How The Character Of Shylock From “The Merchant Of Venice” Is

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How The Character Of Shylock From “The Merchant Of Venice” Is

Presented To The Audience In Scenes 1.3, 3.1 and 4.1

Over the years, Shylock has been portrayed in many ways, for instance,

in the Elizabethan time, Jews were seen as the cause of Christ’s death

and were known moneylenders so they were persecuted, so Shylock

normally came on stage wearing a bright red wig and portrayed as a

comic villain due to this he was always mocked. However, after the

holocaust was brought to light, Jews were taken more seriously and

were treated with more respect than they were previously shown so when

Shylock appeared on stage, he was treated fairly and was not mocked as

he had been in previous versions of the play.

Shylock is one of the main characters in the play. He is a Jew who is

treated very badly by all Christians and wants revenge so when Antonio

goes to Shylock for money, Shylock tries to make a deal which would

give him the chance to kill Antonio the christian if the money is not

repayed. This shows Shylock to be the villain but as we go through

the play, we hear of how Shylock has been treated and we start to feel

sympathetic towards him as we hear how he has been a victim of racial


In act 1 scene 3, Shylock is first introduced as “Enter the Jew”. In

the first few lines of the play, we find out that Shylock is happy

because Antonio is to borrow three thousand ducats from Shylock for

his friend Bassanio to get married. We know that Shylock is happy

because he repeats that Antonio wants three thousand ducats for three

months and that he is bound to the contract. This makes Shylock seem

like a greedy man as he is excited at the prospect of gaining interest

from the money he is about to loan Antonio. The first thing he talks

about in the scene is his business and then he only talks about his

religion later, which shows that money is his main priority. We also

see Shylock as devious as he knows that the only way Antonio can pay

back the loan is if his ships that are selling goods abroad return and

Shylock talks about all the dangers for the boats. This shows him as

devious as we wonder why he is excited that the boats may sink.

Shylock is also seen as devious as he hides his true desire to trap

Antonio in a debt he may not be able to pay. Shylock highlights his

religious difference when he says “yes, to smell pork, ...

... middle of paper ...

...In Elizabethan times the prejudice shown to Shylock in the play would

be perfectly normal because Jews were banned in England since 1290 and

were seen as evil people. Nowadays we are shocked at the prejudice

because we are living after the holocaust when Hitler attempted to

wipe out the whole Jewish race and now everyone has a degree of

sympathy for Jews. The anti-Semitism shown in the play would be seen

as comedy in the Elizabethan period. Shakespeare's play was so

successful because Queen Elizabeth's doctor was executed for high

treason in 1954. He was a Jew. Shylock has been seen as both the

victim and the villain of the play. A victim because he loses all his

money and has to change his religion at the end of the trial scene.

Also he is the victim of lots of prejudice from the Christians like

them spitting on him and calling him names. But in conclusion I think

that ultimately Shylock is a villain. The way he treats those close to

him, for example his daughter Jessica exposes his evil character. He

lets his need for vengeance engulf all other aspects of his life and

his complete lack of mercy towards Antonio, renders him as a villain

in the eyes of the audience
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