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GCSE: The Merchant of Venice
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As a result, a cruel trial opens in court; Antonio prepares to lose his life. Shylock, showing the cruel streak in his character, refuses all pleas of money from Antonio and the Duke himself. Here, the mood of the play is dominated by a tense atmosphere of inhumanity and despair. It would appear that the cruelty is towards the piteous merchant, Antonio, but actually, when the trial comes to the final decision, the situation is completely changed and turned back on to Shylock by Portia. She points out all the laws against Shylock, who finally leaves the court a broken man.
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The first scene of the play is important because it introduces Antonio the Christian who looks depressed about an unexplained cause in the play. We see him being comforted by his friends. This tells us about popularity of Antonio amongst his friends. This is very important because already Shakespeare is suggesting that Christians had a bigger social circle than to that of the Jews or that Jews had different social circles but less popular that that of the Christians. The Elizabethans would like this because majority of them were Christians.
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Because the play itself is constantly referring to justice, morality and prejudice, we are constantly reminded and asked to think about the way we as individuals and as a society judge and discriminate. The Elizabethan mentality and the situation of Jews living in England allowed Shakespeare to further analyse and incorporate these themes into his play. Marlowe, another British writer during the 16th century wrote The Jew of Malta, a play full of religious conflict and political intrigue. Like The Merchant of Venice it dealt with anti-semitism and hatred which were themes particularly relevant to the audience in the early 16th century.
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Shakespeare's "The merchant of Venice". How can an audience's sympathies towards the characters in act 4, scene 1 be radically different according to the interpretation of a director?
to teach the people of his time a lesson in prejudice, and therefore showing that Shakespeare's views were way ahead of his time? Or did he intend for a r****t play using women and different religions and cultures as an example of humour? There are many questions the director has to ask himself before he starts this scene, for example how shall he portray Antonio and Shylock to the audience? Which one shall be illustrated as the victim and which one as the villain in the scene?
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Shylock immediately shows a clear disliking to Antonio who appears to be a perfectly good honest gentlemen and he is full of generosity, This is one of Shylocks main reasons for despising Antonio as he also lends money to people except he doesn't charge interest at all, Shylock thinks that Antonio is stealing his customers and causing his profits to drop. Shylock doesn't just hate Antonio for the business side of things he also hates Antonio for their difference in social class, lifestyles and religion "I hate him for he is a Christian" this shows Shylocks religious hatred, Shylock also
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To what extent does Shakespeare intend the audience to sympathize with Shylock in the Merchant of Venice?
The modern audience would be more tolerant, and so therefore would be able to enjoy the play more. A contemporary audience would probably have not cared about Shylock, and the things which have happened to him, as they were very arrogant. In Act 1 Scene 2, Shakespeare has Portia, Shylock's daughter describe her feelings towards a young British Baron named Falconbridge. Through these descriptions, Shakespeare includes subtle criticisms of the Christian audience, when describing him; Portia uses description, which can relate directly to the audience.
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Shakespeare's play, 'The merchant of Venice' - what do we learn about the character of each suitor both from the comments he makes about the caskets and the choice he makes?
The prince tells Portia of how his skin colour has made many courageous people frightened, showing us how he thinks he is quite brave and boasts about it. The prince of Morocco is the first suitor to look at the caskets in the play. He is shown the caskets and after pondering for a while and making some comments about them, he makes his decision. The prince reads the inscriptions on the caskets out aloud and while he does so, he makes a comment about the leaden casket, which immediately gives us clues as to what his character is like:
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These qualities in Jewish people sometimes led them to be mistrusted and disliked. This was the case in Christian countries, where anti-Semitism was very strong. The reason the Christian disliked the Jews is mainly because the Christians believe that the Jewish people are to blame for Jesus' death, and virtually since then they have disliked each other. I will be analysing the bond and will be studying the treatment of Shylock and if the treatment is justified, in this assignment. In the play "the merchant of Venice" the main two characters I am going to mention in my assignment are shylock and Antonio.
