Defining Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice One of the factors that make Shakespeare plays famous is its capability to appeal to wide range of audience. For example in The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare brings up the question of religion, racism and morality for the intellectuals amongst the Elizabethans but for most off the groundlings and ill-educated it was a simply a battle between Christians and Jews in which the Jew (e.g. Shylock) should end up facing the heat of defeat in the climax. England was a Christian country, where Christianity was followed and taught from early ages. At this time Jews were perceived as "villains of society" in fact in the Venetian community towards the centre of Venice, you would find the homes of Christians and towards the outskirts and suburbs you would find the homes of Jews which showed that were hated, unwanted and excluded members of society.
William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare, having spent most of his youth in England, was influenced by England’s beliefs. England was going through a Christian reformation that had caused friction between Christians and Jews. Jews and Christians did not see eye to eye on almost everything and especially on usury, the practice of lending money with interest. Boyce, a Shakespearean critique, sums up the negative attitude that Christians had on Jews in the 16th Century: “Sixteenth-Century Englishmen tended to attribute to Jews only two important characteristics, both negative: first, that Jews detested Christians and gave much energy to devising evils for gentiles to undergo, and second, that Jews practiced usury. The latter assumption was grounded in an old reluctance on the part of Christians to lend money [with interest]” (Boyce 417).
In order to answer the question it is vital to look at the pervading views of the society when it was first performed. Ridiculing a stereotypical Jew was fashionable in Elizabethan drama because it reflected the commonly held view that Jews were to blame for everything from economic problems to child murder and the plague. In 1597 England was a Christian country and many disliked, often despised Jews. At the time that Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant of Venice' Jews were exiled from Britain and many Christian European countries, unless they converted to Christianity. The character of Shylock therefore confirmed the audience's view of history and anti-Semitic feelings.
Christians and Jews In The Merchant of Venice In the play 'The Merchant of Venice', which was originally entitled 'The Jew of Venice' when it was written in 1598, I very much believe that the relationship between Christians and Jews is a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. This means that there is no one good party within the play and no evil party within the play. Both religious groups are as good or as bad as each at some part in the play. The play may have been written to portray the Christians as the good party in the play as at the time it was written England was very Anti-Semitic. Jews ,who had originally settled in London, had been expelled in the 13th century .
While religion has the power to draw people together, it can also tear people apart. Throughout history, the Jewish nation has been plagued by persecution as a result of their religion. In Medieval times, the Jews faced blood libels and crusades. If they were to convert, then they would become accepted members into society; however, if they were to remain true to their religious ideals they would be killed. In modern Europe, Jews faced struggles such as Emancipation and the Holocaust.
The Way Shylock is Presented in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice The Merchant of Venice is about the conflict between a Jew and a Christian. This is not between one Jew and one Christian but between Shylock, who stands as a representative of the Jewish tribe, and between groups of Christians who greatly outnumber the Jew. The conflict between Jews and Christians is a historical one. The Christians hated the Jews because they made money from usury; this was completely against the Christian beliefs of that time. However, this hate was not one-sided as the Jews also hated the Christians because the Christians treated them very badly; the Jews were "alien" to the Venetian society and thus were treated as a second class race.
This can be seen in document 12 where it explains why the Christians attacked the Jews, it states, “The Christian masses, fired by religious fanaticism, frightened by plague, and enraged by the economic competition, now unrestricted of these secret-Jews, attacked them whenever they could.” (The Massacre of the New Christians of Lisbon, Doc 12, p. 65) The Spanish Inquisition operated by the Christian population driving the Jewish community from their homes, tortured them into confessing their sins of practicing Judaism in secret, and eventually killed them just because the Christian mobs could. The Christian population was mad and rage consumed them to kill the Jews. Document 12 explains the massacre of the Jews, it states, “Transported with madness and boiling with rage, they fell upon the wretched Jews of whom they killed great numbers, and threw many half alive into the flames.” (The Massacre of the New Christians of Lisbon, Doc 12, p. 66) The Jews were not only expelled by the King, but the Christian population took it upon themselves to eliminate and drive them out from their country themselves. The Christians were far from sane, and just full of hatred. They did not like the Jewish community, they did not like Marranos, they even killed their own based on grudges and dislikes.
“He accused them of hating people, being traitors, ridiculed their beliefs, killing human beings and kidnaping” (Patterson 5). Jews were said to have rituals celebrating their murders and kidnaping’s. With the new faith, Christianity, and the failure to convert Jews, the Catholic Church charged Jews with the crucifixion of Jesus. Roman Emperors se... ... middle of paper ... ... Anne Roiphe wrote; “ In America there are so many kinds of snobbisms, prejudices and dislikes” (Chanes, 447). Jews have also been denied of jobs, quota systems, and limiting them from admissions to colleges and universities.
Response to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice by a Modern Audience Since the time of Shakespeare, The play “Merchant of Venice” has had a dramatic effect on the modern audience today. In the 16th century, Jews were completely disliked, & Jews were not allowed to live in England unless they had converted to Christianity. ====================================================================== Jews who practised their own religion were banned from England. To modern audiences, this is “Anti-Semitic”, so this play completely shows the worse part of Christians, from beginning to end. It changes the fact that Jews had the same rights as Christians did, also today’s world doesn’t care about the race of a person, everyone has the same right.
(transition) "Here come another of the tribe: a third cannot be matched, unless the devil himself turn Jew." (III, i, 73-74) This one quotation perfectly displays the attitude held towards the Jews at the time of The Merchant of Venice. In this quote, Solanio is stating that the Jew is worse than the devil himself. The audience would have accepted, and even enjoyed, this display of prejudice since anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews) was typical at the time. The discrimination that was held towards Jews has never truly made sense but “Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument.” -Samuel Johnson.