From the study of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is shylock presented as a villain or victim? To what extent will this view have changed from that of the original audience?
From the study of 'The Merchant of Venice' is shylock presented as a villain or victim? To what extent will this view have changed from that of the original audience? The play is set in the late 15th century and is mainly about the character of shylock a money lending Jew; he is trying to live a simplistic life as a simplistic character in Venice a country that would have despised and alienated Jewish people. Christians very much believed in their religion/faith and would have disliked any Jewish person. Therefore the original audience would have hated shylock because of his religious beliefs and his job of money lending, as Christians wouldn't have been able to this job, as it would disagree with their belief. Shakespeare captured the way Jews were portrayed in this play well and managed to display it in a certain way, which wouldn't offend, but captured both sympathy and understanding from the audience at the time. Shakespeare play would be looked at in a very different way in a modern performance as the audience wouldn't discriminate towards Jews/ shylock as Christians are taught differently to when the play was originally written and children would have learnt about different religions and cultures and could cope with a Jewish character. Shylock's first appearance in the play is in act 1 scene 3 and his first line is; " Three thousand ducats", this could be taken by
Shylock has been very badly treated by certain Christians and he yearns for revenge. He goes too far when he seeks the life of his main persecutor, but he is essentially, an intelligent, dignified man who can no longer bear to be humiliated. Long before Shylock plotted against him, Antonio seemed to take a pride in spurning Shylock, treating him in public with rudeness and contempt. This type of behaviour appears to contradict with the rest of his character. You would imagine that such a man would instinctively shrink from insulting anybody so grossly, but Antonio seems proud of it and tells Shylock that he will probably abuse him again, 'spit on him again and spurn him, too'. In 'The Merchant of Venice', Shakespeare does not treat Shylock as simply evil for evil's sake. He makes him human. Shylock has good reason to resent Antonio. He says: 'You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine, and all for use of that which is mine own,' When Shylock shows a seeming kindness to Antonio he takes it as a sign that 'The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind'. Kindness in a Jew is beyond Antonio's conception. Christians alienate Shylock simply because he is a Jew. In ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times, Jews almost always encountered prejudice from non-Jews around them. Scholars are divided on whether Shakespeare, in The Merchant of
Shylock- Villain or Victim? During the play, Shakespeare illustrates Shylock's situation in such a way that the audience understands his villainous action towards Antonio is a result of victimisation. He is a victim of anti Semitism, including verbal abuse and even his own daughter insults him by robbing him and running away with a Christian and in the end he is a victim of not showing mercy and so suffers from that mistake. To find what makes up a classic Shakespearean villain one could look to Iago in "Othello". In this play he is seen as the embodiment of evil, that is to say he has no real motivation for his wicked actions and no one could give him any sympathy. On the other hand, Shylock does have a motive for his villainy therefore he is not a villain. Instead Shylock has been directed towards his position because he has been victimised. Shylock has been a victim of racial abuse, "You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gabardine", "(Solanio referring to Shylock) Let me say 'amen' betimes for here he comes in likeness of a Jew", Solanio is anti Semitic, claiming Shylock is the devil. Because he is a Jew his situation in Venice is second-class. This is first seen in Bassanio's hostility towards him. At the beginning of the scene Bassanio's speech is short and prosaic indicating the lack of friendship between them, "Your answer to that", this