‘How does Shakespeare present Shylock to the audience as both a stereotype and a complex character?’
The merchant of Venice is about a Christian merchant called Antonio; he is well respected and highly thought of. His friend Bassanio needs some ducats and Antonio being the caring friend that he is, lends money from Shylock, a Jewish usurer. Antonio makes it clear to Bassanio that if he can’t afford to pay him back, then he doesn’t have to.
Shylock has had abuse from Antonio and the other Christians, just because he was a Jewish usurer. Shylock is abused throughout the play for example he was spat on and called names, both examples of physical and verbal abuse. So, when Antonio is in need of money he goes to Shylock, we would’ve thought Shylock would be reluctant to help Antonio, but Shylock has an ulterior motive. He knew that Antonio had ships at sea and that if those ships sunk, Antonio would have no matter to pay back the loan. Shylock decides that if Antonio doesn’t pay back the 3,000 ducats that he lends him in three months, and then he is entitled to one pound for Antonio’s flesh. This will obviously kill Antonio. Antonio hates having to lend this money, but he is desperate to help his friend and Shylock knows that he is in a strong position. An audience of the time would at this point perceive Shylock as a callous Jew. However, an audience of today would understand Shylock’s reason for vengeance.
Shylock’s Jewish daughter Jessica, runs away from her father to marry Lorenzo, a friend of Bassanio. She steals some of her father’s wealth consisting of ducats and jewels, which will obviously irritate Shylock because he will have thought he could trust his daughter. It will infuriate him more because she has run off with a Christian aswell, the ultimate insult to Shylock because even his daughter wants to be rid of him for good.
Before Jessica and Lorenzo actually escape, Bassanio invites Shylock for supper to divert him from seeing Jessica and Lorenzo run away together. Jessica cannot think much of her father to steal and run away behind his back. Her attitude for this could include the idea that with the lack of a mother, maybe her dad is harsh on her. She may be running away because he is uncontrollable.
When the three months are up for Antonio to pay back his debt, Shylock takes him to court so he can fulfil his desire for revenge, once and for all. His dreams are shattered because the courtroom full of Christians see Shylock as an unmerciful Jewish villain, and this is their opinion of all Jews. Portia, dressed as a male lawyer finds a loophole in the bond which states that if Antonio bleeds or more or less of a pound of flesh is taken from Antonio, then Shylock’s own life could be at risk. In the end, Shylock comes to the decision that he doesn’t want to risk his own life for some Christian. However, Antonio is entitled to half Shylock’s wealth, but Shylock can keep his wealth on the condition he converts to Christianity and that when he dies he has to leave all his wealth to Jessica, who betrayed him and misused his trust and Lorenzo. Shylock’s religion is one of the most important things to him and asking him to convert is the ultimate insult. Shylock agrees to convert.
I think that all the acts demonstrate negative feelings and attitudes towards Christianity and Judaism. This is because the history of Jews living in a Christian community dates back many years ago. The usurer was always seen as the sinner in Medieval England, so it is obvious how Shylock must have felt. The Christian Church at the time was also openly abusive towards Jews calling them moneymaking greedy criminals. A lot of people in Venice would have benefited from usurers when they were in need of money, however not many accepted the interest they would have to pay back along with the original sum. Still, Shylock gained success in his job and made profits.
Shylock shows that his relationship with Christians is no more than business, Shylock says “I will buy with you, sell with you, talk to you, walk with you, and so following; but will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.” This shows that Shylock was willing to offer his profit making services to the Christians but he wasn’t prepared to socialise with them. Shylock instead of charging interest to Antonio for borrowing 3,000 ducats, requires Antonio to put his life on the line for the sake of his friend. Shylock wants one pound of Antonio’s flesh if he isn’t paid his 3,000 ducats within three months of lending Antonio it.
“Let the forfeit be nominated for an equal pound of your fair fresh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me.” Obviously, the one-pound of flesh would ultimately kill Antonio and therefore Shylock would get his revenge on the Christians for always treating him disrespectfully. Shylock wants to have power and this is one way of trying to succeed in gaining it.
