Act Iv, Scene 1 Of The Merchant Of Venice

2653 words - 11 pages

Act IV, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice

In Shakespeare’s day, Jews were banned from England, in fact Jews had
been banned since 1290 ad. The only Jews allowed to stay were the ones
who would convert to Christianity. When the Jews moved away from
Israel in the third century BC, they refused to mix with non-Jews who
they referred to as gentiles. They also refused to change their
beliefs and way of life. Non-Jews soon became resentful of the Jews as
they became successful in business and this hatred only grew. (In 1584
when the Queen’s doctor was executed for treason, many suspected him
of being Jewish. So much anti-Semitism was widely accepted in that
period of history.)

On the stage the Elizabethan audience were quite used to seeing Jews
prosecuted like Shylock was after seeing other theatre productions
such as ’The Jew of Malta.’ by Christopher Marlowe. However the modern
audience, being a post holocaust audience, is not so enthralled by
such persecution of the Jews and feels pity for Shylock at times.

The main character is a Jewish loan shark of a Usurer named Shylock.
He is hated by the Christians in the play because he is a successful
Jewish business man who takes the Christians money. This also reflects
upon the attitudes towards Jewish business men at the time.

The turning point in the play, act IV, scene 1, is where all of the
previous action in the play comes to a head. This is the part in the
play where the main plot and the sub-plot come together for the first
time in the play. The modern audiences see the relationship between
Antonio and Shylock as the main plot whereas the Elizabethan audience
sees the story between Portia and Bassanio as the main plot. But it
all comes together in this scene as all of the characters are on the
stage at the same time for the first time. Our expectations for this
scene are high due to what we have learnt in previous scenes. In act I
scene 3 we learn of the hatred between Antonio and Shylock. We also
learn that Antonio spits on and calls shylock names. ’You call me
misbeliever, cut throat dog and spit upon my Jewish gabardine.’ This
is also the scene where the bond is made and Antonio agrees to give
Shylock a pound of his flesh if he is unable to repay Shylock. In act
3 scene 1 we get first taste of what Shylock is really like and how
he will not show any mercy, even to his own daughter after he finds
out she has run away with her Christian boyfriend after robbing him of
some of his most precious and valuable jewels. He says ‘I wish her
dead at my feet with the jewels in her ear.’ Shakespeare combines this
news of his daughter running away with news of Antonio’s ships
reportedly being wrecked at sea, this shows both audiences that the
anger he is getting from his daughter, he will release on Antonio when
he won’t be able to...

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