Shylock is mocked and hated for his money lending “(to Antonio) many a time in the Rialto you have berated me about my moneys and usances. Still have I borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.” Salerio and Solanio constantly mock him at every opportunity.They seek to torment him when he is most vulnerable; for example when Jessica has eloped they taunt him about his losses and mock him, “You knew, none so well, none so well as you, of my daughter's flight.”, Solerio inappropriately replies “That's certain. I, for my part, knew the tailor / that made the wings she flew withal.” The audiance is made to feel sympathy towards him in his speech describing his justification for equality, “Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?"
Shylock is a victim of theft by his own daughter, Jessica and on top of that she runs away with a Christian, insulting and betraying him even further. Her only excuse for running away is that their house is boring, “Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil, didst rob it of some tediousness”, and so we empathise with Shylock as this is a very meagre excuse. Shylock earns pity from the audience, “My own flesh and blood to rebel”, meaning that with her gone it is as if a part of him has been taken too. Jessica is disrespectful, rebellious and over the top; so much that we understand Shylock’s rage, “I would my daughter were dead at my foot and the jewels in her ear”. Even though this is a very harsh statement we still sympathise with Shylock because he had no inkling before hand of any complaints, as Jessica was always conformist and obedient and to steal from her father including jewellery of sentimental value and squander it on a monkey shows a lot of disrespect. Should shylock have been less strict? He has no wife and is in an outsider in a foreign country therefore he needs to be overprotective in this situation. If it is a mistake, then it is a mistake one should understand.
Although at the end of the play he has an arguably unhealthy thirst for revenge, we can empathise with what he is feeling because it is a natural human flaw to want to avenge when you have been wronged; the Christians themselves seek revenge too if they have been wronged, “If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge.”, showing that the Christians are villains also. Shylock goes wrong when he forgets the value of mercy towards Antonio and however much you sympathise with him, he shouldn’t have wanted the bond. Here Shakespeare shows how much victimisation can lead to inhumane actions making him a villain.
Towards the end of the play, Shylock seems to be the villain because he seeks to murder Antonio; but he is not a villain because the audience know what has leaded him to his wrong actions. Because he has been driven to the edge of insanity, from the torment and prejudice pushed on him throughout his life by his own Venetian community this justifies his want for revenge. It has led him to become sadistic and blood thirsty and he forgets mercy only because he was treated in the same way. In the end Shylock's punishment is overly harsh with Antonio forcing him to convert to Christianity. Shylock's life is spared but he may be better off dead because he has nothing to live on, all his wealth has been distributed among his enemies. This makes the audiance sympathise with him because of the unfair and harsh punishment he receives. He is a victim of the Christians' intolerance of other races and ideas.
Here's what a star student thought of this essay
Quality of writing
To achieve a higher grade the candidate needed to have mentioned the use of language within the play, It is necessary to discuss various linguistic techniques, such as the use of metaphors, smilies and alliteration etc. However on a more positive note, the candidate does uses an extensive range of vocabulary and there a few if any problems with spelling or grammar.
Level of analysis
The level of analysis shown by this candidate is of a high standard, they give their own ideas and opinions on Shylock as a character and pick out key quotations from the play to back up these ideas, rather than simply retelling the story. They have shown a good understanding of how this type of essay should be written. In addition they have undergone independent research as they mentioned the way in which Jewish people where generally treated at the time this play was written. This shows the candidates interest in their work and makes the essay more enjoyable to read. Though the candidate gives a conclusion they have mostly continued their analysis. A strong conclusion should answer the initial question, summarise your key points and ideas and include your personal opinions. This is important as it brings the essay to a close and gives you a chance to leave the reader with a good impression.
Response to question
Though the candidates starts this essay well, their introduction is missing; an outline of what the candidate plans to discuss, a statement of any questions that the candidate intends to answer (in this case, is Shylock a villain or victim?) and a vernal introduction to Shylock as a charter. If you're struggling with your introduction is a good idea to go back and re-write one you've finished your essay. This is your chance to catch the readers attention, you should try and make it short and to the point but interesting (which can be done by mentioning additional facts from independent research). In general the candidates response to the question is thorough and they have discussed their ideas in a clear and organised manor.