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The Presentation Of Shylock In The Merchant Of Venice By William Shakespeare

1482 words - 6 pages

The Presentation of Shylock in The Merchant Of Venice by William Shakespeare

When Shakespeare wrote ‘The Merchant Of Venice’ there was a suggestion
that he was competing with a very popular play ‘The Jew Of Malta’
written in 1589 by Christopher Marlowe. This play treats the Jew as
an evil villain and a wicked ogre. Shakespeare is not entirely free
from the idea that all usurers were Jews and therefore all Jews were
evil, but he does also allow us to see Shylock as a human being who
has himself been wronged.

Only Jews who had converted to Christianity were allowed to live in
England in Shakespeare’s day. Jews who practised their own religion
were ...view middle of the document...

In this scene, shylock even tries to be nice to Antonio and make for
the past: “I would be friends with you, and have your love, forget the
shames you have stained me with.”. Shylock seems to be really trying
here, however there is quite a lot of dramatic irony here as he has
said to the audience that he wishes to catch Antonio ‘once upon the
hip’ but however Antonio does not know this and he does not respond
well, he still insults him and tells him of his dislike for him: “I am
as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee
too.” In this scene we really see the human side of Shylock’s split
personality.

Another side in which we again see Shylock’s human side is in Act 3
scene 1, where shylocks tells Solanio and Saliero of his upset over
his daughter’s departure with all his jewels however all they do is
scorn Shylock and we can imagine them laughing at him and shouting:
“here comes another of the tribe, a third cannot be matched unless the
devil himself turn Jew”. later on in the scene he talks of prejudice
and how unfair Antonio is towards them, especially him “hath not a Jew
eyes, hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections,
passions?” and then of how he wants revenge on Antonio “He hath
disgraced me, hindered me half a million, laughed at my loses, mocked
at my gains.” Although getting revenge on someone seems a very cruel
thing to do, it is natural for humans to feel that need to get revenge
if they have been wronged, therefore this shows Shylock as a human,
especially all that Antonio has put him through.

Later on in this scene we again feel sympathy towards Shylock as he
expresses his loneliness after his daughter, Jessica, runs away from
home “no sighs but of my breathing, no tears but of my shedding.”, and
loneliness is also a natural human emotion, we also feel sympathy
towards him as he has been struck down by the double blow of losing
his daughter and his money (because in those days the Elizabethans
would have seen daughters as the position of their fathers, so this
would have been very disrespectful.) what is more, he has lost
Jessica to a Christian.

However in the play we don’t just see the human side to Shylock, he is
also presented as an ogre. This is first seen in Act 2 scene 5, when
he is first talking to his servant Launcelot and then to his daughter
Jessica. When he says “there is some ill-a-brewing towards my rest,
for I did dream of money bags tonight.” Shakespeare presents a
stereotypical picture of the money obsessed Jew and shows that
everything important in shylock’s life relates to money, and he then
stars to order Jessica about, telling to lock up the house, as there
is a masque on tonight. “To gaze on Christian fools with varnished
faces. Let not the sound of shallow foppery enter my sober...

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