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Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice Essay

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Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice

In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is continually involved in the bond
plot. This plot is probably the most intense story-line in this
Shakespeare play. Bassanio borrows money from Shylock in Antonio's
name in order to impress Portia, however after a tragic incident
involving all of Antonio's ships crashing; the money has failed to be
returned. According to their bargain Antonio must now give Shylock a
pound of his flesh. Shakespeare uses Shylock is this play in order to
provoke feelings of sympathy but also of hatred towards the villain in
this play- the Jew.

However you can't help but feel compassion for his situation as he is
always going to be treated as a miscreant. Shylock is demonstrated as
an Elizabethan caricature of a Jew and is therefore treated as one. He
has a hatred of Christians and lends money out of interest (this is
something that Elizabethans had unacceptable views on). Shylock in
this play does suffer wrongs and has some valid points on Christian
failings but he will always be seen as the rogue because of his
constant greed and hatred towards Antonio- one of the most popular
members of the play because of his generosity and affection.

In Act 1 Scene 3 we meet Shylock for the first time, throughout the
play there are times when we feel understanding for Shylock, however
this is not one of them. The most obvious observation of this scene is
the hatred of Antonio and dislike of Shylock. Shylock summarises his
approach to Christians when he explains what he will do with
Christians and what he won't ('I will buy with you…I will not eat with
you')....


... middle of paper ...


...we not bleed?' However, essentially audience compassion is turned
away from Shylock by his hatred of Antonio, to the extent of murder
and the ruthless pursuit of profit. The Elizabethan audience would
have seen him as a stereotypical monster of greed and in the
nineteenth century there was a tradition of presenting him as a
villain, followed by another tradition of Shylock as a noble victim.
Shakespeare is, however, more balanced and subtle than any of these.
Shakespeare uses situations to provoke feelings of condolence towards
Shylock because he is the victim of Christian hate (which proves to be
very non-Christian). Nevertheless Shylock will always be the villain
of the play as he is in contrast to Antonio and surely no victim would
seek death of any fellow human being or care only for his money and
not his daughter.


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