"Shylock the Jew, one of William Shakespeare's profoundly ambivalent villains, is strangely isolated" (Bloom 24). He is portrayed as a usurer: A leader of money on interest rather than a receiver of stolen goods. This concept will prove to the audience that the Jews are in fact "cheap" and have a frugal sense for possessions. It is an intriguing idea to think that even in Shakespeare's time, stereotyping was a mundane part of their lives. Shakespeare's anti-Semitism seems harsh, but shows that not all Jews are vile like most people believed in his time. Shylock is shown to be hard working (Goddard 5). Believe it or not, there is some compassion for the desecration of the Jews in Shakespeare's play.
Antonio recognizes the futility of opposing Shylock's passion with reason. "He seems the depository of the vengeance of his race" (Goddard 11). Antonio consequently appears as a charitable Christian who lends money freely, in contrast to the miserly an...
... middle of paper ...
...an something like Marlowe's Barabas.
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. All this claim suggests is that Shakespeare, like most of the rest of his society, was hostile toward Jewry for religious and cultural reasons, and that hostility is revealed most clearly in Shylock.
What these pages have tried to trace is the possible, or perhaps the probable, relationship between what was happening in Shakespeare's day and what is happening in Shakespeare's play.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
Determining Whether there is a Presence of Anti-Semitism in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
- Determining Whether there is a Presence of Anti-Semitism in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice It is quite clear when reading The Merchant of Venice that there is a large focus on Shylock being a Jew. This is very prominent in his "I am a Jew" speech he, the Jewish moneylender, angry and betrayed, rails against the non-Jewish world which torments him. Antonio "hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies - and what's his reason.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]
888 words (2.5 pages)
- Prejudice, Racism and Anti-Semitism in William Shakespeare’s play, "The Merchant of Venice" Throughout William Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, there is a strong theme of prejudice. Portia has to deal with prejudice against her sex, the Prince of Morocco has to deal with prejudice against his race but the character that is most discriminated against is Shylock. He is hated for being a Jew and a money-lender, but Shakespeare has not made Shylock a character easy to sympathise with. He appears to be mean and cruel and it seems as though he loves money above all things.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]
2825 words (8.1 pages)
- 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]
544 words (1.6 pages)
- A Study of Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice ‘The Merchant of Venice’ was written by Shakespeare in 1596 and appeals to both audiences of comedy and tragedy. The play features anti-Semitism which is a response to 1500’s Britain as well as other literature of the time. Anti-Semitism is the term used to describe discrimination towards Jews and Judaism. ‘The Merchant of Venice’ has received both positive and negative comments over the centuries and throughout this essay I will look at some of these.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]
1529 words (4.4 pages)
- ... He appears to be the clear antagonist of The Merchant of Venice, seeing that he is disliked and harassed by everyone else in the play, including his own daughter. This dislike is clear because “Shylock–‘the Jew,’ as he is called by everyone in the play–is compared with a dog, a cur, and a demon, and is referred to as ‘the very devil incarnation” (Anti-Semitism and The Merchant of Venice 4). The most notable adversary of Shylock is clearly Antonio, who often expresses a severe hatred for the Jewish usurer.... [tags: Shakespeare play analysis]
1991 words (5.7 pages)
- Since middle school, I have believed that all of Shakespeare’s works, similar to A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, were plays that one would read to hear a happy, entertaining story; but, it was not until this year, after reading The Merchant of Venice, that I recognized the darker, more sinister, side of Shakespeare’s plays. The Merchant of Venice supports the Jewish, anti-Semitic stereotype as the wicked character of Shylock is developed. Many individuals fear that it is improper to teach and discuss The Merchant of Venice in high school classrooms because of the negative way it presents Jews; however, I believe that it is important to read this controversial play in high schools because... [tags: Shakespeare, Anti-Semitism]
1166 words (3.3 pages)
- 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]
519 words (1.5 pages)
- Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Shylock has been very badly treated by certain Christians and he yearns for revenge. He goes too far when he seeks the life of his main persecutor, but he is essentially, an intelligent, dignified man who can no longer bear to be humiliated. Long before Shylock plotted against him, Antonio seemed to take a pride in spurning Shylock, treating him in public with rudeness and contempt.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]
1245 words (3.6 pages)
- Racial Prejudice and Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare's comedy, The Merchant of Venice, uses satire to present Shakespeare's views on racial prejudice and anti-Semitism. The premise deals with the antagonistic relationship between Shylock, a Jewish moneylender and Antonio, the Christian merchant, who is as generous as Shylock is greedy. This essay will examine how the themes of racial prejudice, and anti-Semitism are presented in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is stereotypically described as "costumed in a recognizably Jewish way in a long gown of gabardine, probably black, with a red beard and/or wing like that of Judas, and a hooked putty nose o... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]
1863 words (5.3 pages)
- 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]
577 words (1.6 pages)