The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare


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The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The famous play 'The Merchant of Venice' by William Shakespeare
concerns several plot lines, including the bond, the ring, the caskets
and the elopement. The bond is the main plot and usury is a key part
of this. It is because Shylock is a moneylender who lends money to a
Christian. Shylock is crucial because he is a crucial character to 2
plots including the main one.

When Antonio first meets Shylock he is immediately unkind to Shylock
because he is a Jew. "Shylock, albeit I neither lend nor borrow, by
taking nor by giving of excess, yet to supply the ripe wants of my
friend, I'll break custom" Meaning he will borrow money although he
doesn't like to because most moneylenders were Jews and Antonio
disliked all Jews. Shylock try's to be civil with Antonio to get a
deal. He say's "How like a fawning publican he looks, I hate him for
he is a Christian" The audience immediately feels that Shylock is
evil. When the merchant was first shown in the 16th century everyone
hated Jews and therefore they would hate him more than nowadays
because Jews aren't hated as much.

Antonio's attitude to Shylock is not a very good one. The audience
begins to feel sympathy for Shylock when we find out he is treated
badly by all Christians who are the majority of the population of
Venice at the time. Shylock tells us later in the play that he is only
human in probably the most famous speech in any Shakespeare play. "If
you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you
poison us do we not die?" Shakespeare uses language here to show both
sides of Shylock. "If you Poison us do we not die" "Fed with the same
food"

Finally, Shylock suggests the bond on the condition that if Antonio
doesn't pay up on time he shall have to pay the penalty "as merry
sport". He goes on to say that the penalty shall be "an equal pound of

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your fair flesh" from what part of the body pleases Shylock. It seems
that Shylock is evil. Antonio immediately agrees to the bond "Hie
thee, gentle Jew. the Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind" This
is despite that he cannot confirm repayment. He does this because he
is sure that he will be able to

Soon after Shylock's daughter, Jessica, leaves in Act3 Scene1,
Salarino meets Shylock on a street. Shylock turns on them and accuses
them of helping Jessica elope. He then goes on to rage about the loss
of Antonio's ships. He repeats the phrase "Let him look to his bond" 3
times. This is clearly because he is glad to get revenge against
Antonio. Shylock seems to be evil still. This is instantly contrasted
with the speech mentioned earlier.

Shylock is both angry and brief stricken to find out that Tubal cannot
find Jessica, but he doesn't make it clear if it's the jewels or
Jessica he's looking for. The audience feels fairly sorry for him at
this point.

Following the loss of Antonio's ships Shylock immediately demands to
take it to the courts. From the beginning, he is presented to us as an
evil person who insists on having his revenge against Antonio. The
duke begs him to take the money and not the pound of flesh but Shylock
won't have it. Meanwhile, Gratsiano is still taunting Shylock.

Shylock is defeated by Portia, dressed up as a lawyer, but there is
worse to come "the law hath another hold on you" He is punished when
he cannot spill any blood when cutting the pound of flesh from near
Antonio's heart. The other 'hold' on Shylock is a punishment for
wasting the court's time. He ends up with nothing as half his
possessions are given to the state and the other to the defendants.

The audience's final view of Shylock is that he is revengeful, bully's
target but is still seen as being fairly evil. At the end of the play
some people will feel sorry for Shylock and some will think that he
deserves what he got and this one will have been the only view when it
was first screened in the 16th century.


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