The characters in the play are mostly Christians, who are all prejudice against Jews. Antonio is probably the biggest Jew-hater, and Shakespeare shows this view of Antonio’s and all the other Christians as the main idea of the story. “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine, and all for use of that which is mine own.” (act1.3 line108) Although Jews are condemned and hated, this isn’t to emphasize the prejudice, it’s only to show how unfairly they are treated, and to make the audience see, and feel sorry for Shylock, being a Jew. In January 1933, about 522,000 Jews lived in Germany. In the first 6 years of the Nazi dictatorship, over half the Jews moved, leaving under 214,000 Jews in Germany just before World War II.
This is because it is known at that time, Christians and Jews disliked one another, there was much prejudice against Jews because of their religion. Moreover, their differing beliefs created a barrier between the two communities. Jews were badly mistreated by Christians, discrimination and Anti-Semitism were believed to be the correct thing to do, consequently the Elizabethan audience agreed with it. As mentioned, Shylock was a moneylender, the Elizabethans hated the traditional Jewish profession of usury, (which was the lending of money with interest) as this was against Christian beliefs. It should be noted that Jews were often forbidden to own land or trade therefore logically the only occupation that was open to them was moneylending.
Most Elizabethans disliked Jews because of the stereotype that was portrayed of them. Jewish people were thought to be money grabbing and selfish, and a lot of Elizabethans disagreed with there ideas and values. These characteristics are definitely prominent in Shylocks character, and in some ways he is the stereotypical Jew. The play’s a comedy and a lot of the humour3 is based on the Elizabethan reaction to Shylock's character and appearance. However, in modern times society is a lot less prejudice, and audiences are more sympathetic for Shylock.
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.
In Shakespeare’s comedy called, The Merchant of Venice, two character of different religions clash. One of them is a man called Shylock, a Jewish money lender, and the other is called Antonio who is a Christian merchant. (In this essay I will also be referring to the recent film, starring Al Pacino as Shylock and Jeremy Irons as Antonio) There is a lot of hostility between the Christians and the Jews of Venice, and this of course fuels the hatred between Shylock and Antonio. So the reason for why, Antonio and Shylock have ended up in court as Antonio has failed to pay Shylock back the money he had owed him, as they had a bond which stated that if Antonio failed to pay Antonio back by the Jewish date, Shylock would be obliged to a pound of Antonio’s flesh closest to his heart. So why did Antonio need Shylocks money?
Shylock’s point: ‘For suff’rance is the badge of all our tribe’ explains that this persecution of the Jewish race is not uncommon. This idea of anti-Semitism is elevated in his appeal to common humanity: ‘I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? … If you prick us do we not bleed?’ even though this effect is abated somewhat by him vowing to ‘better the instruction’ of his enemies. So from a racial point of view, Shylock’s hatred is more rational than that of Christians such as Antonio who hates him simply because he is a Jew.
However, in Act 1 Scene 3 we do feel that Shylock’s bitter hatred and resentment towards Christians, although not entirely his fault, potentially could have some sinister reprocussions. He proposes a ‘joke’ forfeit of a pound of flesh we feel as if this could be a trick in order to take his revenge on Antonio and Christians as a race. In Act 2, Scene 2 Launcelot is having a battle with his conscience about whether to leave Shylock’s service. He calls Shylock “the very devil incarnation” and again we feel sorry for Shylock and learn that almost every character in the play considers him a villain but we, as readers, pity him and feel he is being victimised. He runs away and in fact decides to seek Bassanio as his master.
Zack Krug Eng 214 The Villainous Intentions of Shylock Though there is no doubt that anti-Semitism was a theme Shakespeare embedded in the portrayal of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, readers frequently misunderstand the character’s intentions. Often readers and critics alike mistake Shylocks outrageous demand for “a pound of flesh” as one driven by greed rather than justice or satisfaction. (IV.i.89–99) Shylock was an outcast in the Venetian society we found him in. He was continually finding himself with his back against the wall, a position he seemed to have put himself in. Shylock’s true intentions are brought to light when looked at certain passages highlighting the hatred received from Antonio, the discrimination from Christian Venetians, and the marriage to a Christian of his daughter Jessica.
He then starts listing things that Antonio has done to him, such as “disgraced me, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains”. Shylock might be pointing all these things out so that people can feel sympathy for him but it can also be read as if he is trying to make Antonio look bad and he really isn’t a good person. When Shylock says “I am a Jew.” He then starts referring to the things Christians have in common with Jews, he starts with anatomical parts like hands, organs, etc. And then moves on to more important things like emotions, feelings and passions. He uses this to show that the only differences between Jews and Christians are their
“If you prick us do we not bleed?” To what extent is Shylock portrayed as a sympathetic character in “The Merchant of Venice”? Jews in Shakespeare’s day were commonly judged as “Christ killers” and were therefore the victims of anti Semitic prejudice. Their profession of usury,( money lending with interest) was also seen in a negative light. Hence it would not be difficult to imagine an Elizabethan audience rejoicing at Shylock’s downfall in “The Merchant of Venice”. However, Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock is far from stereotypical .
Shylock Although critics tend to agree that Shylock is The Merchant of Venice’s most noteworthy figure, no consensus has been reached on whether to read him as a bloodthirsty bogeyman, a clownish Jewish stereotype, or a tragic figure whose sense of decency has been fractured by the persecution he endures. Certainly, Shylock is the play’s antagonist, and he is menacing enough to seriously imperil the happiness of Venice’s businessmen and young lovers alike. Shylock is also, however, a creation of circumstance; even in his single-minded pursuit of a pound of flesh, his frequent mentions of the cruelty he has endured at Christian hands make it hard for us to label him a natural born monster. In one of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues, for example, Shylock argues that Jews are humans and calls his quest for vengeance the product of lessons taught to him by the cruelty of Venetian citizens. On the other hand, Shylock’s coldly calculated attempt to revenge the wrongs done to him by murdering his persecutor, Antonio, prevents us from viewing him in a primarily positive light.