Shylock wanted Antonio to suffer a horrible death and as Shylock knew Antonio’s ships had very little chance of returning, he seized the opportunity. Shylock agreed to have one pound of Antonio’s flesh if he couldn’t pay back the loan, as this way he thought he couldn’t be prosecuted by the law of Venice. Both men agreed to the bond. Shylock says “But ships are but boards, sailors but men; there be land rats, and water rats, water thieves and land thieves – I mean pirates.” Shylock is stating that all pirates are thieves on land and water, but Christians are horrible to Jews just because that is all they know.
Jews couldn’t own land and the only job they were prohibited to do was usuring. Throughout the scenes Shylock always appears betrayed, deserted, punished, isolated and humiliated by the Christian society because of his Jewish heritage. His faith and his way of living is the Christians only true justification the Christians have for the treatment they give him.
Shylock’s first appearance is in Act 1 Scene 3; this is where Bassanio is talking to Shylock about Antonio taking the loan on his behalf. This scene may contain the only indicator of Shylock’s true, awkward behaviour and his way of agreeing [i.e. an agreeable cunning businessman]. The arrival of Antonio and his good credit ratings shatters this. Shylock hates Antonio for not only being a Christian but because he doesn’t charge any interest to Bassanio and if this was spread around Shylock wouldn’t get much, if any, business. As Shylock says “I hate him for he is a Christian; but more for his low simplicity he lends out money gratis, and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice.” Even now, you can quite simply see Shylock’s hatred, initially on the principle of religion, and also his business, which besides Shylock’s religion is the most important thing.
When Antonio lowers the usance Shylock is threatened. Antonio therefore treats Shylock with some envy and Shylock’s secret desire for revenge. Shylock’s hatred is justified in my opinion; as if Shylock wasn’t treated like this then no one would have any reason to treat him the way they do. Shylock was driven by the dominant Christian society to wanting the ultimate revenge; he wanted to kill a Christian. Shylock felt he had a justified reason for wanting revenge, however he would be seen as a villain by society at the time because they already thought Jews were callous villains, and if Shylock went through with killing Antonio, he would just live up to the name that Christians had already categorized Jews.
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If a conclusion were needed about how Shylock acts towards other Jews, we would need to look at a scene with Shylock and other Jews. Shylock’s lack of a wife poses a lot of questions, such as: did she runaway from him like his daughter? Or did she die? Also, because of Shylock’s lack of a wife, are Jessica and Shylock quite close? However, his attitude around Jessica is tainted with this important family tie. But can his treatment to her really be justified by his mourning. Its not as if Shylock is portrayed as a super father figure, we can only assume this from the scene with Jessica and the later scene of her stealing from her father. The first scene may not be so reliable because Shylock is worried about his business, therefore is ill attentive. Shylock says, “I’ll go in hate to feed upon the prodigal Christian” obviously referring to Antonio. Shylock saying this in the presence of his daughter would suggest he would occasionally share his worries about work with her, even though we cannot be certain, as this is the only scene we look at with them together. This is a snapshot of their relationship, and to an audience of today the way Shylock treats his daughter wouldn’t seem fair when concerning the Masque Ball. He doesn’t want her to mix with the Christians. It also shows that he wants her to have no fun in her leisure time. Therefore the audience as this point would feel that Shylock didn’t want his daughter to have any fun. She is young and should be enjoying herself, the audience will feel that Shylock doesn’t want her to have a youth, which shows he is being quite selfish, as that decision is totally up to her. The audience should furthermore notice that he has no right to do that because depriving a child of childhood isn’t right. If she doesn’t have a childhood then she may end up just like her father, but Jessica has no intention of staying with her father, and the audience would sympathise with her reasons for doing so.
Bassanio invites Shylock to supper the evening Jessica and Lorenzo run away together. Bassanio has invited Shylock to supper, for one reason; and that is as a diversion so Jessica and Lorenzo can escape without Shylock noticing. The only reason Shylock agrees to actually go to supper is because of his hatred of Antonio and Christians. “I’ll go in hate to feed upon the prodigal Christian.” He may well be going just to show that despite their abuse, he hasn’t been defeated and he might also be trying to show the Christians that regardless of their cruelty, he is still willing to make friends, even though it is against all their beliefs to do so.
