Why we feel sympathy for Shylock

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                                Shylock Essay

‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare is about a man called Shylock, he is Jewish. Throughout the play he is subject to severe racial hatred from the Christian people of Venice, Venice was primarily a Christian state so being of a different religious background, being a Jew was frowned upon. Shylock was a usurer which in fact added to his problems, a usurer is someone who loans money and takes back interest. A Christian participating in this in Venice would have been considered an abomination in their faith; it was acceptable in the Jewish faith however the Christians hated Shylock for it.

I feel sympathy towards Shylock before the court case because he was terrorised for being Jewish. The play begins with Antonio, the merchant, feeling very depressed. He struggles to understand why he is feeling this way but immediately cheers up when Bassanio returns. Bassanio is very careless with money and is said to be in a tough financial position:

“I have disabled mine estate”

Bassanio wants to borrow money and use it to go and court the fair lady Portia. Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan of money but Antonio does not have any money because it is all on his ships. The pair are good friends and no one else would lend Bassanio the money because of his poor name financially. Antonio wants to help his friend Bassanio so tells him to borrow money under his name and pay back what he can. They then go to Shylock for a loan. Despite Shylock been treated terribly by the pair almost every day:

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“The devil can cite scripture for his purpose”.

He decides to loan the money without taking interest but if the money is not paid back fully in three months, Shylock is entitled to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh as compensation, Bassanio is shocked but immediately Antonio agrees to the terms as he thinks that his ships will return on time for him to be able to pay for the loan. They agree and Shylock gives Bassanio the money. To add to Shylock’s misery his own servant, Launcelot, and his daughter, Jessica, leave him. Launcelot leaves Shylock to go ...

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