• 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: Shylock and Jews

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

The Merchant of Venice The character Shylock was a stereotypical Jew of his time, and as Jews were generally unpopular, the audience would have been automatically prejudiced against him. In Shakespeare's time, Jews were not treated well at all. This was because they were a minority group, as they had been previously banned from the country by Edward I unless they were willing to become a Christian. But, in large European cities, like Venice there was a large Jewish population. As these cities relied on trade, the authorities encouraged Jews to become moneylenders. This was because the Christian law, which forbade money lending for profit, did not apply to them. Moneylenders were not popular, because up until 1571 it had been illegal to receive interest on lent money, and even after that, although legal (it became vital for trade), it was considered a sin. Many moneylenders charged high rates of interest, even though the legal rate was 10 percent, as people were willing to pay more, and some became very rich. Before Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice, his friend, the playwright Marlowe wrote a play about a Jew, which became very successful. This may have influenced Shakespeare to write a play on a similar theme. ...read more.

Middle

When Portia asks Shylock to have mercy on Antonio, she speaks of mercy as being a holy thing; "It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven," . When Shylock refuses to have mercy, the audience portray Portia as being very wise, but Shylock as being even more evil. In the speech, Portia speaks about mercy being a wonderful thing; "It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes; 'T is mightiest in the mightiest;" But, once she has denied Shylock his bond, she then takes away half of everything he owns and gives the other half to Lorenzo, the man Jessica married, when Shylock dies, and Portia also makes him become a Christian. Before Shylock loses everything, she builds up his excitement, which increases his disappointment and at first may make the audience feel relieved because Antonio is alive, but later, sorry for Shylock. Because Shylock hates Antonio so much, and is so eager to have his bond, it would be unlikely for him to have mercy on him, so when Shylock refuses Portia's plea for mercy Shakespeare is making him look even more cold hearted, just before he loses everything. In Shakespeare's time, Jews and other minority groups were unable to voice their opinions. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Director is also able to change the way the actors speak, or the emotions they feel. In the most recent production we saw, set in the 1920's, even the Duke became very emotional, as Shylock insisted on his bond. In both of the productions we watched, when Shylock entered he was wearing different clothes to the rest of the characters, he also had an accent. This singles him out and shows he is an outsider. At the beginning of the court scene, when the Duke is talking to Shylock, he says: "We all expect a tender answer Jew." In the production set in the 1920's, the Duke puts huge emphasis on the word 'Jew', showing he dislikes Shylock, although he was asking him to be generous and let Antonio go. At the end of the court scene, after Shylock has been forced to become a Christian, he throws down his skullcap onto the scales. Even though the scales were originally there to weigh Antonio's flesh, they now represent the scales of justice, and Shylock is making a very powerful point that what has been done to him is completely unfair. This happens just after Shakespeare has changed the audience's opinion of Shylock, and adds to the pity that they feel for him. ...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. Feelings and opinions concerning different characters from the play 'The Merchant of Venice'.

    Jessica complements Portia's trust with her generous and thoughtful character sketch of Portia in Scene V. "For having such a blessing in his lady" is just one of the compliments Jessica gives Portia. Act V is not just about lovers but about love itself.

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

    would not be able to take a pound of flesh from Antonio without taking any of his blood. "[Portia]Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh; But, in cutting it, if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods Are, by the laws of

  1. As we watch and read The Merchant of Venice, our feelings and opinions change. ...

    Shakespeare includes an extended metaphor of "kings", where "crown" and "sceptre is mentioned. This directly relates to God as the Elizabethans believed that God appointed Monarchy so that the land and people could be governed well, which meant that monarchy was thought to be powerful.

  2. Antonio is the merchant of Venice, he’s waiting for his boats to arrive home, ...

    Shows the difference between appearance and reality. Which suggests that in the end 'truth will prevail' or, the plot will be revealed. This shows another sign of friendship between Bassanio and Gratiano, when Bassanio asks Gratiano to travel with him to Belmont, "Gratiano: I have a suit to you.

  1. What are the main contrasts and comparisons between Christians and Jews in the Merchant ...

    They both over come their differences to make a deal with each other were Shylock over looked the matter of interest and Antonio asked Shylock to join him for dinner, a polite gesture which was taken badly because of the cultural differences between Jews and Christians.

  2. The Merchant of Venice: Who shows more prejudice, the Christians or the Jews?

    In Shakesperian times you would applaud Antonio for treating the Jew badly, but a modern audience would feel uncomfortable watching this scene. When the Prince of Morocco comes to Belmont to win Portia's hand in marriage he makes a strong spech about how she mustn't show prejudice towards him because he is black.

  1. Imagine you are the theatrical director of a production of

    Speeches like, "Three thousand ducats for three months, and Antonio bound" Should be said in a mocking tone, showing that Shylock is enjoying being in control for once, where people who think themselves better than him need his help. The speech starting, "yes, to smell pork, to eat of the habitation which your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into."

  2. Women Struggling To Escape As A Theme In Cousin Kate , A Willing Mistress ...

    So converting to Christianity from Judaism would be seen as transgressing in the Jewish community, and especially in Shylock?s eyes. But Jessica is prepared to commit the sin, in order to escape being a Jew - we can see this in the two lines that end in the rhyming words

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