Is Shylock More Sinned Against Than Sinning? Discuss…
In the play ‘The Merchant Of Venice’ by William Shakespeare, the main characters, Shylock and Antonio are money lenders. Shylock lends money for a business making money from interest whereas Antonio lends money without interest, his main occupation being a tradesman. Shylock hates Antonio for not charging interest along with many other things and Antonio also hates Shylock, mainly for being a Jew.
Shylock has a daughter, which makes her Jewish, but she is deeply in love with Lorenzo, a Christian man. Shylock is highly against this, he wishes for his daughter to marry a fellow Jew as he thinks that Christians are all bad, they are mostly against him. Jessica runs away from home with Lorenzo to get married, Shylock is very distraught at this.
Antonio is very good friends with Bassanio. Antonio is always willing to lend any money he has to Bassanio, they are both very loyal to each other. Bassanio wishes to impress Portia so she will become his partner, he wishes to borrow money from Antonio, Antonio needs to borrow the money from Shylock. Antonio signs a bond saying he is allowed to borrow 3000 ducats to be paid back over three months, if not paid back in time Shylock is allowed to take the pound of flesh closest to Antonio’s heart. Antonio is confident he will be able to pay back the money but while some of his ships are at sea, awful weather causes all of his ships to sink.
He is now unable to pay back Shylock as his ships contained many valuables. Shylock takes him to court and as the bond specifically says, Shylock is now permitted to take the pound of flesh closest to Antonio’s heart, but there are loop holes. The bond says he can take the flesh, but it doesn’t mention about blood being allowed to drop, if any blood drips to the floor, Shylock can be prosecuted for manslaughter. Then if he is to take any more or less than a pound of flesh, as accurate as down to the weight of a hair, he is to loose all of his belongings. After all of this there is now a case against Shylock. Antonio now decides Shylock’s fate as if there is a plot to kill another Venetian, they have to give up half their belongings to the person he plans to kill, the other half goes to the state in which they live.
Antonio is concerned to help Jessica and Lorenzo in their marriage. Antonio decides as a punishment to Shylock, he must support his daughter and Lorenzo her husband. In being her husband this now makes Jessica a Christian, Shylock is very unhappy about this.
Throughout the play Shylock is sinned against on many occasions, normally because of the fact of Shylock being a Jew. He is sinned against by Antonio. In Act 1 Scene III Shylock states how he hates Antonio because of the things he does. Antonio calls Shylock a ‘misbeliever’, spits on his coat and his beard and kicks and pushes him out the way, they hate each other because of their religions, yet Shylock is still willing to lend the money to Antonio.
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The next piece of evidence is said by Launcelot in Scene 2 Act II. He is Shylock’s servant and in the scene is having a battle with his conscience over whether to leave Shylock’s home. Launcelot refers to Shylock as being the ‘Devil Incarnation’, ‘certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation’ – line 26. He says that he is being starved in the service of Shylock, ‘I am famished in his service’ Line 102-103 ‘You may tell every finger I have with my ribs’ Line 105, in saying that he was confused and meant you may tell every rib I have with my fingers, showing he must be very skinny. He says that as he is working for a Jew he feels like he is turning into one showing how he is very much against the Jewish religion. Launcelot is planning behind Shylock’s back, to run away to Bassanio as he will be well treated.
