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Essay about Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

A key feature of the play 'The Merchant Of Venice' is the issue of
whether Shylock is a victim or a villain. This issue is raised at many
crucial points most of which can be separated into the categories
victim or villain.

Act 1 Scene 3 displays Shylock as a sensible business man. This is our
first introduction of Shylock and therefore produces our first
impressions. The first point where Shylocks' character is revealed in
detail is during his soliloquy of lines 37 - 48. At this point Shylock
gives an aside to the audience which no character can hear. We learn a
lot about Shylocks' behaviour toward Antonio and Christians in
general. This shows a man who wants revenge and who is desperate to
get his own back, as the text says; 'Cursed be my tribe if I forgive
him!' This shows that Shylock feels it his duty to his nation (the
Jews) to seek revenge on Antonio. This entire speech displays Shylock
as a villain, a heartless man who is not willing to forgive.

During Act1 Scene 3 our feelings toward Shylock change dramatically.
Shylock is portrayed as a villain until the point where Antonio
enters. Antonio does not treat Shylock with any respect despite the
fact that he is asking for a favour, this causes us to feel sympathy
toward Shylock and he suddenly becomes less villainous. We begin to
wonder why Antonio acts this way, when making the decision of the bond
Shylock stalls and delays frequently, in order to plot his terms of
the bond. This shows his villainous side and how much he wants to get
Antonio. When Shylock has stated the terms his attitude changes and he
then tries to...


... middle of paper ...


...oses the court case we expect him to walk home, head
hung low, but the Christians do not allow this. Shylock is forced to
make a will in favour of Lorenzo and become a Christian, which to
Shylock means going to hell. If a Jew disgraced his religion (by
becoming a Christian) he would be damned to hell. Shylock would rather
be dead than be a Christian. This treatment is very cruel and far too
extreme. We feel for Shylock and he is seen as a victim.

To conclude, it is very easy to see Shylock as a victim or a villain.
It does seem though that anytime he acts in a villainous way it is
caused by extreme pressure and prejudice from the Christians. This
villainous side is not the true Shylock. Shylock is a kind decent man,
a good father. He is merely cursed by a Jewish background, struggling
to survive in a Christian world.


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