• 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: Victim or Villian?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Shylock: Victim or Villain? Since the thirteenth century, Jews who practised their own religion were banned from England and only readmitted by Oliver Cromwell in the seventeenth century. During Shakespeare's time, which was the sixteenth century, Elizabethans had barely any knowledge about Jews. This fear of the unknown eventually led to the disappointing prejudice and antisemitism in England. Traditionally, Jews have been blamed for Jesus' crucifixion which as become the justification for the hatred of the Jews, The Killing of the son of God. With this much knowledge about the Jewish race Elizabethans were prepared to believe anything, already having created myths and tales for themselves. "The Merchant of Venice" opens with Antonio, a successful Christian merchant, a loyal and generous friend agreeing to lend his money to the irresponsible Bassanio. Antonio is mainly portrayed as a loyal friend to highlight his goodness and willingness to go through drastic measures to help out a friend, Antonio says to Bassanio, "My purse, my person, my extremest means lie all unlocked to you occasion." These two characters are shown to have a history which is very important to the storyline as it give Bassanio's plan some support to which the play revolves around. In addition, Bassanio's plan is further supported by the grand and poetic language used to describe Portia. ...read more.

Middle

A modern audience would have enjoyed a mystery, doubting Shylock's vice would have intrigued them. At points like this, it is understandable to see Shylock as a victim rather than a villain. To have lost valuables like his jewels and daughter and left whimpering in the street might make us think of how Shylock is just a victim of prejudice. This would remind us of how the good character, Antonio mistreated him (spat on him and called him dog) which would make us question where each character stands. Though we might find this to be a powerful message about racial discrimination, Shakespeare's audience would simply find this scene entertaining. For further effect, this scene is followed by Shylock's famous speech about racial equality. Again, in this scene, we would doubt weather Shylock's actions are results of his pain or anger. To an Elizabethan audience, this scene would be shocking. Shakespeare might have used this scene to awaken the audience and prepare them of what is coming. On the other hand, as a modern audience, we might be convinced of Shylock's message and again view him as a mere victim as he gives us more reason to understand his scheming which might make us feel close to him despite his greediness and other immoralities. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is seen to be dumbfounded, knowing that now he has truly lost everything; is daughter, fortune, respect and rights to believe, "Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that." To some literates Shylock is portrayed as a victim of a prejudice society, being stripped of his rights and belongings and basically reduced to nothing, however to many, Shylock, after many warnings, received what he deserved, like all happy endings, the villain is punished and put under the mercy of his own victim, in this case Antonio. Despite Antonio's mistreatment towards Shylock at the start of the play, he is seen to be the victim because of the agony Shylock puts him through. An Elizabethan audience might relate this play to the story of the crucifixion where, Jesus, the victim allows himself to be crucified by the Jews as a sacrifice to humanity, after all, " In the course of justice, none of us should see salvation." But because of God's grace and mercy, Shylock has been awarded salvation by renouncing his faith and embracing Christianity. Having justice and mercy being represented by Shylock and Portia (respectively) shows that you cannot be just without being merciful, nor merciful without being just as "Mercy seasons justice", and to try to do so otherwise, to ignore God's example, there would be a price to pay. ?? ?? ?? ?? Fatima Salman The British School of Bahrain 90306 Shakespeare Coursework ...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. What is your assessment of the presentation of the character and role of Shylock ...

    A major point here is the supposed "merry sport" of Shylock's bond, as it can be seen as a deliberate attempt on Antonio's life. When Shylock admits he would relish a chance to "catch him once upon the hip", this thought of vengeance is what leads me to believe that

  2. The Merchant of Venice: Is Shylock a villain or a victim who deserves our ...

    He seems to be a good person when discussing the loan with Bassanio, showing a peaceful kind of man in him, and complimenting Antonio, although his compliment was a sarcastic one, Bassanio might not have got this. Shylock explains that his interpretation of a good man in Antonio was that

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

    He is meaning to pay Shylock a compliment this way, but ultimately this shows how prejudice plays a very important role in this play. This theme of prejudice is completely relevant to Shylock, but is extremely predominant through the play.

  2. The Merchant of Venice Coursework Essay - Shylock; Victim or Villain

    It seems to me that Shylock leaving the house of an evening is a rare occurrence. "Hear you me Jessica, lock up my doors." Shylock's obsession over every single detail shows his protectiveness of both his money and his daughter.

  1. The Character of Shylock in a Merchant of Venice.

    Shylock says 'My daughter! O my ducats!' which puts both his daughter and his money on the same level of importance. Shylock, from this evidence, shows that he is greedy and more worried about his money. He also shows that he wants revenge on his daughter through the law, which

  2. Free essay

    Belmont is a place of youth, happiness and concord, Venice a place of age, ...

    Portia is worried because her future lies in the caskets left by her deceased father. As the audience become aware of the plot, it also becomes apparent that aspects of Venice are already sneaking into Belmont. This is shown through the caskets; her father set up a kind of lottery

  1. Shylock: villian or victim

    This open display of greed and hatred makes Shylock even more an unsympathetic character. Furthermore, Shylocks hatred for Antonio can build up the dislike of himself to Christians, as they see Antonio as a fellow being. Shylock is portrayed as narrow- minded, a characteristic associated with archetypical villains.

  2. Do you consider Shylock is being portrayed as the victim or the villain in ...

    The fact that he says this in an aside shows that Shylock is cowardly as he is unable to speak to Antonio's face but instead chooses to tell the audience his feelings without actually speaking to Antonio so as to avoid having to confront his bigotry.

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