Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice


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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

My critical essay is on Shylock, who is one of the main characters in
the play, "The Merchant of Venice," which was written by one of the
most famous playwrights of all time, William Shakespeare. In this
essay I intend to prove that Shylock was the villain of this play and
although there may have been moments where he appeared to be a victim,
he was a cruel and evil villain. He was an unforgiving character who
was scheming to get his own way throughout the whole play.

At the start of the play we see Shylock grudgingly lending Antonio
money-3000 ducats. Even though he does not like Antonio he lends him
the money with the agreement that if Antonio should not be able to pay
him back, within the time given, Shylock will take a pound of his
flesh. During the play Shylock's daughter Jessica runs away from him
taking all of his money and some of his jewels with her. Shylock is
very angry that she has run away and taken his belongings but I think
the worst bit for him is knowing that the man she ran away with is a
Christian. He is not upset long though, as he soon finds out that
Antonio's ships have come into trouble and he won't be able to pay
back the loan. He takes him to court to argue his case, he says all he
wants is justice as Antonio has broken his bond and this is the
punishment they agreed to. It is a close case and right up until the
end it looks as though Shylock might just win but at the very last
moment Portia, posing as the lawyer, catches him out, and he is
charged with attempted murder.

I think that from Shylock's very first scene of the play you can see
clues to his scheming and conniving nature. In it we see Shylock
trying to work out whether or not to give Antonio the money. You can
see him trying to decide whether it is worth his while, trying to

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decide if there is anything in it for him. He also shows the nasty
side to his personality when he makes certain comments about Antonio's
ships that would imply he would like harm to come to them. " I mean,
pirates; and then there is the peril of waters, winds and rocks." I
think this is why he eventually decides to loan Antonio the money he
thinks that something might happen to his ships and then Antonio will
not be able to pay him back. Another comment he makes in that scene is
that he hates Antonio just because he's Christian, which is an
intolerant opinion and shows you exactly the kind of person Shylock
is.

Shylock is a greedy, money-mad man who cares more about his money than
his family. This is proven in Act 2 Scene 8 when he finds out that his
daughter Jessica has run away from him with Lancelot-a Christian- and
she has taken his money and some of his jewels with her. He is upset
that she has left him and worried about her but he is also furious
that she has taken his money with her. He goes out into the streets
shouting and can't seem to decide which he cares about more his
daughter or the ducats. "My ducats and my daughter! And jewels! Two
stones!" He should obviously care far more about his daughter but it
is apparent that he doesn't. Another example of his cold-hearted
personality is his statement in Act 3 Scene 1 "I would have my
daughter dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear." This is a
horrible thing for a father to say about his daughter and shows
without a shadow of a doubt that he cares more about money than his
only daughter.

Shylock's unforgiving stubbornness is shown again in his court scenes
with Antonio. He is determined that he will get his pound of flesh. He
shows his arrogance when he enters the court with a pair of scales and
a large knife obviously implying that in his eyes he has already won.
It also shows that his mind is made up and that it is highly unlikely
that he will listen to anything the court has to say. Shylock says the
whole way through the trial that all he wants is the justice he
deserves but this is not true. Shylock is made several offers of money
during the trial, twice the amount of what Antonio owes him but he
will not accept them. He also turns down a request that a surgeon be
allowed to stand by, to help Antonio after he had taken his pound of
flesh. Both of these actions show that it is not justice or even the
money that Shylock cares about but Antonio's death. Later in the scene
he tortures Antonio by sharpening his knife on the sole of his shoe
infront of him. Which angers Bassanio and leads him to shout to
Shylock "Not on thy sole but on thy soul" which is a pun cleverly used
by Shakespeare to highlight again the nastiness of Shylock's
personality.

As the climax and tension grows in the court Shylock is finally caught
out as the lawyer says that yes he can have his pound of flesh but
only if he takes exactly a pound, no more no less and he must not
spill a single drop of blood. He immediately drops his case, as he
knows this is not possible and so is charged with attempted murder. He
has to give half of his money to the court, half to Antonio and become
a Christian. Although this may seem like a very harsh punishment I
think it is fitting to his crimes, as he would have been willing to
kill Antonio if they had given him the chance.

In conclusion I would definitely say that Shylock was the villain of
the play. His scheming and malicious nature overturn any chance of him
been seen as a victim. He was a nasty, greedy, money grabbing
character that hated Antonio because of his religion and because he
supposedly stole business from Shylock-a moneylender-as he was willing
to give out loans without interest. Using this character as an example
I think that Shakespeare was trying to show that everyone who does
wrong gets caught out in the end.


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