Do you think Shylock was treated fairly by the Christians?Was his behaviour justified?

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Do you think Shylock was treated fairly by the Christians?

Was his behaviour justified?

By Jack Chandler

Two thousand years ago Jews were known as Hebrews or Israelites and lived in Israel. At the time their land was occupied by Romans who tried to crush the Jewish faith and culture. Due to this, Jewish people fled Israel to make new lives and Jewish communities in other countries. In these communities Jews were known for their intelligence and business sense which led to them being mistrusted and resented. This was especially the case in Christian terms; where anti-Semitic feelings were very strong. This is shown in a Merchant of Venice by Shylock who constantly suffers verbal abuse and gives a vivid account of Antonio's racist bullying. Shylock is also shown in the play to be a villain and could be seen as a miserly money lender who delights in the prospect of cutting a pound of flesh from the noble merchant who has exposed his corrupt ways and also as a father who cares more for his money than his daughter. In this essay I am going to show how Shylock was treated by the Christians and whether his reactions were justified.

In Act 1, Scene 3 Shakespeare clearly shows the audience how Bassanio and Antonio are abusive towards Shylock. Antonio is abusive to Shylock in front of others and refers to him as 'an evil soul' and 'the devil' when asking for the loan. Shylock reacts to this by keeping Antonio and Bassanio waiting for an answer and seems to ignore their insults. 'Three thousand ducats is a good round sum'. Shylock also says how he and other Jews have been mistreated in the past. 'For sufferance is the badge of our tribe. You call me misbeliever, cut throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gaberdine'. Shylock is sarcastic about lending money to Antonio as he has been abused by him and is now needed to help Antonio. 'Hath a dog money? If it is possible a cur can lend three thousand ducats'. Bassanio doesn't trust Shylock and shows this by saying 'I like not fair terms and a villain's mind. In this scene Christians are seen to be very judgemental of Jews and anti-semitic by treating Shylock badly by abusing him which is perhaps used to get sympathy for Shylock from the audience. Shylock is always polite to Antonio and Bassanio in this scene but is quite sarcastic throughout the scene which is a bit disrespectful.

In Act 2, Scene 2-3 the audience see a totally different picture of Shylock from what they have seen so far in the play and the audience sees how he is very nasty. In scene 2 the evidence is shown how Lancelot is mistreated by Shylock and even starved. 'I am famished in his service; you may tell every finger I have with my ribs. Lancelot says how he wants to run away as he is so badly treated. 'Use your legs; take the start, run away'. As Lancelot knows how mean Shylock is, he has absolutely no respect for him and never refers to Shylock by his name and calls him 'The Jew'. 'My master' and 'the very devil incarnation'. Lancelot's account of Shylock shows how evil he is as he badly mistreats Lancelot. In Scene 3 Jessica shows her views of her father Shylock. Like Lancelot, Jessica has no respect for Shylock and is willing to disrespect him by becoming a Christian. 'I shall end this strife; become a Christian and thy loving wife'. She dislikes him as Shylock treats her strictly and restricts her and she shows this by saying. 'I would not see my father walk in with thee'. Jessica doesn't want to be anything like her cruel and heartless father and tries to act as differently to Shylock as possible. 'But though I am a daughter to his blood I am not to his
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manners'. Although she has such disregard for him, she is still a dutiful daughter and she feels guilt at being ashamed that Shylock is her father, as she says, 'A lack, what heinous sin is it in me to be ashamed to be my father's child'. Act 2 shows Shylock's true colours and the nasty man he really is.

In Act 2, Scene 3 the audience is shown how Shylock is treated abusively by some local boys, when Solario and Salerio give an account of what happened in the streets. They say how it starts ...

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