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Essay Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice


The Merchant of Venice, a tragic- comedy written in the late 16th
century by the greatest known English author, William Shakespeare.
This is a tale set in the heart of Venice, amongst the Venetian
Christians and Jews. The history of the Jews is marked by terrible
hardship and atrocities; Jewish people kept up their customs and
religion formed tight knit communities and became known for their
intelligent hard work and business expertise. These qualities
sometimes led to them being mistrusted and resented in the community
of Venice in those times. This was especially the case in Christian
countries, where there were strong anti- Semitic feelings. The
greatest suffering for the Jews was endured during the Nazi domination
of Europe during the Second World War and some time before. Six
million Jews lost their lives during this terrible time; a period of
history known as the Holocaust. This appalling cruelty began with the
casual everyday racism, which Shylock also has to endure from the
Christians of Venice. Due to the terrible atrocities Jewish people
suffered during World War Two and centuries of persecution before
that, modern-day pragmatics are very sensitive to language usage that
perpetuates the construction of Jewish identity that could incite
anti- Semitism; hence Shylock’s problematic place in literary history
as a villain or victim.

Shylock is one of the most confusing characters in all of
Shakespeare's plays. On the surface, he is a villain only concerned
about money and revenge. Some critics, however, argue that Shakespeare
takes this "stereotypical" Jew much furth...


... middle of paper ...


...almost five centuries back, I would say that
Shylock wasn’t a villain, but a victim who was forced to have some
villainous qualities to survive in the ‘game’ of life. To be able to
judge Shylock you have to be very open-minded; his individuality is
what makes him the person he is- you cannot judge him unless you put
yourself in his shoes and try to understand what it must feel like day
after day to endure what he had to, and yet still there will be many
questions left unanswered. Shylock exhibits qualities of both a
villain and victim, but I myself cannot say he is one over the other.
I believe a person does everything for a specific reason, which is
somehow related to past motives, surroundings, people and this can be
said for Shylock, therefore Shylock is neither villain nor victim, or
he is both victim and villain.


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