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The Character of Shylock in William Shakespeare's Othello Essay

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The Character of Shylock in William Shakespeare's Othello William Shakespeare was born in 1564, in the small town of Stratford.
He wrote many plays, including the revered Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth,
Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Hamlet and, of course, The Merchant
of Venice. He died in 1616, aged 52.

This essay aims to take a look at Shylock as a character, to decide
whether he is a victim or a villain. A vital gauge in the proceedings
is the contrast between the reactions of audiences from Elizabethan
days to recent years. The latter audience would have taunted Shylock,
purely because of the fact his character is a Jew. In the sixteenth
century, England was a Christian country, and all children would most
certainly be baptised soon after they were born. They would also be
taught the essentials of the Christian faith at a very early age.
Attendance at Church was compulsory; if you failed to go without a
good medical reason you would be fined. Before the plot even starts,
the audience condemns Shylock because he is a Jew. During the
sixteenth in England the Christians subsequently despised Jews, and
any other religion or paranormal existence that they did not
understand. Jews were often forbidden to own land or engage in trade
in England, so the only occupation open to them was money lending,
which they exploited to maximum potential. There was also a great
opposition between Christians and Jews in Venice, where Christians
again prevailed, because they made up the majority of the population.
Jews were portrayed as inferior, and marginalized, because of t...


... middle of paper ...


...ch further, making him a
complex character whose sufferings at the hands of racists motivate
his anger and subsequent bitterness towards Christians.

While Shakespeare gives no definitive portrayal of Shylock's
character, he does make important suggestions in support and in denial
of this antagonist. His profile of the Jew leads to new levels unknown
by any of the audiences at the time, an angle of persecution, a
perception questioning the integrity of Christian's prejudicing a
minority, in this case Jews

Having said that, it is my belief that Shylock is not the victim of
the play; he is the villain. The facts are that although he was mocked
and scorned, the real reason that he was hated was no that he was a
Jew, rather a merciless beast who overcharged his loans and cheated
poor people out of hard-earned money.


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