Shylock's Portrayal: Sympathetic or Anti-semitic?

1365 Words6 Pages
The character of Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, imposes the important themes of prejudice, anti-Semitism, deception and greed within the play. His language throughout the play is both powerful and captivating, and his aggressive, deceitful, demanding character more than compensates for his supposed 'inferiority' as a Jew, and second-class citizen. Shylock is indeed a complex character in this play and has the dimension of pain-he has suffered, still suffers and is one of a people who have suffered over centuries. However, to what extent should Shylock suffer and does he deserve our sympathy or hostility. Although anti-Semitism is totally unacceptable nowadays, it was quite normal in Shakespeare's time. However, as he has done with other villains, Shakespeare actually plays around with his audience's preconceptions and makes Shylock an interesting, intricate and sometimes admirable character. Being a Jew in Christian dominated Venice, Shylock is persecuted by society. He is the victim of popular Christian prejudice, which scorns his religion and restricts his means of employment. He is left with no choice but to be a moneylender and earn his money from collecting interest. To the Christians, collecting interest was against their teaching. This is one of the reasons for the Christians hatred. Many members of a contemporary audience would sympathise with Shylock, as he has been a victim of prejudice. Antonio is a bigot and, similar to a lot of Christians back in that era, an anti-Semite. Some aspects of anti-Semitism would actually be portrayed as comic back then which shows how major events in history, such as the holocaust for example, have changed the outcome of current times as far as racism and prejudice is concerned. On several previous occasions Shylock has bullied Antonio by insulting him, calling him "misbeliever and cut-throat dog" and has "spat
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