• 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)

    In fact, the only character to make a point of racism is Shylock with the "Hath not a Jew's eyes" speech, however, he is also guilty of it himself, constantly stopping his daughter from seeing a boy or going to a party with one "for he is a Christian."

  2. Is the Merchant of Venice anti-Christian or anti-Semitic?

    that takes...it is an attribute to God himself, and earthly power doth then show likes God's when mercy seasons justice." However, when Shylock is defeated, he is shown little of the mercy, which before was so earnestly recommended to him by Portia.

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

    His son recognises him when they meet, so he tries to trick him. This adds humour to the play because He succeeds in doing this Whilst Bassanio and Gratiano are in Venice, Portia and Nerrisa disguise themselves as two male lawyers.

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

    Because Shylock is a Jew. This would have been an extreme insult for Shylock. By saying directly to him that Shylock is like a 'villain with a smiling cheek' he is noting that on the outside Shylock may look like he is a decent man who is trustworthy and friendly, but on the inside, behind the smiling face, he is 'a villain'.

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

    Shakespeare also delivers the happy ending required of a comedy: the lovers are restored to their loving relationships, Antonio's supposedly lost ships arrive miraculously in port, and no threatening presence looms in the distance to suggest that this happiness is only temporary.

  2. 'How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a ...

    Shylock agrees to convert. I think that all the acts demonstrate negative feelings and attitudes towards Christianity and Judaism. This is because the history of Jews living in a Christian community dates back many years ago. The usurer was always seen as the sinner in Medieval England, so it is obvious how Shylock must have felt.

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

    he does have feelings and emotions as he would not have given the ring away because of its sentimental value. This shows the audience that he cared for his wife and it creates audience sympathy towards him because he obviously cares/cared for her, proving he does have emotions and he is not completely bitter.

  2. Is the Merchant of Venice Suitable for a Modern Audience?

    him for he is a Christian" This shows the lack of tolerance that wouldn't be accepted nowadays. Shylocks daughter Jessica elopes with Lorenzo who is a Christian. Shylock is furious and very sad at this because marrying out of the faith was a dreadful thing to do.

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