would prefer to have his ducats back to his daughter, suggesting that Shylock is a villain. Salerio and Solanio are mocking him though which makes Shylock seem the victim here, because Salerio and Solanio are laughing at him, basically making fun of him by over exaggerating what Shylock says. ...read more.

Conclusion

but at a price (the tragic side) his greed to retain what is his, often overtakes the more human side of his nature. The way he treats those he is close to, for example his daughter Jessica exposes his vindictive and evil character. He lets his lust for vengeance take over, and throughout the play Shylock shows no mercy towards Antonio. I also think he does have elements of being a victim, as is shown in a prejudiced and Christian court. Shylock is naive in believing he can take on the Christians and win, knowing that at the time Venetian law was designed to serve the best interests of the Christians. Shylock is made to convert to Christianity making his punishment harsh. It could be argued that Portia had taken Shylock's punishment too far. Shylock's life is spared but he may be better off dead because he has nothing to live for, remembering that all his wealth has been taken from him, and his daughter has left. He can no longer be the rich moneylender that he has been in the past. Although Shylock had attempted to pursue his revenge he still has the audience's sympathy because of the unfair and harsh punishment he has been given. It is unjust that Shylock's punishment is formed from his crime, but made on the basis of his religion ultimately. ...read more.

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