Does Shylock deserve the treatment he receives at the end of The Merchant of Venice?

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Does Shylock deserve the treatment he receives in the play? Where do your sympathies lie?

In this essay I am going to be writing about the way that my sympathies towards the character Shylock change over time. During the early parts of the play I feel as if Shylock is being bullied due to his religion, and therefore feel very sympathetic towards him. However, there are sections in the play where I feel a complete lack of compassion towards Shylock, as his actions are arrogant and unforgiving. At the end of the play I am left with mixed feelings over Shylock, as he is punished severely and, arguably, unfairly.

Throughout the play Shylock is the subject of much torment and abuse at the hands of the Christians. One of the many occasions we see this poor treatment is when Shylock reminds Antonio of his previous actions.

“You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,

And spit upon my Jewish gabardine,”

(Act 1, Scene 3, Line 108-109)

From this we can see that Antonio bullies Shylock both physically and verbally, and also shows a hatred for Shylock’s religion. A “gabardine” is a cloak worn by a Jew to display their faith, and to spit on it is displaying a real contempt for both the religion and Shylock himself.

Another section of the play where the characters show a real derision towards Shylock is in Act 2, Scene 8, while he is not even present. This takes place when Salerio and Solanio are discussing the elopement of Jessica and Lorenzo.

“I never heard a passion so confused,

So strange, outrageous, and so variable,

As the dog Jew did utter in the streets:

‘My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!’ ”

(Act 2, Scene 8, Lines 12-15)

Not only does Solanio insult Shylock by calling him “dog Jew”, but they also mock his reaction to finding out about the loss of his daughter and money. They are almost laughing at the fact he can’t decide which one is more important to him: his daughter or his money. These two things coupled together are insults to Shylock, even if he can’t hear them.

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The final example of Shylock receiving abuse from the Christians is found in the court scene, where Gratiano hurls insults at him.

“O, be thou damned, inexorable dog!

And for thy life let justice be accused;”

(Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 128-129)

This is a very harsh insult as Gratiano calls Shylock a “dog” and says that it is an injustice that he was ever born. This shows that Gratiano hates Shylock passionately and would be much happier were he never born.

Antonio and Shylock clearly feel a string loathing for each other. Antonio’s dislike ...

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