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

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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

Introduction

One of the most interesting and dramatic characters in ‘The Merchant
of Venice’ is the rich, despised money-lending Jew Shylock.

It is impossible to judge Shylock’s character by our own modern
Standards, simple because Shakespeare wrote this play for play goers
in Elizabethan times. This was very different to modern times for two
reasons.

Firstly, people watching the play would not find it strange to feel
sorry for a character, then a few moments later, to be screaming for
their blood!

Secondly, nearly everyone in Shakespeare’s time was racist, and it was
common for people to dislike Jews and think of them of villainous.

I think that Shylock is both a villain and a Victim. Shakespeare
purposefully meant Shylock to be as villainous and victimised as
possible, to make the play as dramatic as he could and the most
emotion from the crowd.

In the ‘Merchant of Venice’, Shylock’s character holds the key to a
great tragedy. According to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, there must
be ‘the fall of the great man’. Shylock is greatly respected within
his tribe, is very rich and looses all that he has at the end of the
play.

Essay

The audience’s knowledge of Jews would have been mostly from Marlowe’s
play; Jew of Malta. Also, they would have known about the trial and
execution of Ruy Lopez, a Portuguese Jew. Lopez was convicted of
trying to poison the queen. The audience would have been racially
motivated by to hate Jews. Shylock would have been seen as a villain,
because he was a Jew. Shylock was also a money-lender who prospered
from his tra...


... middle of paper ...


...
victimised, because of his unstoppable thirst for Antonio’s blood,
although it is true that Shylock was treated badly, racially abused
and insulted all of his life. Shakespeare doesn’t create an obvious
distinction between Shylocks villainy, or his victimisation. It is
almost impossible to distinguish Shakespeare’s views only Jews, since
he portrays them as evil, scheming, deceitful villains, as well as
abused and suffering victims. Shakespeare seems to have written The
Merchant of Venice with an unbiased view, which perhaps makes the play
even more dramatic. Making Shylock both a villain and a victim draws
hatred, as well as sympathy from the crowd, making them feel all
extremes of their emotions. Shakespeare used this in all of his
plays, which may partially explain his outstanding success as a
playwright.


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