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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Introduction One of the most interesting and dramatic characters in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is the rich, despised money-lending Jew Shylock. It is impossible to judge Shylock’s character by our own modern Standards, simple because Shakespeare wrote this play for play goers in Elizabethan times. This was very different to modern times for two reasons. Firstly, people watching the play would not find it strange to feel sorry for a character, then a few moments later, to be screaming for their blood! Secondly, nearly everyone in Shakespeare’s time was racist, and it was common for people to dislike Jews and think of them of villainous. I think that Shylock is both a villain and a Victim. Shakespeare purposefully meant Shylock to be as villainous and victimised as possible, to make the play as dramatic as he could and the most emotion from the crowd. In the ‘Merchant of Venice’, Shylock’s character holds the key to a great tragedy. According to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, there must be ‘the fall of the great man’. Shylock is greatly respected within his tribe, is very rich and looses all that he has at the end of the play. Essay The audience’s knowledge of Jews would have been mostly from Marlowe’s play; Jew of Malta. Also, they would have known about the trial and execution of Ruy Lopez, a Portuguese Jew. Lopez was convicted of trying to poison the queen. The audience would have been racially motivated by to hate Jews. Shylock would have been seen as a villain, because he was a Jew. Shylock was also a money-lender who prospered from his tra... ... middle of paper ... ... victimised, because of his unstoppable thirst for Antonio’s blood, although it is true that Shylock was treated badly, racially abused and insulted all of his life. Shakespeare doesn’t create an obvious distinction between Shylocks villainy, or his victimisation. It is almost impossible to distinguish Shakespeare’s views only Jews, since he portrays them as evil, scheming, deceitful villains, as well as abused and suffering victims. Shakespeare seems to have written The Merchant of Venice with an unbiased view, which perhaps makes the play even more dramatic. Making Shylock both a villain and a victim draws hatred, as well as sympathy from the crowd, making them feel all extremes of their emotions. Shakespeare used this in all of his plays, which may partially explain his outstanding success as a playwright.