How is Shylock presented in ''The Merchant of Venice''? To what extent would the audience sympathise

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How is Shylock presented in ''The Merchant of Venice''? To what extent would the audience sympathise with him?

Shakespeare's ''Merchant of Venice'' shows the anti-Semitism of Christians. The Elizabethan did not like the Jews due to the biblical history that the Jews helped to kill Jesus.  The Jews were hated, they had to do dirty jobs and were resented for it. They were forbidden to own property or engage in any professions. The Jews also practised usury - lending money with profit, and were hated for that. The Christians adhered to Jesus' commandment to lend money ''looking for nothing again'' and forbade asking for interest or even the principal investment back.

Shylock is a Jew and a professional moneylender. He is hated due to his religion and profession of usury. Shylock is bent on the murder of Antonio, who has borrowed the money for a friend Bassanio, if he does not payback his money on the day due. Antonio is in serious danger when shylock insists that he would not take the money but his pound of flesh.  The help of Portia who disguised herself as the young lawyer saves Antonio.

The anti-Semitism shown in this play is the way the Jews and Christians relate. In Venice, Shylock is hated due to his Jewish religion and his profession - money lending. The Christians treat the Jews with injustice and cruelty. Shylock is aware that the discrimination bestowed upon him is due to his religion as he says; ''I am a Jew''.

In Act 3 scene 1, the behaviour of Antonio and others towards Shylock makes us feel sorry for him. Antonio abused him both verbally and physically. Antonio called him ''a mis-believer'', which links us back to the idea that the Jews helped to kill Jesus and ''cut-throat dog'', which shows that he is seen as an animal. He also spat on Shylock. Antonio is still not sorry for his abuse to Shylock when he goes to borrow the money for Bassanio but urges Shylock, with words that he will regret to ''lend it rather to thine enemy, who if he break, thou may'st with better face exact penalty''. Antonio also says that he is likely to abuse Shylock-''I am like to call thee again, to spit on thee, to spurn thee too''. Shylock is reduced to something inhuman. Shylock is not referred to as a man but an animal. Gratiano curses Shylock with ''O be thou damned inexcreable dog'' (IV, I, 120) whose currish spirit govern"d a wolf and whose ''desires are wolvish, bloody, starved, and ravenous''(IV, I, 137-138).  Also Shylock is called ''a stony adversary, inhuman wretch''. This describes him as someone hardhearted.  He has been stripped of his humanity and his religious identity.  Shylock is not only denied of his humanity, he is also identified as the devil.  Lancelot Gabbo identifies Shylock as ''a kind of devil'', ''the very devil incarnation''.  Solanio sees him as ''the devil…in the likeness of a Jew''.  All these abuse arises from the fact that Shylock is a Jew. The word 'devil' portrays him as an evil man with wicked mind.

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Shylock is given the title, "Jew".  Throughout the whole play he is referred to by his name, only three times: in the trial scene, the Duke identifies Shylock by name and Portia identifies him once. Shylock is referred to as a "Jew". This title is modified with an image such as "dog Jew" (II, iii, 14) and "currish Jew" (IV, I, 290). The word ''Dog'' describes Shylock as an animal.

All these abuses, Shylock is going through makes us feel sorry for him.  Not only does it make him feel insecure, it also reduces him to something less than ...

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