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Shylock : A Villain In Appearance, A Victim At Heart

2070 words - 8 pages

In many plays there are two types of characters, good and evil. Then there are those few who could be on either side of the fence. The character could have both good and evil aspects, creating a complex personality. In The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, there is an example of one of those characters. Shylock could be one of the most controversial characters ever created. Some people believe he is a victim, while others say he is a villain.
In order to trace this idea we should know why people in the Elizabethan era hates Jews. Rodrigo Lopez was a Jew of Portuguese decent, who fled to England in 1559 where he worked as a physician. His practice grew, and in time he was appointed physician to the Queen of England. But the Earl of Essex found what he believed to be evidence that Lopez had accepted a bribe from the King of Spain to poison Queen Elizabeth. It is true that Lopez had underhand dealings with Spanish spies, but it is to this day unproven if Lopez ever intended any harm towards the Queen. However, he was found guilty and in 1996 he was hung, drawn and quartered for a crime he probably was never going to commit. The Merchant of Venice was written two years later in 1596, and the treatment of Shylock is similar to that of Lopez. Shylock is shunned by the Christians and treated as an outcast. Possibly, Shakespeare wrote this play as the Lopez case was fresh in people?s minds, and he knew that a play about a detested Jew would be of great interest. (Shylock in William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice:2 )
Shylock as a villain:
If we want to talk about Shylock in the role of being a villain. A lot of people would agree. During the play, from the beginning we might excuse other Christians especially Antonio. Shylock says: ?How like a fawning publican he looks. I hate him for he is a Christian" (Shakespeare: I,III,36-37)
This quotation shows the dark heart of Shylock. He says it aside when Antonio comes to him to borrow three hundred ducats. So he hates Antonio for no reason only because he is a Christian. Moreover it may be understood further that Shylock accepts to give the money for Antonio only because he knows that he won't be able to pay it back, therefore he will sue him to satisfy himself.
Another quote which shows how Shylock wants to exploit Antonio in order to humiliate him: ?Signior Antonio, many a time and oft?/you have rated me/About my moneys and my usuances:/Still have I borne it with a patient shurg,/For sufferenace is the badge of all our tribe./You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,/And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,/And all for use of that which is mine own. Well then, it now appears you need my help?.? (Shakespeare:I,III,106-114)
This quote actually doesn't require explanation. It's very clear even to a blind man. After all what Antonio does to Shylock, he lends him the money. What a kind of man who prefers money on the expense of his dignity. Antonio insults Shylock. He calls him a dog, he...

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