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The Merchant of Venice Discuss Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock

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Introduction

Ravi Aggarwal GCSE English Coursework The Merchant of Venice Discuss Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock Shylock is one of the main characters in the play. He is a Jew who is treated very badly by all Christians. He is presented with an ideal opportunity to kill Antonio, who is a Christian moneylender, when Antonio goes to Shylock on behalf of Bassanio to ask for 3000 ducats so that he can go to Belmont and try for the hand of Lady Portia - a wealthy and beautiful heiress. The three men meet and agree to the bond to a bond, which states that Bassanio will have the loan of 3000 ducats for three months, but if Antonio fails to repay Shylock, Shylock will claim a pound of his flesh. Shylock is in many scenes of the play and his first one is Act 1 Scene 3 where Antonio and Bassanio first approach him for the loan. He speaks differently to everyone else so it makes out that he is an outsider. He says "-well" after some of his lines. The first thing he talks about in the scene is his business and then he only talks about his religion later, which shows that money is his main priority. He makes it obvious in this scene that he hates Antonio mainly because he is a Christian "I hate him for he is a Christian" (line 34) ...read more.

Middle

After that the audience would feel sympathy for him because we are told that his daughter sold his engagement ring for a monkey. At the end of the scene he learns of Antonio's ships and seems happy about it because now he thinks that Antonio might not be able to get the money, "I am very glad of it, I'll plague him, I'll torture him" (line 110). The audience would feel ambiguous towards Shylock because he is upset about some things in this scene but he is also saying some very provocative things, which would make the audience angry towards him. In Act 3 Scene 3 he is very obstinate and wants to keep the bond. He hates Antonio so much that he wants to kill him, which this bond now allows him to do, legally. "I'll have my bond, I will not hear thee speak" (line 12). Shylock is very merciless and vengeful. This scene shows the contrast between Shylock and Antonio with Shylock being very aggressive and Antonio not getting angry at all. The audience would feel very angry towards Shylock in this scene. Shylock's main scene in the play, as with most of the other characters in the play is Act 4 Scene 1 - the trial scene. Near the beginning of the scene, in his biggest speech, he says that he feels like killing Antonio, "But say it is my humour; is it answered?" ...read more.

Conclusion

In Elizabethan times the prejudice shown to Shylock in the play would be perfectly normal because Jews were banned in England since 1290 and were seen as evil people. Nowadays we are shocked at the prejudice because we are living after the holocaust when Hitler attempted to wipe out the whole Jewish race and now everyone has a degree of sympathy for Jews. The anti-Semitism shown in the play would be seen as comedy in the Elizabethan period because since Marlowe's play The Jew of Malta where the Jew there called Barabas was shown as a wicked ogre. Another reason for Shakespeare's play to be so successful was because Queen Elizabeth's doctor was executed for high treason in 1954. He was a Jew. Shylock has been seen as both the victim and the villain of the play. A victim because he loses all his money and has to change his religion at the end of the trial scene. Also he is the victim of lots of prejudice from the Christians like them spitting on him and calling him names. But in conclusion I think that ultimately Shylock is a villain. The way he treats those close to him, for example his daughter Jessica exposes his evil character. He lets his need for vengeance engulf all other aspects of his life and his complete lack of mercy towards Antonio, renders him as a villain in the eyes of the audience. ...read more.

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