• 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: Should Shylock be seen as a victim or a villain?

Extracts from this document...


The Merchant of Venice: Should Shylock be seen as a victim or a villain? By Adwoa Alexsis A. Mintah In England, when Shakespeare was writing, Jews had been banished for the past 300 years. Shakespeare's would not have known any Jews; their knowledge of Jews would have been based solely on rumour and prejudice. They would have enjoyed the verbal insults and racist jokes against Shylock and would probably not have questioned the treatment Shylock receives, as we do today. Shakespeare wrote his plays to be acted, watched and enjoyed. However, with the Merchant of Venice it caused much praise, which came with much controversy with the domestic and cultural situations in the play. The language used in the Merchant of Venice by the characters is set on not only by their social class but by their gender. An important question I considered was whether there is a male way of speaking different from the female way. Most of the men in the play are preoccupied with matters of finance and the law. The women, though aware of the importance of wealth, are trapped into hatching love plots on the border of male activities. Portia has an interest in the law, but has to resort to dressing up as a man before she can act on behalf of her husband's best friend. ...read more.


She loves Bassanio. He boasts of having received "fair speechless messages" from her eyes, which hints of her feelings for him. She is nervous when as he chooses a casket, fearing to lose him. She tells him "I stand for sacrifice" She is delighted when he chooses the right casket and appears worried that she will not come up to Bassanio's expectations: "I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends, / Exceed account. " We hear of Lorenzo and Jessica travelling through Italy, rashly spending huge amounts of money. Portia appoints him to look after Belmont while she is in Venice. (Maybe Lorenzo and Jessica had nowhere else to go.) He praises Portia's "bearing" during Bassanio's absence, saying she has "a noble and a true conceit / of god-like amity." When he and Jessica are alone together at the start of Act V, they talk of famous lovers - all of whom are associated with betrayal or tragedy. This suggests that their love consists of betrayal- the betrayal that Jessica has played on her father and tragedy- the tragedy of her never being able to speak to her father again. Lorenzo talks passionately to Jessica about "the sweet power of music" - but does not seem to do much that is practical to help her. ...read more.


In the last act of the BBC Production, the act starts in moonlight and ends as morning comes. This is because; it sets up Portia's comparison of the light of Belmont, shining in the darkness to a good deed shining in a naughty world. Belmont represents the light of love and harmony. The move from the darkness to dawn is itself a powerful symbol, representing the move from confusion, uncertainty and loss to knowledge, faithfulness and the return of fortune. By the last act, Shylock is no longer required as he has been banished and forced to become a Christian. The age-old dilemma about Shylock was whether he was a villain or a victim? Was he a ruthless villain who didn't care about anybody else or a man who couldn't handle the demands of life, and was pushed over the edge? There has always been controversy about Shylock. To he is a misery money-lender who delights in the prospect of cutting a pound of flesh from a noble Merchant who eventually exposes Shylocks corrupt ways. Although some see him as a bloodthirsty fiend armed with scales and knifes, who cares more for his money then for his runaway daughter. Such a view sees him as a comic or a hostile villain who gets his just desserts in the end. ...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. Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

    I think this would be a more effective way to express the sum of money involved especially as it would excite the audience to see how Shylock would react to this large sum of money. I'm sure most audiences from the 16th and 21syt Century audience would expect Shylock to

  2. The play "The Merchant of Venice" is described as Romantic Comedy. One aspect of ...

    Antonio is gullible cannot see the ulterior motive of Shylock, by readily lending the money. He is taking revenge from Antonio because Antonio has mistreated him called him a "misbeliever, cut throat dog, and spat on his Jewish gabardine". Not only this, Antonio promised to continue his racial hatred.

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

    The play happily ends in Belmont with three couples blissfully in love and all is well with everyone. The fact that Jessica and Lorenzo have chosen to elope to Belmont shows that happiness comes to those who deserve it, just like a fairy tale.

  2. Discuss the view that 'The Merchant of Venice' is a comedy with tragic possibilities.

    that he loses money if people lend money from Antonio and not from him. He values his money more than his daughter after she runs away with his Ducats. He cries "My Daughter, O my Ducats, My Daughter" which shows that he loves them both equally until he says he

  1. How just is the outcome of the trial scene for Shylock in the Merchant ...

    than her harshness because she does offer Shylock every chance to show mercy in this scene, which shows that she probably did know a way out for Antonio in this bond. Her continuous offering to Shylock to show mercy is because she feels pitiful for him and by Shylock being

  2. Shakespeare’s three women characters – Portia, Nerissa and Jessica – are portrayed as typical ...

    Nerissa is a typical working class girl but still has some things about her, which aren't normal. For instance her relationship with her mistress is very friendly which wouldn't have been so in most rich households she also marries someone on the condition that his friend marries her mistress when she barely knows him.

  1. The Merchant of Venice is a racist play - Discuss

    This is very nasty and deliberate and just shows she wanted to hurt Shylock. From reading the text we can see that Shylock was keeping Jessica as a prisoner in her own house, by not letting her out and not letting her hear the Christian music around her he says

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

    In Act 1 scene 3, we hear from Shylock how '...many a time and oft In the Rialto you [Antonio] have rated me About my moneys and my usances. Still I have borne it with a patient shrug For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.'

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