In Act 2 Scene III we learn of the relationship between Shylock and his daughter Jessica. She comments on how she hates living with her father and she also refers to him as a merry devil ‘Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil’ Line 2. She talks to Launcelot about this behind Shylock’s back, but he soon leaves as he doesn’t want to be seen talking to her or Shylock may get suspicious. After he leaves Jessica talks to herself about how she feels, ‘ Ashamed to be my father’s child’ Line 17. She doesn’t want to think of herself as being like her father Shylock ‘But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners’ Line 18-19. In Act 2 Scene IV Lorenzo, who loves Jessica, is talking with some friends of Antonio and Bassanio, Gratiano, Salerio and Solanio, when Launcelot arrives with a letter from Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, about a plan to run away with Lorenzo. She talks of what Lorenzo will benefit from it, ‘What gold and jewels she is furnished with’ Line 31. Shylock is supposed to be dining with Bassanio but he is reluctant because of the masque, the street party, as he isn’t sure what Jessica may do. He demands that she locks all windows and isn’t to look out into the street due to the Christian’s party. After all the planning, in Act 2 Scene VI Jessica finally makes her move and leaves home while Shylock is out dining with Bassanio, taking his jewels and money with her. When Shylock learns of his daughters whereabouts, he is distraught as his daughter Jessica will probably now convert to being a Christian. In Act 3 Scene I two of Antonio’s friends are talking about a rumour that one of Antonio’s ships has sunk. While talking they bring up Shylock referred to as the devil. While they are talking, Shylock enters. He accuses both Solanio and Solerio of knowing of his daughters plan to run away from home. Shylock says how Jessica is his own flesh and blood and that she has rebelled him. As his daughter has now run away with a Christian, this makes Shylock very anti-Christian. Salerio then makes comments on a big difference between Jessica and Shylock himself, ‘There is more difference between thy flesh and hers, than between jet and ivory’ Line 35-36. Salerio then asks if Shylock has heard about Antonio’s ship that supposedly sunk. He talks of Antonio now being a bankrupt beggar. Shylock now wants revenge on Antonio, he wants the pound of flesh as written in the bond. ‘He was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy, let him look to his bond’, Line 45-46. Shylock is very angry and wants revenge on Antonio, mainly because he is Christian – would he be so anti-Christian if it wasn’t for Jessica running away with Lorenzo. He says that he wants Antonio’s flesh ‘to bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge’ Line 49-50. Shylock says of how Antonio has ‘laughed at my loses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies’ Lines 51-54. Shylock is constantly getting angrier and remembering things that Antonio had done in the past. A servant for Antonio then enters and informs Solanio and Salerio that Antonio wishes to see them. The three, Solanio, Salerio and the servant, all exit and Tubal, a fellow Jew and friend of Shylocks enters. Tubal talks to Shylock about Jessica, he has been looking for her but had no luck. He has though heard rumours of Jessica spending much of Shylock’s money, which makes him distraught, this brings up the question of does Shylock care more about his money or his daughter. Shylock is constantly getting more angry and wants revenge on Antonio now more than ever.
In Act 4 Scene I, the court scene takes place. Shylock has taken Antonio to court as the bond stated if Antonio couldn’t repay the money to Shylock, Shylock can take the pound of flesh nearest to Antonio’s heart. It seems that Antonio may be jealous of the amount of money that Shylock owns ‘out of his envy’s reach’ Line 10. Although Antonio knows he is about to be killed by Shylock, he still wears a brave face. After a short speech by Antonio the Duke calls in Shylock, once again called by the name of ‘the Jew’ Line 14. After Shylock shows how convinced he is that he wants Antonio dead, a clerk enters the courtroom with a letter for the Duke. It had been supposedly written by the doctor of laws who was supposed to attend the courtroom. It says he was sick and was unable to attend the case but hhe had sent Balthazar, who was really Portia disguised, to make sure it was a fair ruling. Portia, who is betrothed to Bassanio, would want to help Antonio as he is Bassanio’s best friend, who is at risk of dying. Portia has looked into the bond in great detail and manages to find loopholes. No one in the courtroom recognises Portia, they all assume she was a real replacement for the doctor of law who was supposed to show. She cunningly comes in and asks who is the Merchant and who is the Jew, pretending she knows neither. She then asks if Antonio confesses to the bond and he says yes, Portia then defines the word mercy. She tries persuading Shylock, he had been offered three times the amount which he had been lent, after refusing Portia says the bond must stand and Antonio is to prepare to loose the flesh. Antonio says what he expects to be his last speech, both Bassanio and Gratiano both say will sacrifice things to save Antonio but it is too late, Shylock holds the knife to Antonio’s chest and is ready to cut into his flesh when Portia stops him. She declares that the law says he is authorised to take the pound of flesh closest to Antonio’s heart, but there is to be no blood. Shylock tries backing out and wants to settle with the offer for 9000 ducats, ‘I take this offer then; pay the bond thrice and let the Christian go’ Line 317-318. By now Portia has tried to convince Shylock to back out and overlook the bond but as he has been so stubborn she decides that she will now go totally against Shylock ‘The Jew shall have all justice-soft, no haste-He shall have nothing but the penalty’ Line 320-321. Shylock now has no hope. After all this there is now a case against Shylock, ‘It is enacted in the laws of Venice, if it be proved against an alien that by direct, or indirect attempts he seek the life of any citizen…..’ Line 347-350. Shylock has plotted to kill Antonio, he is in direct violation of this law. The punishment is for half the goods of the plotter goes to the victim, the other half goes to the state. After his belongings have been distributed to where they are to go, the offenders life lies in the mercy of the Duke. Portia asks what mercy Antonio can have for Shylock, he wishes for all the money he earned out of the bond goes to support Jessica and Lorenzo, and Shylock must carry on going supporting them. It is also said that when Shylock dies all his money and belongings must go to his daughter Jessica, this is written up and if Shylock is not to sign this, he is up for death penalty. After this Shylock is dismissed from the courtroom and there is not any other reference to him in the end of the play.
