This testimony given proposes that Shylock is more of a deceitful character than what the Christian colony wants us to comprehend. In my essay I intend to explore if Shylock is really a villain or a victim of his society. Shylock is a Jew, which is why the Christians of Venice dislike him. This is shown by 'If it be proved against an alien' (Act 4 Scene 1 line 345) because in Shakespeare's time Jews were seen as outsiders within the city. This quotation shows that the Christians think the Jewish people are 'Cut-throat' and operate in a way the audience would not expect.
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.
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.
Although his radical ideas were dismissed by many of the educated middle classes, they gained precedence when backed up by scholars such as Treitschke. Pius IX himself taught that Jews were ‘enemies of Jesus’. However, even he had included economic considerations in his argument, saying that they had ‘no God but their money’. Therefore, even behind seemingly religious reasons for Anti-Semitism there is an underlying economic factor. Similarly ‘evil’ capitalism, was allowed only in Judaism and not in Christianity, and was what caused the growth of Anti-Semitism in 1873; religious preachers said that these Jews were trying to swindle hardworking Christians out of their money, and it was their religious rules which were allowing them to do so.
In the sixteenth century Christians didn't treat Jews the same because they hated the traditional profession of Jews which was lending money to gain a profit, this is shown in the way William Shakespeare portrays Shylock. We also see different relationships and struggles between the other characters in the play. In 16th century Venice there was great opposition between Christians and Jews. The centre of Venice was made up of mostly a Christian population and the Jews were situated outside the perimeters in ghettos. This shows that Jews were somewhat alienated from Venetian society and from all Christian society.
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. Nothing that Shylock could have said would have changed the cruelty that was being giving to him by the Christians. The quote “Christian virtues unite men. Racism separates them,” by Sargent Shriver, implies the Christians’ attitude towards the Jews contradicted many of their beliefs. For example, the one about the importance of loving others.
The Prejudiced Message of Merchant of Venice The Merchant of Venice portrays a prejudiced message. This is first evident in Act one when Shylock openly says to himself, "I hate him because he is a Christian....May my people be cursed if I forgive him!" All throughout the book the Christians are battling with the Jews and neither of them will listen to the other because their hearts are filled with intense prejudice. Antonio proves that he is unwilling to change his feelings toward Shylock when he says, "I'm likely to call you names again, spit on you again, and shun you again." They don't seem to realize that their prejudiced attitudes could get someone (Antonio) killed.
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. Some of the audiences in the 16th century, believed that Jews were at a lower stage than them, and they only believed this because the Jews were a different (“different” referred to as “wrong “for Christians who lived in the 16th century), religion they believed they were not people, like them. The play Merchant of Venice shows the evil side of the Jews. The character’s name is “Shylock”. He is the character of evil doing; he is also the character that Shakespeare chose to represent a Jewish character.
But at the same time, it seems clear (to me, at least) that Shakespeare creates Shylock against an historical and cultural backdrop that was intensely hostile to Jews. Given this social context and historical tradition, it should come as no surprise if some of this hostility against Jews should infiltrate Shakespeare's work. Shakespeare was, after all, a commercial dramatist and many commercial dramatists make their livings by pandering to, rather than working against, conventional social mores. To make the claim that Shakespeare creates Shylock within an anti-Semitic culture, and therefore invests Shylock with biased anti-Semitic attributes, does not impugn the artistry of the drama. Nor does such a claim implicate Shakespeare himself as a monstrous anti-Semite.
Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice In the "Merchant of Venice", Shylock’s character undergoes a metamorphosis from victim to villain. Christians looked down on him, and he suffered humiliation and prejudice because of his job as a usurer and because of his race. However, he is also vengeful and cunning, and jumps at every chance to take revenge for himself. During the time that the play was set there were not many Jews in Venice as the Christians were Anti – Semitism. Christians thought of Jews as hard hearted and made separate rules for them, for example, Jews were not allowed to retaliate if a Christian hit them or called them names, they also had too wear only Jewish clothes so that they stood out.