I have never been a Christian, and before this assignment was given to me, never touched a Bible before. However, reading the gospel John has helped in my understanding of The Merchant of Venice very much. Through the Bible, I have been able to compare the themes and characters present in both texts, thus enhancing my appreciation of The Merchant of Venice.
One of the similarities that struck me was the `resemblance' of Jesus and Shylock. At first sight, these two characters seem to be worlds apart, one being a saintly and merciful Son of God, while the latter being a miserly moneylender and a Jew. However, as I prodded deeper into both texts, I astonished myself at the great similitude of the two.
Firstly, at the start of the gospel, Jesus was not accepted by His own people, as Shylock was not accepted by his fellow Venetians. Jesus was not accepted because the Jews did not believe in what He is said to have done, though they were created from His Father. Shylock is rejected because they do not believe in his religion, which actually is the their own too, for both Christianity and Judaism came from Jerusalem. Their own people rejected both of them. This is further shown in the fact that the Jews persecuted Jesus (who in actual fact was one of their people) because he `broke a law' to rid somebody of sin, as seen in "So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him." (John 5:16). Ironically, Shylock's fellow human beings similarly persecuted him, because he did not conform to their societal norm by being a Christian.
In another irony, "Moreover, the Father judges no one..." (John 5:22), and...
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...f Jews and hypocrisy in literature. It has helped me to see things in different perspectives, and opened windows of imagination in viewing The Merchant of Venice, and I believe that I will carry this with me through other texts that I might come across in future.
Chesterton, G. K.. The Bible In Literary Criticism. Ed. and Comp. Alex Preminger and Edward L. Greenstein. New York: Ungar, 1986. 449-50.
Fox, Robin Lane. The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible. New York: Vintage, 1991.
Frick, Frank S.. A Journey Through The Scriptures. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1995.
Ingersoll, Robert G. About the Holy Bible. Penguin Publishers 1994.
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. 1967. Ed. W. Moelwyn Merchant. The New Penguin Shakespeare. London: Penguin Books, 1996.
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