• 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)

    I felt as if Antonio seemed to deserve a punishment for what he's (supposedly) done, but death, I still felt, was too harsh.

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

    Half his wealth is confiscated and -far worse- he must lose his faith and convert to Christianity. In any case, the most appalling and nasty aspect of the Christians is that they are extremely prejudiced. They have such high opinion of themselves and such low opinion of Jews that they

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

    be pleased if she realised that her husband is will to give away his wedding ring as a way of showing his gratitude about something. The second comment she says is, 'I pray you, know me when we meet again' (IVi line412)

  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 ...

    The comical thing about this is the audience knows that Portia received the ring but Bassanio doesn't. Portia pretends she is so angry that she and Nerrisa will have sex with the barrister and his clerk if they return to Belmont.

  2. The audience is given the impression that Shylock is a typical Jewish Businessman. To ...

    Bassanio offers him three times the original amount of money that was first offered to him, but unlike the stereotype of a Jew during these times, Shylock refuses. The main themes of the play are racism, prejudice and love. There was much prejudice against religions other than Christianity in Italy, due to it being a mainly Christian country.

  1. A study of anti-Semitism in 'The Merchant of Venice' it's historical and cultural perspective ...

    One of the main differences between the two plays is that Shakespeare's Jew, Shylock, is more of a man than Barabas because Shylock did not kill people. The plot to 'Il Pecorone' is the same as 'The Merchant of Venice' and Shylock is based upon the Jew from 'Il Pecorone'.

  2. Merchant of Venice- Scene by Scene summary & analysis

    This is one of the primary differences between the worlds of Venice and Belmont. The three caskets each bear inscriptions that tell us about the personalities of the characters who pick them. Gold reads: "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire" (2.7.5).

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