Bassanio agreed to help Jessica and Lorenzo and an audience of the time and an audience of today would see this as a caring act. But both audiences would also see it as cunning because it would mislead Shylock in believing he was going round for supper when it was also a divisionary tactic.
Shylock likes to work and throughout the play we don’t see him do anything leisurely, i.e. go for a walk, etc. He doesn’t allow ‘Foppery’ in his house, which means that he doesn’t allow fun in his house, i.e. music and dancing. This is made apparent in Act 2 Scene 5, that he doesn’t like it and doesn’t want his daughter to be subjected to it either. This shows that Shylock wants to protect his daughter from the abuse she would receive or he just doesn’t want her to enjoy herself because he still isn’t over Leah. Shylock therefore doesn’t want Jessica to move on, before he decides he thinks she is ready. The fact that Shylock was wary of Salerio and Salanio [the masquers] shows that Shylock underneath his strict business mind he knows his daughter would want to attend what he thinks is a bad thing, because it is a form of foppery.
When we learn Jessica has ran away, we begin to think of her as dishonest. Jessica says, “I have a father, you a daughter lost” This suggests she is sick of him and that she doesn’t want to see him, ever again and that is why she feels she has to disown herself from her father. She wants to be spontaneous and have fun, and her father forbids her from doing so and this is why she decides she has to abandon her father. Why should she stay with her father and be miserable? On the other hand, Shylock feels he puts his daughter’s good interest in mind but he does refuse to listen to Jessica. Maybe if Shylock listened more to his obviously unhappy daughter she wouldn’t have decided to run off with Lorenzo. As we already know, Lorenzo is a friend of Bassanios, therefore could he have had any input regarding the treatment the Christians gave Shylock. It is quite clear that Lorenzo would have had the same opinions as his friends and thus would have looked down on Shylock and other Jews.
It is evident that Jessica doesn’t have a high opinion of her father as she steals some of her father’s possessions. She always takes a turquoise ring. Shylock says, “I had it off Leah when I was a bachelor.” This has sentimental value to Shylock because his wife gave him it. Jessica trades this ring for a monkey, so we assume that she doesn’t know that this ring has sentimental value, except it is questionable that may be she did know the ring has sentimentality and she traded it as a way to get back at her father for his miserable attitude. When Shylock finds out what she has done he says, “I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.” Shylock is clearly upset that she not only stole from him, but she traded one of his most treasured possessions but she sold it for something that he thinks isn’t even marginally close to its true value. Shylock knows that this ring is cheap, but the fact his wife gave him it, makes him feel that it is priceless and because it has been traded is now irreplaceable. The audience see a different side to Shylock, as he expresses how hurt he is that his daughter sold the ring. The audience should now see Shylock in a different light, as he shows that despite his miserable attitude, he can express human emotions. He is also upset because his daughter stole some ducats and some precious jewels, however it is clear that he is more upset because of what the turquoise ring represents.
Solanio and Salerio snigger and jeer at Shylock’s expense because even his daughter finds him unbearable. Shylock then runs out into the street shouting “My daughter! My ducats! O my daughter! O my ducats!” This shows he is distraught that his daughter has ran away, and that she has stolen some of his wealth. When Shylock emerges he greets Salanio and Salerio and says “I would my daughter dead at my feet, and the jewels in her ear” This is a very revealing statement as he wants to know where his daughter, he would rather she was dead at his feet than being alive and him not knowing where she is. He doesn’t want his daughter or money as he has been humiliated and he would rather it was forgotten. The way Solanio and Salerio talk about Shylock’s reaction to his daughter leaving is that they laugh and jeer because they think he has been taken for a fool, and this portrays Christian cruelty. When Shylock finds out that Antonio’s another of his ships have sunk, he knows that Antonio has less of a chance of being able to repay him and says “Let him look at this bond”, Shylock says this because, as one by one each of Antonio’s ships sink Shylock is nearer to fulfilling his revenge. Shylock wants Antonio to worry, because for too long Shylock has been under-estimated and ridiculed by Christians, and Shylock wants Antonio to get his just desserts.
