• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Using at least two of the critical readings provided discuss the views of Shakespeare’s characterisation of Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

Extracts from this document...


Using at least two of the critical readings provided discuss the views of Shakespeare's characterisation of Shylock in 'The Merchant of Venice'. To what extent do you agree with the critics? 'The Merchant of Venice is set in the late 15th century. In this period England was a Christian country, all the children were baptised soon after they were born, and were taught the essentials of Christian faith from a early age. Because of the age which 'The Merchant of Venice' was written, part of what we need to understand when we look at the treatment of Shylock is the anti-Semitism that existed in Shakespeare's England. Shakespeare's age based their anti-Semitism on religious grounds. The Elizabethans inherited the fiction, fabricated by the early church, that the Jews murdered Christ and were therefore in league with the devil. And so immediately we see a view against Jews, taken probably by most of those who lived in Shakespeare's age. We can see that perhaps Shylock would have been immediately portrayed with hatred because of the way that society viewed Jews at the time. The critics John Palmer and William Hazlitt, both consider the conflict between Jew and Christian when approaching the characterisation of Shylock but in very different ways. ...read more.


Shakespeare deliberately sets Shylock apart to emphasise his villainous characteristics. "But I will not eat with you...nor will I pray with you..." (Act 1 scene 3 lines 32 and 33). Here he clearly separates himself and rejects any ideas of socialising with his fellow man. I do not believe as Hazlitt says that Shylock has anything to do with 'justice' on his mind. After we find out in Act 1 scene 3 that Christians have mistreated Shylock you do not see any sign in Shylock that reflects a character who wants to be accepted. He goes on to express so much hatred and anger suggesting that he is not willing to forgive or change. It seems that his bad experiences with Christians have done nothing but surface a hatred, which was already there. "...The ancient grudge I bear him" (Act 1 scene 3 line 42) So what Shylock wants, above all, is revenge! Here we see Shylock speak of what his revenge will be, justifying it with the fact that he has been called a 'dog' and he has been 'spat upon'. He speaks later of this grudge as a fuel for his revenge, he says that it is a fight for his 'sacred nation.' ...read more.


He even compares himself to people in the bible! Hazlitt would not agree with me, as he thinks that the Christians are hypocrites. "...Rankest hypocrisy..." But I think we see this hypocrisy in Shylock more than once, in the trial scene he uses religious imagery in his arguments. "...By your holy Sabbath have I sworn" (Act 4 scene 1 line36) Shylock swore on a holy day that he would kill Antonio, murder does not reflect the person who values their religion. Palmer rightly says the trial scene is the climax of the whole play, it has built right up to this point when the inevitable for Shylock will happen. They both have very different views on Shylock's characterisation. I view Shakespeare's characterisation of Shylock to have real dramatic purpose in the play but I do not believe that he is wanting us to think that all the comedy in the play lies upon Shylock's character. Neither does he want us to see Shylock as tragic character that we should feel sympathy for. I believe that Shakespeare would not want us to see the comedy or tragedy of the play to lie in Shylock, but he wants us to see him as the villain of the play. He does not seem proved to be otherwise, and fits such a role perfectly. ...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. Marked by a teacher

    From the study of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is shylock presented as a villain ...

    5 star(s)

    Also in this scene shylocks asks rhetorical questions; "Hath a dog's money?" this is directed towards Bassanio and is not meant for an answer as it is to put him on the spot and make him feel guilty, he is referring to previous moments when he has been discriminated against by Bassanio and his Christian friends.

  2. The Merchant of Venice - Critical Evaluation.

    in Venice. Portia also pretends to be doctor Balthasar and dresses as a man before entering Venice. Lorenzo and Jessica do finally slip away and go on a spending spree all over Italy before finally winding up in Belmont. The multiple marriages in the play seemed important because they signified

  1. Act 4 Scene 1 is the dramatic climax to the play. Analyse how Shakespeare ...

    find any legal way to realise him from the bond so he tries to persuade Shylock to change his mind by appealing to his better nature. Shylock replied that he has already sworn by his Sabbath that he would have his pound of flesh from Antonio.

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

    Upon hearing that they have not found his daughter, Shylock has a whine, complaining about how he is the only one to have suffered, although this is completely untrue, and a very selfish thing to say. He also says, distastefully; "I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear!

  1. Is Shylock More Sinned Against Than Sinning? Discuss...

    Salerio then asks if Shylock has heard about Antonio's ship that supposedly sunk. He talks of Antonio now being a bankrupt beggar. Shylock now wants revenge on Antonio, he wants the pound of flesh as written in the bond. 'He was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy, let him look to his bond', Line 45-46.

  2. Is the treatment of shylock justified in

    One pound of Antonio's flesh would virtually kill Antonio. However Antonio was confident about his ships arriving back in time, on the other hand Shylock doubted the ships arriving there was a 50% chance the ships would return and then again there was also 50% that the ships would come back but there was guaranteeing on any side.

  1. The merchant of venice, Modern audiences probably find it difficult to accept Shylock as ...

    When Shylock continues to stand up for his rights and lecture Antonio on how he has mistreated him and called him "misbeliever" and "cut-throat dog," - in Act 1 Scene 3- an audience, hundreds of years ago, would have been confronted by the impact of their cruel words, but it

  2. Shylock Critical Essay

    " I mean, pirates; and then there is the peril of waters, winds and rocks." I think this is why he eventually decides to loan Antonio the money he thinks that something might happen to his ships and then Antonio will not be able to pay him back.

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