Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice


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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

Shylock is a Jew in the play "The merchant of Venice". He has a
daughter called Jessica and he is in many ways a victim of
anti-Semitism. Shakespeare brings across Shylock as a Jew using many
different devices. For example he uses anti-Semitism to show that
Shylock is meant to be portrayed as an isolated character.
Anti-Semitism was based on religious grounds back then, they held the
belief that Jews murdered Christ and were therefore in the league of
the devil, this is why the Christians in the play and the directors of
the play are vengeful towards Shylock.

I believe that Shakespeare deliberately isolates Shylock, which then
makes the play more effective, because putting all Christians in the
play wouldn't give the play such a strong plot, as it has now. There
would be no verbally abusive things said to both the Christians and
the Jew and no remarks or stage directions used to show Shylock as the
outsider, because the Christians would have treated him like one of
their own! From the occurrences at that time, there were no rumours
going around about the Jews which were mostly all made up, but it then
gave Shakespeare an incentive, which resulted in portraying Shylock as
the villain.

Firstly, what is definitely noticeable is that Shylock is presented as
an outsider. A way that this is proven is when you look at the
directors, entrance notes an exit notes, they stand out considerably
because Shakespeare writes Shylock "The Jew" this immediately denotes
a difference within the play.

Another way that Shakespeare is making the audience consider the fact
Shylock's an outsider, is his use of language. It's very repetitive
and it's conspicuous he's an outsider, he ends his sentences wit
"well" every time.

The sort of treatment that Shylock obtains from the other characters
is that of a more aggressive and rude nature, but Shylock returns
their vicious comments by a play on words and his hate for Christians,

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because although that Shylock is meant to be brought across as an
outsider because he is a Jew and Bassanio and Antonio hate him for
that, he does have an ancient and cruel hate for Christians and
Shakespeare makes it clear that this is part of Shylock's motive too.
In his first soliloquy he is made to say explicitly "I hate him for he
is a Christian" (Act 1 Scene 3 line 37), so in Shakespeare's the
Christians are in no doubt that Shylock is a thorough villain, nine
times he is known as the "devil".

The thing is that the Christians treat each other the same, they all
in their eyes have the same equalities, because they are Christians. I
know this because for example in Act 4 Scene 1 when Shylock enters the
court every single Christian hisses at Shylock yet the only reason he
is there is to settle out an agreement made by him and Antonio. This
clearly indicates that Shakespeare intended there to be conflict of
religion in the play causing prejudice comments and thoughts.

The reason the audience knows that Shylock was a Jew, and that I know
he is a Jew is because the play makes this totally obvious. Shylock
was born with the name "shylock" yet stage directions for example

Enter the Jew

And the characters idea of Shylock tells us he is a Jew continuously
throughout Act 4 Scene1 Portia referred to Shylock as "the Jew" and
most of the time she had direct address towards Shylock, so you can
imagine "the Jew" was mentioned many times. Also Shylock was a
moneylender, no Christian was a moneylender, if someone had this
occupation in those days you knew straight away they were a Jew which
in some respect isn't fair because to leave only 2 specific jobs for
Jews to have is again isolating Jews completely, they are over powered
by too many prejudice Christians.

I believe that Shakespeare meant to use a stereotype. I think this
because it automatically gives the audience a judgement on Shylock,
and in those days it was always a bad thing, and because the
stereotypical comments are throughout the play I also believe
Shakespeare was also lead by those malicious rumours.

The only scene in which I think Shylock is presented, as a villain is
Act 1 Scene 3. This is because he is cocky, possessive and plays on
words.

"I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him!

And:

"...Of your flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of body I
pleaseth me."

The last quote opens up the fact that Shylock as well as being
villainous is also portrayed to have a sick side to him. The quote
speaks for itself; Shakespeare wants to also extend Shylocks character
to a villain to.

In Act 4 Scene 1 Shylock seems to scare Antonio and Bassanio which
makes the audience quite wary of Shylock because he is making them
both feel lower than him which in a Christians eyes isn't good.

Shylock doesn't really care much about anyone or his surroundings, his
main focus is on his wealth and himself which you notice throughout
the play, he wants to know he's hurt Antonio, because he didn't repay
him, and because he is a Christian, which brings out his depraved
character.

In a directors case, he/she could make Shylock look different, by
where he stands (status) if say in Act 3 scene 1 because he is down
about the fact that his daughter has fled he would appear to be
directed with a lower status but in Act 4 scene 1 it would vary
because at the beginning he's confident (high status) but as it goes
on he ends up being on the floor physically begging for mercy.

Even though I think Shakespeare has purposely made Shylock as a
villain, outsider and a Jew, he has a nicer side to him, and some
people, preferably not a Christian in them times, would have seen him
as a victim. A lot of the time other characters are constantly sniping
him at. You have to have a little sympathy for him because he suffers
a lot throughout the play. He gets caught out in the last act because
of the broken bond, and everyone despises of him. I think he does
deserve some of what's happened to him, but he is after all doing his
job, and he doesn't deserve remarks that people make and stereotypical
views, he is after all only human.

Shakespeare makes Shylock seem most like a victim because in all three
scenes he is called "the Jew" he is hissed at, smirked at and he
doesn't deserve it. I personally believe though that Shakespeare has
tried to portray him more as a villain but, I don't see it that way,
maybe this is because of the history of the Jews and all I know about
the persecution of the Jews.

The whole play is based on the hate towards Jews, and Shylocks
reactions to their comments, so I think that it isn't deliberate but
Shylock is presented as the victim in the play, "The merchant of
Venice"





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