Although many people do sin against Shylock, he also sins against other people. In Act 1 Scene III Antonio talks to Shylock about the bond for 3000 Ducats over 3 months. Shylock does think about this but he tries making Antonio feel guilty by mentioning how he is treated by Antonio. He tries to make it sound as if all the bad things that have been done have added up so that he won’t allow the loan to go ahead, but in the end after much debating Shylock agrees to take up the loan. In Act 2 Scene II Launcelot is talking to himself as we already found out. We know that he is sinned against as Launcelot is planning on running away, but is reason is that he is ill treated by Shylock, but there is no evidence of this, just what Launcelot says so we do not know how reliable this is. He talks of how Shylock starves him ‘I am famished in his service’ Line 102. It also seems that Shylock hasn’t supplied Launcelot with a nice set of clothing were as he is offered a uniform by Bassanio
In Act 2 Scene III we learn from Jessica how Shylock is very difficult to live with, ‘Our house is hell’ Line 2. She talks of how she is embarrassed to be his daughter showing he must not be a very nice person with many people ‘Ashamed to be my fathers child’ Line 17.
In Act 4 Scene I Shylock enters and the Duke tells him that the courtroom is expecting Shylock to be generous as Antonio is an important person to Venice but Shylock is stubborn, he will not change his mind and is very determined to kill Antonio as he hates him so much. Bassanio steps in and offers Shylock twice the loan back, but Shylock is already a very rich man and he would still much rather Antonio dead, ‘the pound of flesh which I demand of him is dearly bought, ‘tis mine and I will have it’ Line 99-100, he is still very single-minded and it seems as if there is no chance of him changing his choice of killing Antonio. He is very obstinate on the matter. No body in the court room agrees with how Shylock is going about the matter but this doesn’t bother him in the slightest. ‘But say it is my humour’ Line 44, he is acting the way he is because of his mood, he is very happy that finally he is getting rid of his enemy and business competition Antonio. When Portia enters the courtroom disguised as Balthazar, she knows what the probable outcome of the case will be, she already knows of the loopholes involved. She tries to persuade him to save him from getting a penalty out of it but he is too immovable which turns out to be at Shylock’s loss.
Looking at the evidence of both how Shylock sins and is sinned against, I have come to the conclusion that obviously Shylock is more sinned against than sinning throughout the play. There is no proof to the evidence Launcelot put forward that Shylock starves him and there is no proof to how bad Jessica finds her father and what he is like as a person in the house as we don’t have a proper speech between the two of them to see what their attitudes towards each are like. Although we have no verification on how Shylock treats Jessica and Launcelot, they both live in the same house and describe Shylock in the same way. Also it is unfair against Shylock in that he is discriminated for his religion, he being a Jew bothers Antonio and many other people, on many occasions Shylock is called the Jew rather than by his proper name. This makes no difference though to my final conclusion in that Shylock is more sinned against than sinned.