Antonio has reviled and despised this Jew, even humiliating him publicly because of his money lending and usury. Shylock believes that his profiteering is not a sin, which is contrary to the Christian belief, held by Antonio, that money should be lent for charity and not for profit. By his profession and his religion, Shylock is seen as the outsider in a happy and fun-loving Venetian society. His being an outsider causes him to be bitter and his humiliation makes him seek revenge. Antonio becomes the target of that revenge, and Shylock uses the letter of the law to try and take a pound of flesh from his enemy.
Searching for Shylock The complex character of the Jewish moneylender, Shylock, in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, continues to inspire both loathing and sympathy in readers and audiences today. Some view Shylock as greedy, money-worshipping, vengeful, lecherous, cruel and merciless, while others understand him to be humanly flawed, a man reviled for his religious beliefs, robbed of his dignity and who, finally, at a trial that has been described as “a mockery of justice” (Wikipedia 2012), is stripped of his wealth. In relation to these conflicting views of Shylock, I intend to explore the character of the man in order to reach my own satisfactory personal conclusion. We are first introduced to Shylock in Act I, Scene III, where he talks with Bassanio, the adored friend of Antonio (the title character of the play), who requires a sum of three thousand ducats so that he may suitably present himself as a suitor to the beautiful Portia of Belmont, a wealthy heiress. Antonio, whose ships are all out at sea and who does not presently have the cash to help his friend, “promises to cover the bond if Bassanio can find a lender” (eNotes 2012).
Explore the ways Shakespeare presents the inner turmoil and outer conflict of Shylock in the play “The Merchant of Venice” There are many ways that Shakespeare presents Shylock’s inner turmoil and outer conflict in “The Merchant of Venice”. There are two very different views of him by characters in the play as his inner turmoil tells us that he is an evil and nasty man with no compassion for others feelings. This could however, just be that he is extremely over protective of his family and close ones, which is never a bad thing. Then Shylock’s outer conflict tells us that he is highly respected by the other Jews. This is because the Jews have recognized how Shylock has worked very hard to build his fortune by using the profession of a usurer.
Immediately we are made to raise the question ‘What made him like this?’ Shylock is a Jew amongst a predominantly Christian society, similar to that of Shakespeare’s society. It is then quite obvious that he is trapped by intolerance and hatred until his hopes for co-existence are changed into revenge. Although he appears to be a merciless usurer at first, he gains the sympathy from the audience through his monologue and thus we become more aware of the Christian’s harsh preconceptions against the Jews. And this is emphasised once more in the court room scene near the end of the play. Throughout this play, Shakespeare repeats, reinforces and ultimately criticises the prejudices against Jews.
Instead, money and wealth only play a secondary role in this play and are just simply replacements for love, hatred, equality and revenge. For Shylock, wealth is simply just an object that he uses to gain equality within his society as well as to revenge against those who have done him wrong because of his religion. Being Jewish, he is looked down and mistreated on everyday basis by the Christians especially Antonio. He accuses Antonio of insulting him, even of spitting on him in the street: “you call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine and all for use of that which is mine own” (1.3.106-8). The power of wealth affords Shylock the opportunity to work with people of higher social standing and it gives him a sense of equality in that instance.
Originally, we understand Shylock to be quite a vengeful character because of the “bond” he makes with Antonio. However, once we acknowledge the reasons why Shylock made such an agreement, we believe him to be quite reasonable. Shylock lives in an environment where Jews are despised, especially by Christians, and in Act 1, Scene 3 he makes it clear to the audience why he is cruel to Antonio: “Many a time and oft In the Rialto you have rated me About my moneys and my usances Still I have borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe. You call me misbeliever, cut- throat dog and spit upon my Jewish gabardine.” This extract reveals that Shylock has been victimised and bullied by Antonio, and the phrase “many a time”, suggests that it constantly takes place. He continues to say the he has “borne it with a patient shrug” which conveys that he has a good side because he has tolerated the abuse and has
Shylock in The Merchant of Venice In the play The Merchant of Venice Shylock is the hardest person in the play to figure out. As he is perceived to be the most noteworthy character in the play there hasn’t really been any consensus as to whether we should classify him as a bloodthirsty bogeyman, a clownish Jewish stereotype, or a tragic figure whose sense of decency has been fractured by the persecution he endures. Certainly Shylock is the plays antagonist in his “devil like” moments he holds, but he also seems to have his moments of good throughout the play. Few characters created by Shakespeare embody pure evil like the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is a usurer and a malevolent, blood-thirsty old man consumed with plotting the downfall of his enemies.
However, there is one character who does not have a happy ending and that is Shylock, the Jewish money lender. We get the idea that around the time when this play was written and performed that the audience did not care about Jews because, they accept the fact that Shylock does not have a happy ending. In all Shakespeare writes a compelling play which successfully highlights the theme of prejudice through; the plot, structure and main characters. Moreover, the theme of anti-semitism is highlighted through the main plot. In most of the scenes Shylock is show little respect.
Although many parts of the play could be interpreted as offensive in modern times, Elizabethan audiences found them comical. The majority of London’s population at the time was anti-Semitic because there were very few Jews living there. Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice, supports anti-Semitism actions and thought. Although people from all kinds of nationalities and religious backgrounds did business in Venice, Shakespeare's setting is full of religious strife, especially between Christians and Jews. This culminates in a big legal showdown over whether or not Shylock should be able to collect his pound of flesh from Antonio.