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If Shylock were indeed the hero of the play, this would have caused a lot of disruption with the Christian audience. The play is set in Venice because Venice is known as a wealthy and splendid city it is obviously know to be a mans world, with money lenders (eg Shylock) and Merchants (eg Antonio). I believe that Belmont was chosen for the place where Portia lives because of the definite contrast between it and Venice. Belmont is a very effeminate place where there is no money-lending etc.
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Other writers of his time also made use of the manufactured Jewish history, writing plays where the Jew starred as the leading enemy. The Jews were insulted and despised, without even having to make an appearance in the country! History reminded people that they had always been prosecuted, and that their rights had always been restricted. And as the years progressed so, perhaps, the truth continued to stretch. Jews, with their different rituals and even language, were forced to lead a difficult life when finally allowed into England.
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Bassanio also has a plan of how to make himself very wealthy. This is why he asks Antonio for a lot of money to portray a false identity of making himself appear incredibly wealthy to impress a lady called Portia so he can marry her and inherit her fortune. Antonio again being a much loving and generous friend agrees to lend him the money for his scheme. Antonio's money is tied up in 3 ships so he decided to ask Shylock the Jew for a loan.
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'In his play 'The Merchant of Venice', Shakespeare's character Shylock is traditionally portrayed as an evil monster. More modern interpretations show him as more of a victim. Explore both of these interpretations and say which you find more acceptable.'
For example Shakespeare uses anti-Semitism to show that Shylock is meant to be portrayed as an isolated character. At the time when the Merchant of Venice was written England was a Christian country, all children would be baptised soon after they were born and were taught the basics of Christianity at a very early age. Also at this time Christians hated Jews because of the profession of lending money and charging interests, 'Usury', which was not normal Christian practice. Jews were isolated in England for being sinful to a great extent because Christians by religion were unable to lend money, because it was seen as immoral.
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While all of this is going on, Shylock's daughter Jessica runs away with Lorenzo, a young Christian, and Bassanio goes to Belmont and wins Portia for his wife. Antonio is taken to trial by Shylock, after news that his boating ventures have failed. Portia and her maid, Nerissa swap rings with their husbands - Bassanio and his friend Gratiano respectively - and vow never to part with the rings. Bassanio and Gratiano rush to Venice to try to argue for Antonio's bond to be dismissed by law and Portia and Nerissa dress up as men to act as Antonio's defence lawyer and clerk.
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Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - Point out the qualities in the character of shylock and ways in which he is treated in the play, which arouse your sympathy for him.
Antonio is saying here that by borrowing money form Shylock he is not becoming his friend. That, in the future he will surely spit on Shylock again and scorn at him. We begin to feel a slightly sympathetic for Shylock in this scene as we hear of Antonio's cruelty towards him: You call me a misbeliever, cut-throat dog And spit upon my Jewish gabardine. We see how Shylock is unfairly treated purely on the account that he is Jewish and this is what makes us feel sorry for the moneylender; he is being treated badly in a r****t manner.
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In the production I saw (Channel four- The Merchant of Venice), the way Shylock was positioned suggested he was the dominant one and very happy about the situation and also seemed pleasured by Antonio and Bassanio's obvious feeling of discomfort. Shylock quickly explains why his attitude is so smug, it's because he hates Antonio (who is usually in control) who now needs his help. Shylock goes on to say why he hates Antonio, "I hate him for he is Christian", and because "he lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice", (Antonio lends out money free where Shylock makes his living off interest).
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The attitudes of the people of Venice over time will make Shylock become resentful towards Christians. Paragraph 2 In act 4 scene 1 lines 16-34 the feelings that the Duke shows towards Antonio is that in line 23 Duke says 'this poor merchants flesh thou wilt not only lose the forfeiture but, touch'd with human gentleness and love' where Duke is trying to make Antonio look innocent and make everyone feel sorry for him, moreover the Duke says 'the poor merchant' which tells that Duke has sympathy for Antonio.
