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The Merchant of Venice

Powerful Essays
The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice was written in 1598 by William Shakespeare. The story is set in Elizabethan times, which was the sixteenth century. People back then were quite prejudiced towards any race that was not Christian. They would have hated Jews. When Shylock would come onto the stage, the audience would have just booed him back off. The Christians had their reasons for hating the Jews. The fact that they supposedly killed “Jesus” still angers many people today. Christians were resentful of their wealth. Jews were very successful with their businesses. You could say that the Christians were experiencing Xenophobia, fear of foreigners. They feared that they would take over their land. So when Shylock comes to act, all these negative thoughts are buzzing through the audiences’ minds. Shylock is victimised in this play, as all Jews were back in the sixteenth century. They would live in enclosed and segregated areas called ghettos.

This play is a comedy, meaning that no one dies, and that the “good guys” always win and that Justice is done to the “bad guys.” Like all comedies there is a villain. You could describe a villain as: nasty, a law breaker, someone who kills people, greedy and vengeful, evil and he/she usually gets caught in the end and is punished. This is what I would say a typical villain is, although it is very stereotypical. Shylock is evil and vengeful, but he does not step outside the law. When he is ready to dice up Antonio, he is “allowed” to do this due to the bond he made.

The audience knows that Shylock is a Jew, but they do not know his qualities, what he is like as an actual human. So far, the audience have just typecast him as another Jew. The modern audience would not care what race he is, or what name he calls God. Anyway, believe it or not, Shylock does have good qualities. He is an industrious man meaning he works hard for his money. He is an extremely devout Jew. He can say any quote from the Jewish Bible. He often quotes out of the Bible when he talks, or he refers to parts of the Bible when trying to express something. He adored his wife, Leah, who passed away before the play starts. You really see his devotion to her, when he talks about the ring she gave him before they were married. Shylock said he would not give it up for “a wilderness of monkeys”. This meaning that he would not give it up for al...

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... bouncing back from Villain to Victim. He is a villain when in court, when he gets his knife ready, “A Sentence, Come Prepare!” this showing his cold, ruthless side. But before he even enters the court scene, he is victimised. He is referred to as “the Jew.” The Christians call him “bloody, cold, ravenous,” which, of course, isn’t a good thing to say although it does speak the truth about most of his actions. The punishment itself leaves Shylock as a helpless victim. It leaves him stripped of his most prized possessions, including something that most do not lose, his religion. You could say Antonio saves Shylock in a couple of ways. By making him Christian he promises him “eternal salvation” which is something Christians believe in also it allows him to be a part of society. That’s what the Elizabethans would think, but our modern multi-cultural view is no. He is not getting saved, he has to convert against his will, he does not want to. My answer, I think Shylock is victimised so much more than what he does to be a villain. So, I think Shakespeare is trying to make him a villain, but wants him to make him suffer for his misdeeds, something that does not happen often in comedies.