"The Merchant Of Venice": Critical Evaluation

1142 words - 5 pages

In this essay I intend to decide whether Shylock is a victim or villain, whether he is good or bad evil and twisted or just driven by revenge."The Merchant of Venice" is set in Elizabethan times, when Jews were hated and persecuted for their religion. Jewish people had to adapt. They lived in tight knit communities. They worked hard and became lawyers, doctors and successful business men. In turn this caused Christians to be jealous of their success and hate them more. As a result of this Shylock becomes bitter and twisted. However it is when his daughter runs is away with his enemy who is Christian, that he truly becomes evil, bloodthirsty and almost inhuman.Shylock lives in Venice and, being Jewish was not allowed to have a decent job so to get by, he becomes a money lender. Christian Law states this is wrong and causes more ill feeling between Jews and Christians. Shylock is not a millionaire but can afford to look after himself and his daughter, Jessica. They have a comfortable house, with servants.Shylock is a shrewd businessman. He dislikes risk as shown in Act 3 scene 1 lines 3 and 5 and when Bassanio approaches him for a loan, he repeats the word "Well," showing that he stalls to give himself more time to time to reach a final decision. Shylock eventually agrees to lend Antonio the three thousand ducats he needs, but shows a warped sense of kindness when he does so. He tells Antonio that if he cannot pay it back within the month, then he must give Shylock a pound of flesh. He shows brains in doing this and Antonio shows naivety in agreeing to this. Shylock also proves his quick wittedness and business brain in Act 1 Scene 3 Lines 121 and 122."You called me dog; and for these courtesies i'll lend you thus moneys."This quote shows that even though Shylock hates the Christians he is still willing to do business with them- and make money out of them.There are times in the play when Shylock shows a softer, warmer side to him, in Act 3 Scene 1 Line 107 he tells of a ring his wife gave him, which he clearly treasured."It was my turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys,"To feel so strongly about a ring shows that Shylock really loved his wife.Shylock also shows loyalty to his religion right the way through the play- even when he is being persecuted for it. In Act 3 Scene 3 lines 66 and 67"Go good Tubal and meet me at our Synagogue,"When Shylock I in court he constantly refers to the Bible, showing that he is well read in it. In Act 3 Scene 3 line 88 he says-"When Jacob graze his uncle Labans sheep- This Jacob from out Holy Abraham was..."However the Christians are just as good as using the Bible to get what they want as shown in Act 3 Scene 3 Line 88."This was a venture sir that Jacob served for,"When Shylocks daughter Jessica runs away with a Christian, Shylock becomes almost dead inside and very blood-thirsty. Leah, his wife is dead and Jessica is all he has left. Jessica is an...

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