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Shakespeare's Presentation Of Shylock In The Merchant Of Venice

2268 words - 9 pages

Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice

In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is continually involved in the bond
plot. This plot is probably the most intense story-line in this
Shakespeare play. Bassanio borrows money from Shylock in Antonio's
name in order to impress Portia, however after a tragic incident
involving all of Antonio's ships crashing; the money has failed to be
returned. According to their bargain Antonio must now give Shylock a
pound of his flesh. Shakespeare uses Shylock is this play in order to
provoke feelings of sympathy but also of hatred towards the villain in
this play- the Jew.

However you can't help but feel compassion for his situation as he is
always going to be treated as a miscreant. Shylock is demonstrated as
an Elizabethan caricature of a Jew and is therefore treated as one. He
has a hatred of Christians and lends money out of interest (this is
something that Elizabethans had unacceptable views on). Shylock in
this play does suffer wrongs and has some valid points on Christian
failings but he will always be seen as the rogue because of his
constant greed and hatred towards Antonio- one of the most popular
members of the play because of his generosity and affection.

In Act 1 Scene 3 we meet Shylock for the first time, throughout the
play there are times when we feel understanding for Shylock, however
this is not one of them. The most obvious observation of this scene is
the hatred of Antonio and dislike of Shylock. Shylock summarises his
approach to Christians when he explains what he will do with
Christians and what he won't ('I will buy with you…I will not eat with
you'). Even though speeches like this and 'How like a fawning
publican…' make us regard Shylock as being callous and vengeful we do
find just causes of complaint at this time. When Shylock accuses
Antonio of spurning him, Antonio replies with 'call thee so again' and
'spit on thee again'. This, is my opinion, justifies the revengeful
side of Shylock. Shylock talks down the forfeit of a pound of flesh
but Shylock really wants to profit from Antonio's death, as he will be
able to charge higher interest rates when Antonio can no longer
undercut him. By the end of this scene we find Shylock bitter, greedy
and also intelligent, however his eloquent description of Antonio's
abusive language and behaviour redresses the balance a little in his
favour.

His daughter's elopement with a Christian and the theft of his money
and jewels also give us pause for thought about our attitude towards
him (Act 2 Scene 5). Shylock leaves the house he gives Jessica the
responsibility of being in charge of the house. He strictly instructs
her to keep the house and goods secure. This is quite ironic as whilst
he is gone, she takes his wealth and disguises herself in order to
...

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