The Way Shylock is Presented in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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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 is

not exactly what the whole play is about, the play also involves

Antonio and his best friend, Bassanio as he goes to meet Portia his

future wife. Thus we can see that this play arouses many issues such

as prejudice, racism, law and the nature of love and friendship.

The first time we meet Shylock is in Act 1, Scene 3. Shylocks first

words are "three thousand ducats". From this we can see that

Shakespeare has already presented Shylocks character as a miser with a

callous and materialistic mind, as his first words are regarding his

money. As Bassanio goes over the facts of the "bond", Shylock answers

him in a way that repeats what has just been said and adding, "well"

at the end. This is as if he is mocking Bassanio, by repeating the

same blunt phrases, to express his narrow range of ideas. As he

doesn't say much this gives the effect that he is a miser with his

words and his "ducats". When Bassani...

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... only reason why he really wanted the bond was to get an upper hand on

the Christians. I think Shylock had been forced to act in this way as

he was suppressed by the Christians.

However Elizabethan play-goers would have seen Shylock as the ultimate

villain, as he dealt with usury. They must have thought that Shylock

deserved everything he got. The Christians of that time also believed

that the Jews ate the flesh of Christians, so for them Shylock was the

villain of the play, robbing most of the comedy from the play. From

this we can see why he was so abused by the Christians and called

"villain", "dog" and "wolf". However, nowadays people may see Shylock

as someone forced to act in such as way from all the pressure he is

put under. We can see that Shylock just wants to lead a life away from

Christians who hate him.