Portrayal of Jews in 'The Merchant of Venice'

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Shylock and Jews Treatment Introduction William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice is an ingenious play which elicits many themes and stereotypical characters depictions which have also been brought out in other literary works. In the play Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare candidly builds up the mean character of Shylock who is a Jewish money-lender which is on broader spectrum depicted the ill-treatment of the Jews in the sixteenth century. Ironically, Shylock lends money to a Christian adversary, who is Antonio and they agree on Antonio’s pound of flesh as collateral security. Things escalate up to the edge when Antonio becomes bankrupt and consequently defaults on Shylock’s loan where he demands as they had agreed on Antonio’s pound of flesh in what is ultimately seen as revenge for the spit and insults Antonio had previously hauled onto Shylock. To add salt into the injury Shylock’s daughter, Jessica elopes with Lorenzo who is Antonio’s friend and is converted into a Christian which heightens his rage (Gibbons 36). But what comes to mind are the questions that whether it was justified for his revenge for his right and the question of moral values as a human being. The character of Shylock is depicted as an outcast in the community of Venice which was part of Shakespeare to demonize Jews. Shylock is thought as a victim and villain, where as a victim he looses his right to practice his faith through Antonio’s order for him to practice Christian faith. He not only looses his faith but also his only daughter to a Christian lover. Loosing his religion was indeed loss of his life. He is a villain for he offers Antonio unconventional terms – Antonio’s pound of flesh. Therefore, in Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare exhaustively uses the play to bring out themes and the stereotypical evil character of the Jews which was merely a myth passed through generations (Radford ¶ 1).
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