Sympathy for Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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Sympathy for Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is about a rich Christian merchant who borrows

money from a Jewish moneylender to help his friend in marriage.

Antonio borrows money from Shylock because Bassanio, one of Antonio's

best friends, needed the money to impress Portia of Belmont. Although

Antonio is rich, all his money is tied up in his business of shipping

"Thou know'st that all my fortunes are at sea". Portia comes from a

wealthy family, in her fathers will he says only the person who

chooses the right casket can ask Portia's hand in marriage "the

lottery that he hath devised in these three chests of gold, silver,

and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you". Her father

probably wanted someone like himself to marry his daughter.

The bond that Shylock suggested was if Antonio didn't pay the money

back in time at a certain place, he would have one pound of his flesh

from where he chooses "If you repay me not on such a day, in such a

place, such sum or sums as are expressed in the condition, let the

forfeit be nominated for an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut

and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me." Shylock presented

the bond as a joke "in a merry sport"; I think Antonio thought it was

just a joke as well, other wise he wouldn't have accepted as gladly;

he was also very confident that he could pay the money back in time "I

do expect return of thrice three times the value of this bond."

Shylock suggested such a bond because he hated Christians, he wanted

revenge "If I can catch him once upon hip, I will feed fat the ancient

grudge I bear him." In the 1500, Jews who settled in Europe were

treated with suspicion and were increasingly isolated from general

society. Some cities would not admit Jews at all; being racist was

totally acceptable. Some Jews in Europe proved successful in business

and trade, and were considered to have some usefulness.
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