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Shylock in William Shakespeare's Othello Essay

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Shylock in William Shakespeare's Othello

The Jews ancestral home-land, where they had lived for hundreds of
years was Palestine. However, they were exiled from this land in about
the year 400 AD. They scattered out and formed a Diaspora, a community
of exiled people. Once the Roman Empire had deteriorated, a lot of
them began to make their way back to Palestine, which was then invaded
by the Turks, and ruled by them for 800 years until the British came.

The Jews came over to Britain with William the Conqueror in 1066, and
in 1217 they had to wear yellow badges to distinguish them. They were
heavily discriminated against and were blamed in murder cases often
involving Christian children, leading to many Jews being executed. In
1269 their rights were restricted; they couldn't own land and they
were made unable to inherit anything. In 1290 the Jews were expelled
from Britain and were disallowed for 350 years. Many plays were
written about evil Jews. The Merchant of Venice was written by William
Shakespeare although he had never met a Jew in his life, he doesn't
seem to portray Jews in his play as evil as a lot of them in plays in
his time.

I don't think Shylock can really be defined as either a hero or a
villain, because this seems, to me, to immortalise him. A hero is
someone who constantly strives, sometimes against everything else, for
good, and a villain is someone who intentionally causes evil for his
own selfish purposes and doesn't care for anyone else. If the title
was 'Shylock: Good or bad?' then I would say that throughout the play
that he is probably more bad than good, however, I don't believe that
this proves him to ...


... middle of paper ...


...his life situation throughout the play, and so just
acted in a way that would help him the most. Through all of the
bullying from the Christians, who seemed determined not to stop until
he had nothing left, he sought revenge, and the bond he casually
agreed upon with Antonio gave him the perfect opportunity. If you look
in depth at the behaviour of everyone in The Merchant of Venice,
Shylock is not the only villain in it. The behaviour of the Christians
is malicious and shocking, and clears Shylock of his unfeeling
behaviour, giving him the perfect reason. He is naturally a selfish
person, but not really a villain. He just had to stop people
discriminating against him in any way he felt necessary. The question,
"Is Shylock a hero or a villain?" is a one-dimensional question being
asked of a three-dimensional character.


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