Merchant Of Venice 2 Essay

1630 words - 7 pages

Evil for Evil: The Downfall of Shylock Within the various forms of literature, many notable authors have emerged as experts in their particular field. Shakespeare is viewed by many as one of the most profound and dramatic playwrights. He is generally noted for his complex dramas, tragedies, and comedies, all of which were written in a most eloquent and glorified manner. In one of his latter plays, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare attempts to portray the evil expressed by an individual who develops this way both because of the persecution he is faced with and the insufficient virtues he is given.Few of Shakespeare's characters embody pure evil like The Merchant of Venice's Shylock. Shylock is a usurer and a malevolent, blood-thirsty old man consumed with plotting the downfall of his enemies. He is a malignant, vengeful character, filled with venomous malice; a picture of callous, unmitigated villainy, deaf to every appeal of humanity. Shylock is the antagonist counterpart to the naive, essentially good Antonio, the protagonist, who must defend himself against the devil Shylock. The evil he represents is one of the reasons Shakespeare chose to illustrate Shylock as a Jew. According to many historians, Jews of his time were seen as the children of the Devil, the crucifiers of Christ and stubborn rejectors of God's wisdom and Christianity. However, when Shakespeare created Shylock, he did not introduce him into the play as a purely flat character, consumed only with the villainy of his plot. One of the great talents that Shakespeare possessed was his ability to make each essential character act like a real, rational person, not the flimsy two-dimensional character one often encounters in modern plays. Of all of Shakespeare's characters, heroes or villains, their conduct is always presented as logical and justifiable from their points of view (Walley).To maintain the literary integrity of the play, Shakespeare needed to clarify why a man like Shylock would be wrought to such a pitch of vindictive hatred that he would contemplate murder. His evil must have some profound motivation, and that motivation is the evil done to him. Shylock is not an ogre, letting lose harm and disaster without reason. He is wronged first; the fact that his revenge far outweighs that initial evil is what makes him a villain. Beneath Shylock's villainy, the concept of evil for evil runs as a significant theme through the play. In order to understand this notion, one must examine the initial evil, aimed at Shylock, through his own eyes. Some may see the discrimination aimed at Shylock as justified because he is a malicious usurer; certainly the Venetians believe so. However, the discrimination takes its toll on Shylock until he begins to hate all Christians. Shylock sees himself as an outsider, alienated by his society (Walley). The evils he retaliates against are namely three: hatred from Antonio, discrimination...

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