Essay about Is The Merchant of Venice an Anti-Semitic Play?

Essay about Is The Merchant of Venice an Anti-Semitic Play?

Length: 1505 words (4.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Is The Merchant of Venice an Anti-Semitic Play?

 
   The Merchant of Venice features a Jewish character that is abused and slandered by nearly every character in the play. Throughout the play the behavior of these characters seems justified. In this way, The Merchant of Venice appears to be an anti-Semitic play. However, The Merchant of Venice contains several key instances, which can be portrayed in a way that criticizes anti-Semitism. The first instance occurs in Act 1, scene 3 when the audience realizes that Shylock has every right to be extremely angry with Antonio. The second instance occurs when Shylock breaks out of his one-dimensional character form in Act 3, scene 1 in an extremely powerful speech that attacks the very foundations of anti-Semitism and shows his sorrow that Jessica ran off with Lorenzo. The third instance encompasses all of Act 4, scene 1. Although anti-Semitism is quite prevalent throughout the scene, it is clear that the characters persecuting Shylock are being extremely hypocritical by returning Shylock's malicious wishes with more malice of their own.

 

Shylock is characterized nearly throughout the play as an evil, murderous man. This image of him is supported by the excessive bloodlust that Shylock exhibits. The audience is made to hate Shylock early on. In Act 1, scene 3, Shylock tells the audience that he hates Antonio "for he is a Christian." (1, 3, 42) For an audience composed nearly completely of Christians, this was a line simply meant to provoke the audience to hate Shylock. Jessica relates how "when I was with him I have heard him swear / To Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen, / That he would rather have Antonio's flesh / Than twenty times the value of the ...


... middle of paper ...


... rather than a villain, by emphasizing the speech that he makes to Lorenzo and Tubal and by making Portia's cruelty in Act 4, scene 1 especially evident. Because of this notion, The Merchant of Venice is not innately anti-Semitic. It can either be anti-Semitic or an aggressive criticism of anti-Semitism, or anything in between?  It depends on how it is interpreted by directors and by actors and how the audience receives it.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

Danson, Lawrence. Anti-Semitism in "The Merchant of Venice." New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.

Granville-Barker, Harley. "The Merchant of Venice." Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism, Leonard Dean, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Shakespeare, William. "The Merchant of Venice." The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Oxford: Shakespeare Head Press, 1998.

 

 

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice Essay

- Anti-Semitism in"The Merchant of Venice" Anti-Semitism in "The Merchant of Venice" Throughout the play, "The Merchant of Venice" William Shakespeare portrays anti-Semitism through many of his characters. Audiences today may interpret the play to be offensive, where as people of Shakespeare’s time would have accepted the play as part of everyday life. The majority of London’s population at the time was anti-Semitic because there were very few Jews living there. Shakespeare’s "The Merchant of Venice" supports anti-Semitism actions and thoughts and therefore it is an anti- Semitic play....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
544 words (1.6 pages)

The Merchant of Venice Essay example

- William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is one of his most controversial plays for a variety of reasons. Written in sixteenth-century England, where anti-Semitism was common and the presence of Jews was not, the play poses many questions concerning racial, religious and human difference. The play is especially tricky to examine in today’s society, as its anti-Semitic themes and language can be uncomfortable to face in a world post-Holocaust. Additionally, the depiction of the relationship between Jews and Christians, which has always been an ambivalent one, adds a very interesting albeit difficult dimension to this play....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Powerful Essays
2942 words (8.4 pages)

Essay on Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

- Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Written sometime between 1596 and 1598,by Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice is classified as both an early Shakespearean comedy and as one of the Bard's problem plays; it is a work in which good triumphs over evil, but serious themes are looked at and some issues remain unresolved. The play is about Antonio, a Venetian merchant, who complains to his friends that he feels a sadness which he cannot explain. His friend Bassanio is desperately in need of money to court Portia, a wealthy young woman who lives in the city of Belmont....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Powerful Essays
1463 words (4.2 pages)

Merchant of Venice Essay: The Depression of Antonio

- The Depression of Antonio in Merchant of Venice   In the Merchant of Venice, we see a truly anti-Semitic play by Shakespeare.  However, we also see a tale of money (greed and generosity), love (heterosexual and homosexual), and emotion (joy and sadness).  The play revolves around Bassanio's love for Portia.  Bassanio needs money to play the suitor to Portia in "style".  His friend who loves him, Antonio, agrees to give him the money, but, because all of his money is invested in his merchant ships he must take a loan from the greedy Jew Shylock.  Shylock loans him the money in exchange for a pound of his flesh if he does not pay the loan back on time.  Bassanio wins Portia's hand, but,...   [tags: Merchant Venice Essays]

Powerful Essays
1651 words (4.7 pages)

Perspectives on Shylock from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice Essay

- Shylock is a character famously known as being the antagonist of Shakespeare’s play merchant of Venice. In this play, Shakespeare portrayal of Shylock the moneylender is one of anti-Semitic stereotype. Shylock is depicted as a typical bloodthirsty Jew who lives a life void of any depth or meaning. His sole purpose for living seems to be to amass wealth and vengeance as seen from his adamant claim for his “pound of flesh”. Despite Shakespeare’s attempts to humanize Shylock at points in the story, it appears that his primary focus is to steer the audience against Shylock, painting him as being a cruel, bitter and inaffable figure....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Powerful Essays
892 words (2.5 pages)

Free Merchant of Venice Essays: Anti-Semitism

- Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice Though many view Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice as anti-Semitic, careful examination shows that the playwright actually develops the opposing point of view. These views can be easily established through a careful reading of the plays dialogue, character comparisons, and more subtly through indirect thematic developments by the playwright showing that on both simple and complex levels, Shakespeare attacks the anti-Semitic attitude that has been prevalent in society for centuries....   [tags: Merchant Venice Essays]

Free Essays
519 words (1.5 pages)

Contemporary Themes of The Merchant of Venice Essay

- Contemporary Themes of The Merchant of Venice One of the many elements that make up a classic, is that the book, novel or play can be read in any generation, decade, century or in any part of the globe at any time and have relevance to the reader. The themes of the work should be universal, so that the reader can take something and create a parallel to an event or situation in his or her own life. The Merchant of Venice has elements that make it a classic. The Merchant of Venice has many contemporary themes in it....   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
1000 words (2.9 pages)

Imperfect Faith in The Merchant of Venice Essay

- Imperfect Faith in The Merchant of Venice      Though William Shakespeare accurately portrays both Christianity and Judaism in his play The Merchant of Venice, the characters in the play do not represent their religions well. A reader unfamiliar with these religions could easily misinterpret flaws in a character's nature as the teachings of his religion. After a preliminary glance at the play, one would assume that Shakespeare wrote unjustly of the two religions depicted therein. However, Shakespeare had to write the play to please his audience, so he added a twist....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Powerful Essays
887 words (2.5 pages)

The Merchant Of Venice - Jews Essay

- William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice contains many examples that insult Jews because they were the minority in London in Shakespeare’s time. Although many parts of the play could be interpreted as offensive in modern times, Elizabethan audiences found them comical. The majority of London’s population at the time was anti-Semitic because there were very few Jews living there. Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice supports anti-Semitism actions and thoughts and therefore proves that Shakespeare was an anti-Semite....   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
577 words (1.6 pages)

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Essay

- 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 devi...   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Powerful Essays
1878 words (5.4 pages)