For hundreds of years, the Jews had lived in their ancestral home-
Palestine- but when they were exiled in about the year 400AD, they
scattered throughout Europe and formed a Diaspora: a community of
exiled people. When the Roman Empire deteriorated, many of the Jews
returned to Palestine, and were ruled by the Turks, then the British,
eventually got their own state in 1946.
In 1066, when Jews came over to Britain with William the conqueror,
they had to wear yellow bands to distinguish them: this was highly
discriminating and many Jews were even blamed in murder cases where
Christian children were involved, meaning that many Jews were
The play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ was written by William Shakespeare,
and he’d probably never met any Jews in his life and, unlike many
other plays written about or involving Jewish characters, managed to
create a character that was not distinctly evil.
My opinion of Shylock is that he is neither a hero nor a villain
because defining him as either of these would make him almost above
humanity. A hero is someone who has to struggle against the odds and
has to make the ultimate sacrifice but will eventually pull through to
be triumphant; on the other hand, a villain is someone who is evil and
selfish, and whose actions are for his own satisfaction and go against
the good of the people.
After reading ‘The Merchant of Venice’, I think that Shylock sees
himself as a hero because he believes he is defending his religion; he
is, of course, viewed as a villain by the Christians. The problem that
we are then faced with ...
... middle of paper ...
more so, because of the way that they have treated Shylock. All of
Shylocks actions were provoked in some way and he reacted the only way
he knew how in situations he was forced into. Shylock sought revenge
for the bullying from the Christians, but didn’t create the situation
himself; he simply took the opportunity that was offered to him to
satisfy his own anger. I think that Shylock is a naturally selfish
person and the situation with Antonio simply made these negative
characteristics seem much worse.
I think that the question “Shylock: hero or villain?” is the wrong one
to ask of the character of Shylock. Shylock is more than a
one-dimensional character and describing Shylock as a hero or a
villain would seem to immortalise him, which would be incorrect
because, as we can see, Shylock is simply a human being.
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