Solanio later says “The villain Jew with outcries raised the duke, who went with him to search Bassanio’s ship”. Shylock supposes that maybe his daughter is hiding from him in Bassanio’s ship, but unfortunately she wasn’t there. This upsets Shylock because, we assume, that he doesn’t suspect his daughter would steal from him and it annoys him very much. Solanio is annoyed with Shylock because he has to seek help from the duke, I think Solanio is baffled at the thought that Shylock is actually worried about his daughter, when really, he’s more concerned with getting his ducats and jewels back, unless Jessica has already traded them off, as she did with the turquoise ring.
Salerio is baffled at the thought of anyone wanting to take pity on Shylock because he is perceived as a villainous Jew. “Why, all the boys in Venice follow him, crying his stones, his daughter, and his ducats.” An audience of the time would wonder why if even his daughter ran away from him, why they should take pity on him. He lives up to their greedy portrayal of Jews because he is upset about his precious stones and ducats. However, because Salerio and Salanio always jeer at Shylock’s misfortunate and criticise what he does, it does question how they treasure their own religion. Christians believe that we shouldn’t laugh at others misfortune and that we should love our neighbour as you love yourself. Salerio and Solanio don’t take this into account when they persecute Shylock, and therefore we need to question how seriously they take in their own religion. It seems quite obvious that, really, they just don’t care.
When Shylock is worrying and distressing about his daughter in the report of Venice, he seems to be more concerned by the Christians than his daughter, which shows that his image, no matter how low it already is, seems to be more important to him than his daughter. So, would Shylock prefer the money back than his daughter? From what the audience at this point have seen so far, it seems quite apparent that Shylock values his money over his daughter and likes to make some fuss about his hardship. Still, is he always like this, would he tell anyone about his suffering? And does he always make such a huge fuss? Maybe he is so upset, he cannot help it but from this scene alone it isn’t clear yet, what he would do. “A sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats, of double ducats” This quote highlights the point that he would much prefer the money to his daughters presence.
When Shylock speaks to Tubal, a fellow Jew, Shylock confides in, what we think, his only friend. “Hast thou found my daughter?” this suggests he is concerned about his daughter, although he is probably just anxious to know where she is and if she is dead or alive. In addition to asking if his daughter has been found Shylock is says he would “Rather dead at my feet, and the jewels in her ear”. This quote shows that despite being devastated because of losing money, he would prefer to know where his daughter was and that the stolen jewels hadn’t been traded or spent. It also shows that Shylock wouldn’t want the money back as it is tainted and ‘dirty’ money. As soon as Shylock hears that another of Antonio’s ships will fail to return, he is “Glad of it” and his mood becomes happier because he knows that Antonio, that his revenge is soon to become a reality, or so he thinks. We notice that Shylock’s hatred of Christians in general but particularly Antonio increases because Jessica wouldn’t have been able to steal anything if Shylock had been around and if Bassanio hadn’t invited Shylock for supper, they wouldn’t have got away with any of Shylock’s money. As Antonio is borrowing the money on behalf of Bassanio, Shylock must feel that Antonio had some part in the runaway and therefore wants to punish him even more. Shylock has two different sides to his personality and the audience should pick up on this. They will wonder who to have sympathy for, Shylock or his daughter and this toys with the audiences’ emotions and their different perspectives of the characters. The turquoise ring that Jessica stole and traded for a monkey shows that Shylock treasured the one item that was “given of Leah when I was a bachelor” and shows that he isn’t that the devil like creature he was perceived, but could actually express his love, this is shown further by how he states “I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.” Which shows how much he truly treasures it, it may have been a cheap ring but to Shylock its sentimental value shows that the ‘villainous’, ‘devilish’ ‘dog’ has human feelings and can he isn’t afraid to express his emotions and show how unhappy it is that his daughter traded it for something which he wouldn’t have traded at all. Shylock feels that because his daughter is spending its money as though its nothing, Shylock says “Thou stick’st a dagger in me: I shall never see my gold again”, this a powerful statement as it shows Shylock’s greed for money and that he doesn’t approve of his daughter’s expenses. He knows he will never get that money back and is why he feels he has been stabbed in the back.
