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

The merchant of venice, Modern audiences probably find it difficult to accept Shylock as a comic villain who deserves his ultimate fate, to what extent, if at all, would you agree?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Liv Gell Modern audiences probably find it difficult to accept Shylock as a comic villain who deserves his ultimate fate, to what extent, if at all, would you agree? 'The Merchant of Venice' is a play written by William Shakespeare in around 1596. Due to the prejudices of its target Elizabethan audience, it was intended to be a comedy and by using comic devices such as: disguises, comic characters, a happy ending and tricks, as well as using the discriminatory stereotypical Jewish character in theatre, that is how the play was perceived. However, 'The Merchant of Venice' is rarely regarded, by a modern audience, as a comical play but more of a tragedy, due to its controversial ideas of racial and religious prejudice. 'The Merchant of Venice' is a play about the quarrel between Shylock, a Jewish moneylender and Antonio, a Christian businessman. Throughout the play Shylock persists in pursuing a bloodthirsty bond involving the two characters, to the extent that Antonio almost loses his life. Antonio agrees to the bond on behalf of his friend Bassanio, who is chasing the beautiful and rich character Portia's hand in marriage. Due to the fact that Queen Elizabeth I was a Protestant, and religion in Elizabethan England was firmly in the hand of those adhering to the beliefs of the reigning monarch, anti-Semitism was common in Elizabethan England. ...read more.

Middle

offer of six thousand ducats in order to see his rival suffer, evidently showing that Shakespeare wanted to make Shylock look as demon-like as possible. Liv Gell However, in "The Merchant of Venice" William Shakespeare created more than just a stereotypical Jewish character; he produced a temperament within Shylock that was capable of questioning an Elizabethan audience's prejudices - a character with the ability to go against Elizabethan norms. Shylock's famous speech in Act 3 Scene 1 queries Elizabethan's beliefs between Christians and Jews, appealing to the audience to view him as an equal human being. The speech begins with "To bait fish withal..." and includes the well-known lines: "If/ you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? / If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" By asking these questions, Shakespeare forces his audience to acknowledge the fact that despite religious beliefs, we are all physically the same. Furthermore, in Act 2 Scene 5 there is additional evidence that Shakespeare set out to create more than just a miserable Jewish character; when Shylock wants to shelter his daughter, Jessica, from the abundant lifestyle of Christians, suggesting he is a good, compassionate father figure. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, after studying Shylock in greater detail I now react sympathetically towards his situation and consider him to be a very cleverly thought out character. Due to the fact that Shakespeare frequently indicates towards a more complex side of Shylock's character - rather than just a stereotypical Elizabethan Jew - implies to me that he is trying to build Shylock's position as a victim in the play, in spite of the controversy he would have encountered at the time. Liv Gell In my opinion Shakespeare fully intended to create Shylock's contentious character as such a realistic portrayal of the minority of English society - that was forced to fight against the shameless prejudices of the majority. Finally, I think that "The Merchant of Venice" has remained such a popular play to this day, for the reason that it is not a typical Elizabethan anti-Semitic play, but a meaningful presentation of medieval prejudices in which the audience are encouraged to make their own decisions about each character. Furthermore, a lot of current issues involving racism and other prejudices are featured in the play, but unlike most present sources, viewers are invited to see both sides of the matter. How Shakespeare deals with the circumstances and shows neither side of the prejudice as inferior encourages audiences to reconsider their beliefs and it promotes equality. ...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

    To what extent do you think Shylock deserves the treatment given to him in ...

    3 star(s)

    However, you cannot know if this is blatant racism or a 'You hate me, so I hate you' situation. Either way Shylock definitely doesn't deserve the racial abuse he gets. Again, in Shakespeare's time it would be different with the audience even cheering when anybody insults Shylock or even shouting out racist insults at him themselves.

  2. "Is 'The Merchant of Venice 'a tragedy for Shylock and a comedy for all ...

    There is irony when they do this because Portia says: 'My Lord Bassanio, let him have the ring: Let his deservings and my love withal Be valu'd gainst your wife's commandment' She says this because she wants to make sure that Bassanio loves her.

  1. To what extent does Shakespeare intend the audience to sympathize with Shylock in the ...

    A contemporary audience would find it lawful that Shylock received this punishment. Shakespeare throughout the play is trying to imply that the Christians are racists but at the time they would be too arrogant to notice this slight implication.

  2. In 'The Merchant of Venice' in Act 1 Scene 3, Shylock is described as ...

    Shylock, being a Jew, would have been disturbed and insulted by Antonio's comment. The devil is the prince of darkness; he is the personification of evil. And this is what Antonio has named Shylock, for what reason? Because Shylock is a Jew.

  1. How Does Shakespeare Influence Audience Opinion Of Shylock in 'The Merchant Of Venice'.

    Antonio sends his ships out to buy goods cheaply from other places, and then he will sell them on for more money, which is effectively the same as what Shylock is doing. Christians also believe that everyone is equal but they do not show these qualities in their inhuman treatment of their slaves.

  2. Is it true that Shylock is 'a man more sinned against than sinning'? In ...

    referred to as Shylock but people simply know him as 'the Jew' and he has to live with being called this all the time. For example in the court scene even the Duke directly calls him 'Jew'. Shylock shows a great sense of character throughout the play, even though he

  1. Shylock - Victim or Villain - What is your assessment of the presentation of ...

    Unfortunately, everything else Shylock says in this scene makes it virtually impossible, if not impossible, to sympathise with him. Shylock is going to dine with the Christians, but not as a friend, "I'll go in hate", he says, showing a clearly visible villainous side.

  2. to what extent can the Merchant of Venice be seen as a fairytale

    character, and at that time him being Jewish added to the comedy of the play. In the Elizabethan era money lending was one of the few careers open to Jews as the New Testament forbids Christians charging interest on loans and the Old Testament forbids usury except in loads to non-Jews.

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