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Is Shylock a villain or victim who deserves our sympathy?

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Introduction

Sarah Mahm Kahn 11SK Is Shylock a villain or victim who deserves our sympathy? The Shakespeare play in which the character Shylock is based, is called 'The Merchant of Venice'. Shylock was a Jew, who was a moneylender (usurer). He was portrayed as a villain in the play. He was disliked by Christians because he charged interest and followed Judaism. Therefore Jews did not get on well with Christians and Christians did not get on well with Jews. Shylock's hate for Christians was only caused because of their hate for Jews. He is discriminated against because of his religion. And lending money, then charging interest, is his way of making profit. Antonio, who is a Christian, comes to borrow money from Shylock. He is borrowing money for his dear friend Bassanio and is not keen on asking from Shylock. However, Shylock takes advantage of this situation and keeps reminding Antonio that he is in charge. "Ay, ay, three thousand ducats"- Shylock is seen pondering the amount of the loan. I think it was a normal reaction, to taunt Antonio because Shylock would never have expected him to ask for money, especially from a Jew. ...read more.

Middle

to speak to an officer because he has decided that he wants the heart of Antonio. This would make anyone think that Shylock is a villain but this may be his way of getting back at everyone, his revenge- "I will have the heart of him if he forfeit". Shylock wants to take all his anger out on Antonio. In other words he is almost blaming Antonio for everything bad that has happened to him. But, to take someone's heart out, whilst they are still alive, is a very gruesome act. This puts Shylock in the role of a villain. Shylock is not willing to let Antonio off the bond, although he knows very well that Antonio's ships have sunk. Shylock does not show any sympathy towards Antonio. Shylock and Antonio are summoned into court, after the time to repay back the loan is over. The Duke calls Shylock into court, showing no respect- "Go, one, call the Jew into the court". Shylock is known as 'the Jew'. He is not even summoned by name; this clearly shows the prejudice against Jews at the time. ...read more.

Conclusion

It could be said that he is such a villain that even his daughter and servant were eager to escape him. Or it could be said that he is a victim of prejudice and that he was unjustly treated by Christians at the time. The villain that we see in Shylock is the greedy moneylender. Shylock charges high interest rates and when he is not repaid he insists on revenge. Shakespeare also shows the human qualities of Shylock throughout the play. Shakespeare causes us to feel sympathy for him after the loss of his daughter, when he runs through the streets feeling distressed. Besides the loss of his daughter and his ducats, after the trial Shylock also looses his property and his religion. The loss of his property was very hard on him but it can hardly compare to the loss of his religion. I think this was a very unjust decision and that Shylock did not deserve such treatment. His punishment was so severe partly because he was a Jew. Shakespeare gave Shylock the ability to make us hate him at times, and sympathize with him at others. I think Shylock is portrayed as a victim of prejudice, and society at the time has caused him to act as a villain. ...read more.

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