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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 Shylock has been very badly treated by certain Christians and he
yearns for revenge. He goes too far when he seeks the life of his main
persecutor, but he is essentially, an intelligent, dignified man who
can no longer bear to be humiliated.

Long before Shylock plotted against him, Antonio seemed to take a
pride in spurning Shylock, treating him in public with rudeness and
contempt. This type of behaviour appears to contradict with the rest
of his character. You would imagine that such a man would
instinctively shrink from insulting anybody so grossly, but Antonio
seems proud of it and tells Shylock that he will probably abuse him
again, 'spit on him again and spurn him, too'.

In 'The Merchant of Venice', Shakespeare does not treat Shylock as
simply evil for evil's sake. He makes him human. Shylock has good
reason to resent Antonio. He says:

'You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,

and spit upon my Jewish gabardine,

and all for use of that which is mine own,'

When Shylock shows a seeming kindness to Antonio he takes it as a sign
that 'The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind'. Kindness in a
Jew is beyond Antonio's conception.

Christians alienate Shylock simply because he is a Jew. In ancient,
medieval, and Renaissance times, Jews almost always encountered
prejudice from non-Jews around them. Scholars are divided on whether
Shakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice, was attempting con...


... middle of paper ...


...of one of the fundamental Christian
values, forgiveness. Shylock is able to cite the New Testament as
readily as Jewish scripture, as he shows in his remark about the pig
being the animal into which Christ drove the devil. Antonio notes
Shylock's facility with the Bible, but he uses this ability to compare
Shylock to the devil, who, proverbially, is also adept at quoting
scripture. As we see more of Shylock, he does not become a hero or a
fully sympathetic character, but he is an unsettling figure insofar as
he exposes the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of the Christian
characters. Shylock never quite fits their descriptions or
expectations of him. Most significantly, they think he is motivated
solely by money, when in fact his resentment against Antonio and the
other Christians outweighs his desire for monetary gain.


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