Shylock: Villain or Victim?

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Sam Sykes

11 Leo

The Merchant of Venice

Shylock: Villain or Victim?

‘The Merchant of Venice’ is a play written by William Shakespeare.  In this play I will be analysing whether the character of Shylock is classed as a villain or victim.  His character is unclear, as he can be seen as an orthodox Jew, where he is vicious and cunning, or he can be seen as a nice and caring person.  I will begin by explaining the ways in which he can be seen as a villain.

Shylock is seen as a villain because of the way he acts towards other people.  Shylock is a very selfish man, and he will often only talk to people if he knows it will affect him in a financial way.  Shylock resents Antonio because he lends out money without interest, this is the reason why Shylock does not like him because it is bad for Shylock’s money lending business.  This is showed when Shylock says, ‘Gaoler…tell me not of mercy, This is the fool that lends out money gratis.’    

In Act 1 Scene 3, Antonio and Bassanio go to Shylock and ask him for a loan.  Shylock accepts because he sees this as a chance to make money to help his business, this is why Shylock acts towards Antonio as a friend saying, ‘I would be friends with you, and have your love, Forget the shames that you have stain’d me with.’  Shylock then goes alone and speaks to the audience and tells them how he really feels towards Antonio, ‘ I hate him for he is a Christian…Cursed be my tribe if I forgive him!’  Shylock has planned a scheme, where he takes Antonio’s money away from him.  Shylock is being very deceiving because he is pretending to be Antonio’s friend when really he hates him inside.  This shows Shylock as a villain as he is trying to rob Antonio of his money.  

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Shylock is also seen as villainous in the way he treats his daughter Jessica.  In Act 2 Scene 5, he treats Jessica in the same way he may have treated Launcelot, because he treats her like a servant as he orders her to lock up the house, ‘Hear you me, Jessica: Lock up me doors.’  Once Jessica has done this Shylock goes out and eats with Christians, this is when Jessica steals Shylock’s money and jewels, the reason she does this is probable because she is fed up with the way she is being treated by her father and ...

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