Shylock Villain Or Victim Essay

851 words - 3 pages

Many people are villainous in the way they behave. Their villainous acts may be attributed to their desire to destroy others and in turn elevate themselves to a higher financial or social level. However, the root cause of their villainy may be a response to the treatment they have endured at the hands of others. In short, they have been taught villainy, rather than it being an integral part of their personality. In such instances, revenge can be a key motivator in inspiring them to act in a villainous way. In the 'Merchant of Venice' it can be argued that Shylock is the antagonist, opposite the naïve and 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 characterize Shylock as a Jew, as Jews of his time were seen as one with the Devil. In Italy, where The Merchant of Venice is set, the Jews were being greatly prejudiced against; they were being expelled from the country, they were made to wear demoralizing items such as 'badges of shame' and Jewish synagogues were turned into Christian churches. They were made to wear cloaks, caps or badges that indicated that they were beneath the Christians, and they were condemned to live in just one part of the city, the Ghettos, which were often of bad condition. The only place they were allowed to commune with Christians was on the Rialto where they could do business. The Rialto is where we first meet Shylock. Throughout the play Shylock is criticized because he is Jewish. "Here comes another of the tribe- a third cannot be matched, unless the devil himself turned Jew" (Act 3, Scene 1). This is one of the many quotes that support that Shylock is the victim of the play because others torment him for being a Jew. They treat him like a dog and Antonio has even spit on him.In Shylock's first scene it, he spends a long time debating whether or not to lend Bassanio the 3000 ducats. The main reason for his delayed response is he likes to have control over the situation, which is not usually the case. He loves the fact that for once Christians need him, a Jew especially. Shylock cruelly takes advantage of his position and keeps Antonio and Bassanio in suspense waiting for his decision, he even goes as far as to pretend he has forgotten...

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