When Shylock speaks of the bigger picture, as in how Jews and Christians aren’t as different as Christians actually thought, it resembles a plea to humanity that we should all be treated equally for who we are and we should be accepted despite our weaknesses. Shylock wants the Christians to stop singling out Jews and treating them with no respect “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?” Shylock shows Christians even though they treat him dismissively, the truth of the matter is that they are really all quite similar. It is obvious that we are all unique, yet Shylock concentrates on what makes us the same, such as our eyes, hands and organs and doesn’t mention what divides us. This is because he wants the Christians to understand that if they treat others well, they should treat Jews well, because even though religion is a big thing, we should set aside the idea that one religion is better than the other. All religions will want there to be peace and social harmony and yet the Christians are being prejudice, and are acting like their ancestors before them, and they probably don’t even question why they hate the Jews so much. Shylock pleads with the Christians to make them see sense, but nevertheless they do not take much notice. Also, Shylock justifies why he later will seek revenge on Antonio but the Christians do not yet know this, “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Shylock thinks that if he wronged a Christian they would want to get him back, and cleverly asked them, why is it different if they wrong him. The Christians then laugh at his remark and consider such a thought below them, a very elitist attitude. Shakespeare uses the plea to humanity, to show that despite being unique, we should concentrate on what unites us all rather than what divides us. An audience of today would see the plea as a true belief, and would understand Shylock’s perseverance and his strong argument. Although an audience of about 60 years ago would have probably frowned at this, because this is when society is concerned with segregation. A society of 100 years ago would have also probably frowned at this valid argument, because it was a time when society was patriarchical, and society wasn’t persuaded otherwise. However, in both of those social debates, they had groups of people who wanted to stop it, such as Martin Luther King, the suffragettes and the suffragists.
An audience of the time, an Elizabethan audience would see Shylock’s plea as valid, yet as they didn’t treat Jews with respect, they would have understood his point but with regard as to how society was run, wouldn’t have done anything about it. This shows the ignorance of society at the time the play was written.
We can imagine that Shylock must have felt very low because he confronted the Christians about the way they treat him and people like him in general. I think it is fair to assume that Shylock would have felt a weight had been lifted from his shoulders because he finally said what he thought, instead of bottling it up inside. Shakespeare wants to get his point across through using Shylock, that despite writing a play for Christians, he would still voice his opinions and he uses Shylock to do just that. Shakespeare believed that everyone was equal and although we all had flaws; we still shouldn’t be stereotyped. I think that Shakespeare felt that we should try and see the good in people, even when it seems impossible. I don’t think this is portrayed in the play, but I think this could be a hidden meaning.
When Shylock eventually hears about the turquoise ring he is enraged, because Leah, his wife gave him that ring when he was single. He must have had the ring quite a long time, because he will have had it before Jessica was born, and therefore since Jessica is old enough to run away from her father, she must be at least fourteen. Therefore it must hold a lot of sentimental value and he will think of his wife and the happy days they shared together, and it will probably hold some bad memories, as to why his wife isn’t there anymore, maybe she died or she could have left her Shylock because he was greedy and miserable. Tubal informs Shylock that his daughter has traded the ring “Thou tortuest me, Tubal, I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys” This shows the sentimentality of the ring and her Shylock feels about his wife. The audience should feel sympathetic towards Shylock as, not only has he lost his daughter that can’t bear to live with him anymore, that she can ran off with the ‘enemy’ in Shylock’s mind, but Shylock has also lost the ring which Leah gave him and as far as we know, the only physical thing he has to remember her by. This again shows the idea that the ring holds a lot of emotion, and shows that Shylock is a sentimental character and not just materialistic about money and jewels.
