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Shylock In William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

1828 words - 7 pages

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

A key feature of the play 'The Merchant Of Venice' is the issue of
whether Shylock is a victim or a villain. This issue is raised at many
crucial points most of which can be separated into the categories
victim or villain.

Act 1 Scene 3 displays Shylock as a sensible business man. This is our
first introduction of Shylock and therefore produces our first
impressions. The first point where Shylocks' character is revealed in
detail is during his soliloquy of lines 37 - 48. At this point Shylock
gives an aside to the audience which no character can hear. We learn a
lot about Shylocks' behaviour toward Antonio and Christians in
general. This shows a man who wants revenge and who is desperate to
get his own back, as the text says; 'Cursed be my tribe if I forgive
him!' This shows that Shylock feels it his duty to his nation (the
Jews) to seek revenge on Antonio. This entire speech displays Shylock
as a villain, a heartless man who is not willing to forgive.

During Act1 Scene 3 our feelings toward Shylock change dramatically.
Shylock is portrayed as a villain until the point where Antonio
enters. Antonio does not treat Shylock with any respect despite the
fact that he is asking for a favour, this causes us to feel sympathy
toward Shylock and he suddenly becomes less villainous. We begin to
wonder why Antonio acts this way, when making the decision of the bond
Shylock stalls and delays frequently, in order to plot his terms of
the bond. This shows his villainous side and how much he wants to get
Antonio. When Shylock has stated the terms his attitude changes and he
then tries to hurry the bond into confirmation. This shows how he is
desperate to get Antonio, again reinforcing his villainous attitude.

The next turn of events is during lines 102-123 we begin to feel
sympathy for Shylock. The reasons for his villainous attitude toward
Antonio become clear. We learn of the treatment imposed on Shylock by
Antonio, the text says, 'spit upon my Jewish gabardine' we begin to
empathise with Shylock and we see him as a victim to Christian
prejudice.

When we realise the poor treatment of Shylock by Antonio we are
greeted of a speech by Antonio's. To our surprise, Antonio does not
apologies for his actions, instead saying he is likely to repeat his
actions, the text says;

'I am as like to call thee so again' The fact that Antonio is asking
for a favour and remains treating Shylock so badly makes us feel more
sympathy for Shylock and he is displayed as a victim.

Act 1 scene 3 is an interesting one when considering the issue of
whether Shylock is a victim or a villain. There are many features
which show his villainy but this is alternated by the times that are
shown as a victim. Overall the effect on the audience would be a
...

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