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The Merchant Of Venice By William Shakespeare

2136 words - 9 pages

The Merchant Of Venice by William Shakespeare

In Act 4 scene 1 Shylock has brought Antonio to court to receive
payment of his bond. Antonio’s ships have sunk and been raided by
pirates and his wealth along with it. In Antonio’s bond with Shylock
it was agreed that if the bond couldn’t be paid, then a pound of
Antonio’s flesh was to be forfeit. Shylock is angry about many
misfortunes in his life, which include the loss of his daughter to a
Christian, this is a real embarrassment and a painful experience
because of strong racial prejudice and hatred between the religious
groups at the time. Also for losing his daughter, Shylock is enraged
as he loved her very much and whilst leaving, Jessica (Shylocks
daughter) stole many precious jewels and money from Shylock somewhat ‘
delving the knife further into the wound’ as such. So when Shylock
enters the court he knows Antonio will not have his money, for Tubal
has told him about the merchants ships, but this is irrelevant as
Shylock is not interested in money, but revenge on the ‘Christian’ for
all the trouble Christians in general have inflicted in his life. This
scenes importance is tremendous as this is really the climax of the
play. Antonio is almost certain to die for the loan he bestowed his
friend and also it looks set for the Jew Shylock to triumph in the
court in terms of revenge rather than money though. Winning this case
would also be a triumph for Shylock as it will be his comeback to all
the pain and ridicule he has suffered as being a Jew.

So far we have seen Shylock in different lights so to speak. Shylock
has been the victim and villain. This is surprising as in Elizabethan
times Jews were outcasts, vagrants and generally despised. This was
because in a strongly religious society, which boasted the love of
Jesus and Mary, one who did not was frowned upon. Shylocks job as a
moneylender is typical of many a Jew in his time, as money lending was
an unchristian job and so Jews controlled the profession. The Jewish
society started many of the first banks. Shakespeare showing a Jew as
anything other than evil and terrible, may have been very
controversial. Although Shakespeare does depict him as a heartless man
towards the end, he does create an air of sympathy around him at
different points during the play, for example when Shylock quotes from
the bible to Antonio, Antonio snaps back and says ’the devil can cite
scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like
a villain with a smiling cheek, a goodly apple rotten at the heart.’
Shylock had done nothing to deserve this outburst but yet Antonio
crucifies him with this statement. This ‘undeservedness’ evokes
sympathy towards Shylock. Shylock is also persecuted during the play
by Christians which was normal for the time. Although Shakespeare
shows Jews in...

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