How Shakespeare Makes Us Feel Sympathetic in The Merchant of Venice


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How Shakespeare Makes Us Feel Sympathetic in The Merchant of Venice


In Shylock’s first speech in Act 1 Scene 3 he begins by saying he
hates Christians because they lend money gratis and reduce the rate of
usance on loans in Venice. At this point Shylock is more worried about
the interest charged on a loan and lends money without interest making
Shylock seem like a greedy character at this point. Shylock goes on to
say, “If I can catch once upon the hip I will feed fat the ancient
grudge I bear him”. What Shylock means if he gets Antonio where he
wants he will get his revenge. The ancient grudge was the hostility
between Jews and Christians apparently originating in the accusation
that Jews were responsible for Jesus Christ’s death. Shylock uses this
point to emphasise and to get the point across to the audience of the
long history between Jews and Christians. As we read through the
speech we see the anger of shylock towards Antonio. But as we near the
end of the speech we understand the anger because of what Antonio has
done to Shylock and the other Jews.

In Shylocks second Speech in Act 1 Scene 3 Shylock is polite to
Antonio by calling him “Signor Antonio” This makes Shylock a strong
character : after all his anger towards Antonio he talks to him
politely. This also shows Shylock has respect for him and also shows
importance. He begins by saying “Many time and oft in the Rialto you
have rated me about my moneys and my usances”. Antonio has insulted
Shylock not just once but many times. He then goes on to say “For
sufferance is the badge of all our tribe” This suggests that Shylock
has tolerated all the insults and other bad things done by Antonio for
a long time. This makes Shylock seem a stronger character because he
has not taken out his anger yet or taken revenge. He shows patience
and is calm. The next are some names Antonio has called Shylock and
things he has done.

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“You call me misbeliever, cut throat dog and spit
upon my Jewish gabardine”. Antonio has spat on shylocks Jewish
gabardine, which is an important religious symbol to Shylock. This is
disrespect to the gabardine and his religion. Next Shylock shows
sarcasm “Well then, it now appears you need my help. Go on then, you
come to me, and you say Shylock we could have moneys” he does this
because when Shylock needed to be treated fairly in the past, he had
been ignored and insulted by Antonio. When Antonio asks for help from
shylock now, it is hardly surprising that shylock is sarcastic in
response. At the end Shylock gives Antonio some options “Hath a dog
money” this means Antonio called Shylock a dog and do dogs have money.
This also reminds the audience of the names Antonio called shylock in
the beginning of the speech. The options shylock gave to Antonio
showed that he is not cruel like Antonio saying “no” but explains
himself should he or shouldn’t he give the money to Antonio after all
that he has done. In this speech Shylock is the better character not
taking out His anger, but keeping calm.

In Shylocks last speech in Act 3 Scene 1 he starts by answering
Slarios question concerning what he would do with the pound of flesh.
Shylock’s answer is a joke, as if the first thing that came to his
mind, which was “To bait fish withal. If it feeds nothing else, it
will feed my revenge”. Then he lists eight things Antonio has done to
Shylock in the past: “He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a
million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation,
thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, and
what’s his reason? I am a Jew” Antonio has done all of this because
Shylock is a Jew. Next he says “Hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions”. Then goes on to use
rhetorical questions ”fed with the same food, hurt with the same
weapon, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means ,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? I
you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you
poison us do we not die”. These rhetorical make the audience listen
more to shylock and get them on his side. The point Shylock is trying
to make is political and passionate. It suggests that Jews and
Christians should be treated equally and fairly. It also comes from
his experiences how Shylock and the other Jews have been treated in
the past and present.

Overall Shakespeare used a range of techniques to make us feel
sympathetic towards Shylock. The long ancient grudge between Jews and
Christians where the Jews were blamed for Jesus Christ death. Shy lock
has been called names in the past and present by Antonio e.g. “cut
throat dog”. Shylock has been patience putting up with the name
calling and other bad things Antonio has done to him. Shylock used
rhetorical questions which suggest that Christians and Jews should be
treated fairly.


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