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There are many unique characters in The Merchant of Venice. At first glance the characters Portia and Shylock seem to be completely different. Portia is a young, Christian, female, who inherited a fortune from her father but is bound by his dying wish. Shylock is characterized as a stereotypical Jew who is greedy and unpleasant. When you peel back the layers there are more similarities than meets the eye. Both are rich but each uses their money for a different reason. Both are victims, with or without sympathy. And Portia and Shylock are manipulative to get what they want, even though, in the end, what they want is completely different. Although Portia and Shylock seem to be so unalike, they also share a lot of similarities.
Both Portia and Shylock use their wealth but for very different end results. Portia uses hers to secure happiness for those around her. For example, Portia offers to pay three times the amount Shylock lends to Antonio. She does this to help Bassinio’s friend “Pay him six thousand and deface the bond! Double six thousand and then treble that, Before a friend of this description Shall lose a hair through Bassinio’s fault” (III, ii, 297-300). Shylock, on the other hand, uses his wealth in a revengeful manner. Shylock offers to lend Antonio money and not charge interest but it isn’t out of the goodness of his heart “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 off and taken In what part of your body pleaseth me” (I, iii, 142-147). Incidentally, Portia and Shylock’s wealth are tied together. Antonio’s loan and Shylock’s money freed Portia from the hold her father had on her. She, ...

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...is as cunning as Shylock and, like him she is willing to do whatever it takes to get her way. Shylock is not liked and it’s easier to see him as a manipulative character “An evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart. Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!” (I, iii, 97-100). He puts up a show for Antonio by generously offering to lend him money without interest, instead suggesting a flesh bond or basically death. Shylock hatred for Christians has driven him to want to kill Antonio.
In conclusion, the characters in The Merchant of Venice are multi layered. At first glance they seem so unique. However the heroine, Portia and the self-centered Shylock are more alike after closer examination. It is clear that they use their qualities for very different reasons. Portia for the good, Shylock for the bad.

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