Shylock is determined to fulfil the bond he and Antonio agreed upon, and day-by-day, Shylock is dwelling up inside with anger and even more hatred for Christians. Shylock shows that now he has the upper hand and that they should have had respect for him, “Thou call’dst me dog before thou hadst a cause, but since I am a dog, beware my fangs.” This is effective because Shakespeare uses how Shylock was branded a dog in the past and uses this it against Antonio for once calling him a ‘villainous dog’ and uses this to his advantage. He uses the dog technique to sustain an effective insult. He mentions that he isn’t a fool, and the wool won’t be pulled over his eyes, so to speak, when he says, “I’ll not be made a soft and dull-eyed fool.” Shylock knows that they will try and persuade him otherwise that killing Antonio isn’t what he should do, but he is positive and doesn’t want to prolong the debating, as he wants to finally fulfil his vengeance and he feels he is so close, yet is so far, because the Christians keep prolonging the trial. Shylock is constantly stating, “I’ll have my bond” this use of repetition shows that Shylock is sure he wants this and up till now, no one can persuade him otherwise, which ultimately shows how much he really wants it.
He doesn’t want anyone to speak, he just wants the Christian dead, “speak not against my bond”, “speak no more” it is obvious now that Shylock cannot wait any longer for Antonio to die, and Shylock thinks that by law he is entitled to the one pound of flesh, therefore why are they talking? Shylock is ultimately trying to speed things along, when he thinks it is obviously clear he has a legitimate case.
Shylock shows that this trial is a matter of principle. That he should get this bond, because he and Antonio made a fair deal, and at this point money doesn’t seem as important to him as it was at the beginning of the play “If every ducat in six thousand ducats were in six parts, and every part a ducat, I would not draw them. I would have my bond.” This without a doubt indicates that Shylock is showing how much he wants revenge on Antonio and that Antonio’s death should be a lesson to all Christians that wrong or have wronged Jews.
One of the main reasons, I personally believe that Shakespeare portrays Shylock as a cold, callous and cowardly yet emotional Jew is because Shylock up till now didn’t have a dominant role, and now because he has power over a Christian, he has so much more power and is a much more domineering role over the Christians, and that is because the tables have turned, or so Shylock thinks, until Portia arrives. By showing Shylock as demanding his bond, Shakespeare lives up to the image that an Elizabethan audience would expect, a villainous unforgiving devil, “How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?” the duke asks Shylock, he might assume Shylock is doing this as a sick, demented joke. The duke wants to know how a Jew can ask for mercy when he won’t be remotely compassionate in relation to Antonio and the bond. At the moment we do feel slightly unhappy for Antonio because he didn’t ever think about what his actions actually did to peoples’ minds. Shakespeare shows that despite how much revenge can be craved it won’t always be as straightforward as it at first may seem. Shylock’s dreams of settling up the scores between himself and Antonio leave him, the avenger, in a worse position than he was before he went through with his vengeance. It sort of begs the question to why Shylock didn’t just pardon Antonio and let them both get on with their lives. We can understand why Shylock can’t forgive Antonio and because of not being able to forgive and forget Shylock has to suffer the consequences.
Shylock resolutely refuses to listen to all the pleas of mercy during the trail from the duke, Bassanio and Balthazar. They insist all the time about the injustice that Antonio is suffering, and they see Shylock’s retribution as a sign of foolishness. They all agree that Shylock should have pardoned Antonio and shown himself to be morally superior, but would it have done any good? Probably not, as Antonio wouldn’t change his opinions for the sake of an upset Jew that went too far when lending him money.
Obviously, Shylock wants Antonio to his comeuppance. A modern audience would view this part of the play as to what the play has been building up to, and it is a critical part of the play for Shylock, as all his anguish is about to end, or so he hopes. Shylock says that he “What judgement should I dread, doing no wrong? You have among you many a purchas’d slave” Shylock doesn’t really understand how they can judge him, when the Christian did wrong, and yet he is still seen as the foolish one because he won’t show compassion to someone who has shown absolutely no compassion whatsoever to him. He uses the fact that many of the Christians will have slaves to do their work for them, and Shylock although he doesn’t directly help them daily, he can help them out in the long run and for a profit, hence why he feels he is a kind of slave to the predominant Christian society.
Gratiano speaks of Shylock as a wolf, and this shows his opinion of Shylock as a ruthless man who won’t stop at anything until he gets what he wants, “Govern’d a wolf who, hang’d for human slaughter”, “Are wolfish, bloody, starv’d and ravenous” this again is used to build a dramatic image in the audiences’ mind and by describing me as a wolf, it again shows the idea the Christians think of him as a dog. The language techniques used give this scene a harsh effect and the tension starts to rise more from this point in the play. The audience should be preparing for something terrible to happen, and something unthinkable happens.
