In your opinion is Shylock a villain or a victim of the society he lives in?

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The British School of Bahrain

In your opinion is Shylock a villain or a victim of the society he lives in?

In my opinion Shylock was a victim of the society he lived in.  He was a victim because he was a minority in a Christian city where anti-Semitism played an important role in society.  In the society in which Shylock lived, there was plenty of racism, so it was easy to paint a picture of Shylock as a villain on evil, based on stereotypical opinions for the society in which he lived.  The target audience for which the play was written was largely a racist and a prejudiced audience, so they readily accepted Shylock in the role of Villain, without questioning whether this was an accurate assessment of his personality. Due to the target audience being racist, there is a bias in the way in which Shylock is portrayed, and does not always effectively portray what Shylock was feeling or thinking. Although in some cases Shakespeare did show that he did not have the stereotypical view of Shylock, which most certainly his audience did have.  In this essay, I will be expressing my opinion on whether Shylock is a victim or a villain in the society that he lives in.

I feel that, Shylock is a victim of the Elizabethan society in which he lived. He seems to be treated badly by everyone who he comes into contact with, including his own servant.  It is really only his own kind who seems to respect and treat him properly. In Act 1 scene 3 Shylock is asked to loan 3000 ducats to Antonio by Bassanio. It looks or has been made to look as though Shylock is a villain, this is shown by using repetition, the repetition used in by Shylock is that he seems to mention ‘well’ a lot, this makes Shylock look like he is planning something, for example how to get revenge on Antonio, also in the beginning of the act Shylock seems to come across as an evil character, this is when he is first introduced into the play. Shylock looks like a villain when he is asked by Bassanio to dine with Antonio, but Shylock replies “… I will not eat with you, drink with you nor pray with you…” this sentence made Shylock look like a villain, but if you had to look at it from his point of view, it would be that he has been hated and treated badly all his life by Christians. Then, when Antonio enters the scene you can see how Shylock is treated badly and is a victim in the society he lives in, this point is proven when Shylock says to Antonio

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      “… You call me a misbeliever…” and “… Spit on my Jewish gabardine…”

In the next few scenes in the play we find out that Jessica is ashamed of being Jewish, and consequently is ashamed of her father.  She is not happy with her life, and she blames everything that goes wrong on the fact that she is Jewish.  As she resents her difficulties and blames them on her religion she also resents her father, and blames him for being Jewish resulting in her also being Jewish, we find this out when Jessica says to Launcelot ...

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