Explore Shakespeares presentation of race and religion in Act 1 Scene 3 of The Merchant of Venice

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Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of race and religion in Act 1 Scene 3 of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. There are many ways in which Shakespeare presents his views on race and religion and the way he portrays the characters that have very different religious beliefs. The effect that ‘The Merchant of Venice’ might have on the audiences is changing the way people think about race and religion. In this play, the main religions are Christianity and Judaism. At the time of Shakespeare, anti-Semitism was a big issue. Jews had faced and suffered from irrational hatred, persecution and discrimination, and yet they still had to live and even to some extent, to blend and fit in a Christian community in order to do business and earn a living. This play is set exactly in this situation, mirroring the reality. Antonio, a Christian and Shylock, a Jew who lives in a society full of his opponents, full of people who hate his ‘tribe’. Shakespeare uses the character of Shylock to give us negative impression of the Jews. This gives us an idea of how much people used to dislike the Jews at the time of his writing. Act 1 Scene 3 is set in Venice and not Belmont, already from that piece of information, the audience can expect the scene to be something around the lines of trading, money and debt as Venice is a trading port. This scene in particular shows a strong contrast between the 2 religions. Firstly, right from the beginning of the scene, where Shylock, a Jew makes his first entrance in the whole play, Shakespeare presents him as the money-lender, the one that the Christians ask favour of and seems to have a superior status. This is quite unusual for a Christian to ask a Jew for a loan as they would have been considered as enemies. This implies to the audience that Bassanio has already tried every way that he could think of to get money. He, having to borrow money from his enemy

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