"Shylock's Downfall". To What Extent Is Shylock Responsible For His Downfall In The Play The Merchant Of Venice?

2757 words - 11 pages

Shylock's downfallShylock, in the play; The Merchant of Venice, is partially responsible for his downfall. The trickery of the Christians, the legal savvy of Portia and the highly technical nature of the bond were all major factors contributing Shylock's demise, which, as evident in the play, could not have been avoided by Shylock. Shylock's hunger for revenge, his un-planned arrangements, in regards to the legal proceedings and his dealings with the Christians, and his stubbornness in taking the ducats all contributed to his defeat, and were all avoidable. It is, however, particularly noteworthy in the text, that for as many factors which worked against Shylock, and were avoidable, there were far more factors, put in play by the Christians, which were effective in his down-fall. The third major cause, which heavily influenced the outcome of the play, was society.The primary cause of Shylock's downfall, to which the Christians were responsible, was the trickery which they employed in the court case. The use of Shylock's hunger for revenge could see Portia as the sole liability in Shylock's demise; however, the factors underlying the face of the problem shine more light on the Christians and Shylock himself.The first point to consider is that Portia was very much within her rights to seek legal advice and it should have been nothing but anticipated that she do so in such a situation. The understanding which Shylock must have had was that the Christians would have acquired legal advice and under this understanding it would have been a very logical step to seek some legal advice himself. The fact that Shylock did not seek legal advice should indicate strongly to the responder that he should, also, share the blame.The second point to consider is that the Christians had no more legal knowledge than Shylock and whatever they could have done could have been achieved by Shylock as well. In fact, Shylock's intelligence is shown many times in the play. The first meeting with Antonio proved this firmly. Shylock explains to Antonio, quoting form The Hebrew Scripture, that the use of interest as a means of making money was readily accepted, religiously; "No, not take interest, not, as you would say, / directly interest: mark what Jacob did." (Act 1, Sc. 3). Again Shylock demonstrates his intelligence later in the meeting when he downplays his bond as a gesture of friendship;Is not so estimable, profitable neither,As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats. I say,To buy his favor, I extend this friendship:If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not. (Act 1, Sc. 3)The final point to consider is that Shylock was unprepared for Portia's arrival into the play. That is, Shylock had no knowledge that such a person even existed. The responder must first remember that no one in the court knew that the lawyer was Portia, not even the Christians themselves. Shylock knew nothing of Portia and he can be considered unprepared, indeed the...

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