Antonio knew from the very beginning that Shylock wouldn’t back out of the bond, but Antonio was prepared to over-look that as he was relatively sure his ships would return safely and so he would be able to pay Shylock back the bond without any profit being made on Shylock’s part of the agreement. Antonio thinks that Shylock was hard hearted, but I feel and an audience of today would feel, he had a right to be, after the way he was mistreated “You may do anything most hard. As seek to soften that – than which whats harder? His Jewish heart. Therefore I do beseech you make no more offers.” This quote shows how Antonio feels and in addition shows how he doesn’t understand why Shylock is so unforgiving. I think it should be obvious to Antonio, because Antonio abused Shylock for one reason and for one reason only, because his religion. However, it does seem that Jessica is a Jew, yet the Christians seem like her because Bassanio helps her escape and she is in love with Lorenzo; baring that in mind, its strange how they can accept the daughter of a ‘devil’ yet they seem to be okay with the fact that she is the daughter of a ‘villain’.
The duke behaves very odd, he is meant to be impartial, but it is obvious from the trial that he isn’t being fair and is in favour of Antonio, therefore a very unbiased decision would be made. The duke says “Go one and call the Jew into the court”; obviously the duke doesn’t even respect Shylock enough to refer to him by his Christian name and this is just because he is Jewish, which shows how narrow minded the supposedly impartial judge really is. The judge outbursts that Shylock is an “inhuman wretch”, but is it really fair for the judge to say that? The Christians haven’t shown mercy to Shylock when he just wanted to get on with life, therefore why should he show them mercy? And if he were merciful, it’s likely that things would probably go back to how they were before the trial that says more about society.
The downfall of Shylock is because he wants to fulfil his desire for revenge, even so, when a loophole is found in Venice’s law Shylock is given an ultimatum that he must cut exactly one pound of flesh and that Antonio must not bleed to death, as that is not accounted for within the bond. If Shylock makes Antonio bleed to death or cuts more or less than one pound of flesh then Venice laws declare that he should be prosecuted. “To stop his wounds, lest he do bled to death” Shylock is strongly advised to use something to stop Antonio bleeding to death, because otherwise Shylock will suffer a similar horrific death. Shylock has to choose whether he would rather kill Antonio and then die himself or let Antonio live and himself live, he soon realises it’s a no win situation, but eventually decides that his life is more important to him than Antonio’s. Shylock is told that he must convert to Christianity and give half his wealth to Antonio, and give the other half to Jessica when he passes away. Shakespeare doesn’t give Shylock anything to say, therefore we don’t know exactly, how he felt, but we can certainly assume he was devastated and that the tables have turned, yet again and the Christians now have the upper hand. This is Shylock’s last scene in the play, and he is humiliated again. This shows that since his first scene he was ridiculed and humiliated by the Christians and he is right through to his exit.
I believe that Shylock shouldn’t have been treated the way he was because of the Christians holding a grudge between the two religions. Shylock was driven to revenge by the constant abuse and cruelty he suffered. Shylock’s religion is the only justification Antonio has for any of the abuse he and his friends give Shylock. Shylock really wasn’t the devil-like creature but was a victim of the prejudicial Christian society. The only thing he gained from his bond was a lot less than he had bargained for. We don’t see Shylock trying to ignore the Christians; one example of this is that he agrees to go to Bassanio’s for supper.
In conclusion, I believe that Shakespeare wanted the audience of the time to realise that two different religions, could still unite and live in a society without religious inequality. He couldn’t really voice his opinions too much through Shylock, as Shakespeare had to write what Christians would pay to see. I think that Shakespeare portrays his views in a very effective way, but how she shows the persecution of Shylock. Also, Shakespeare uses, how Shylock kept his anger inside, and gradually it built up, and inevitably he regretted seeking revenge on Antonio because he ended up, a lot worse off than he began. Shakespeare uses language to portray Shylock as a complex character and a stereotype and this is reflected upon by the audiences’ opinion and views.