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Act one scene two, At Belmont, Portia and Nerissa discuss the importance of Portia finding a suitable honest suitor. Just as her father wanted for her before he died. The 'right' suitor must be the one who is honest, loyal, and not money grabbing. This will be determined by a test of these qualities. Portia's various suitors must choose between three chests, one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead, and select the one that contains her portrait. The man who guesses correctly will win Portia's hand in marriage, but those who guess incorrectly must swear never to marry anyone. Nerissa lists the suitors who have come to guess, and mocks them in a conversation with Nerissa.
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Another friendship is the one between Solanio and Solerio, they are very useful characters, because they are gossips and so can keep us informed on what is happening. Generally there is a quite tight knit community within the Christians, and they have a rivalry with the Jewish community who are also quite close to each other. Two specific friends within the Jewish community are: Tubal and Shylock - Tubal comforts and tells the truth to Shylock when everyone else is laughing at him, or spreading rumours about him.
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Shylock says aside, "How like a fawning publican he looks. I hate him for he is a Christian." He also says, "If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him." By this he means if Shylock can get a hold over Antonio, it can get him at a disadvantage. When he mentions the ancient grudge, he is talking about the traditional hostility between Jews and Christians apparently originating in the accusation that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus Christ.
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We must not forget that Christians were forbidden from usury (lending money on interest) and Jews filled this economic vacuum. Jews played a necessary role in society and there were also laws forbidding Jews from taking many other professions. Many Christians resented the fact that Jews were allowed to make money from lending money. The Bible Scriptures also played a role in the amount of anti Semitism in Shakespeare's' era when the Bible was taken a lot more literally than nowadays. So John's Gospel 19:38 "For fear of the Jews" would have been taken very seriously.
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This makes the audience doubt that Bassanio's love for Portia is genuine, but perhaps it is because she is rich that he is fond of her. It is in Bassanios first reference to Portia that the theme of the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonoughts is introduced; ' And her sunny locks Hang on her temples like a golden fleece'. This theme runs throughout the play, and it shows that Bassanio does value Portia very highly, and that he is willing to do anything for her.
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Because of Shylocks retribution he deserved everything he got, to take Antonio's flesh would be a very inhumane thing to do. And the readers or even characters would have thought just about he same. This is which makes it more the reason to hate him, and for Bassanio to avenge his death. When Shylock said in the court case said, "If every ducat out of that 6000 were multiplied by six, I would not take them. I would rather have my bond."
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Explore the portrayal of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice.” How far is he a heartless villain of cruel society? You should comment on the social/historical background, the language and the structure of the play.
When his daughter ran away with a Christian it made him intensively mad. But what was more shocking to him was that she took lots of his money and his wife's precious turquoise. The turquoise is a valuable ring that he cared about a lot. When Shylock found out that his daughter had ran away he had very mixed feelings. This was because at the same time he found out another one of his archenemy's (Antonio.) ships had gone down. But then he said, "I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewel in her ear".
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Portia is referring to her choice of a suitor. Her husband, because of her deceased father's will, must be chosen by a 'lottery.' The term, lottery, is a good way of describing it. Some would argue that the prize of the beautiful and wealthy Portia is equal to the prize of today's lotteries. There are three caskets: one of gold, one of silver and one of lead. Each suitor must take his turn to select the correct casket. If he chooses correctly, he wins Portia's hand. If he selects wrongly, then he must never marry.
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Using at least two of the critical readings provided discuss the views of Shakespeare’s characterisation of Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’.
Hazlitt sees Shylock as a symbolic figure for Jews, a man who has been mistreated by Christians and is merely searching for justice. He sees him very much as a tragic character. Palmer disagrees with this, he sees Shylock as a comical figure who has been created purely for humour and is humanised only to make his character more realistic. I disagree with both Palmer and Hazlitt, I do not see Shylock as a tragic character or a comic figure.
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