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"The Merchant Of Venice" What Is Shylock Shown As? Why Is He Made To Seem This Way? Is He Good Or Evil?

2518 words - 10 pages

In William Shakespeare's play, "The Merchant Of Venice", the character of Shylock is portrayed mainly as an evil Jew. He is based on the typical stereotype of a Jew from Shakespeare's time. They were despised and mocked in most places. However at times Shylock can be pitied. Shylock's evil is emphasised with the repetition of "the evil Jew", which is said by several other characters throughout the play. This is well used as it constantly reminds us of the "evil Jew" all the way through the play. From the commencement of the play Shylock's strong disgust of Antonio is shown. We are first told of this hatred when Shylock says, "I hate him for he is a Christian."(I iii) L39). This unambiguous and straightforward statement not only tells us that Shylock hates Antonio but it simply tells us the main motive, of many, for his hatred of Antonio. I feel that Shylock cannot be blamed for his strong loathing towards Antonio. I think this because Shylock says: "Fair sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last, You spurned me such a day, another time You called me dog; and for these courtesies I'll lend you thus much moneys'?"(I iii) L123-126)This dialogue clearly states, with the use of a simile, the reasons why Shylock feels so much disgust towards Antonio. When Shylock is introduced into the play, Antonio is attempting to borrow money from Shylock to allow his friend Bassanio to go to Belmont and try to win Portia's hand in marriage. Bassanio requires "Three thousand ducats". Antonio intends to repay Shylock with the money from his fleets of ships."he hathan argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies; Iunderstand moreover upon the Rialto, he hath athird at Mexico, a fourth for England, and otherventures he hath squandered abroad." (I iii) L 16-20)However, dramatic irony is used previously in the play in Act 1 scene 1 to tell us that his ships will sink. Shylock is then put across to the audience as a kind person when he offers a loan without interest: "Why look you how you storm. I would be friends with you, and have your love, Forget the shames that you have stained me with, Supply your present wants and take no doit"(I iii) L 135-138)This proposal from Shylock could give us the impression that Shylock will give them the loan without interest but he will do or take something else. He does so by making a contract with Antonio that states: "If you repay me not on such a day,In such a place, such sum sums as areExpressed in the condition, let the forfeitBe nominated for an equal poundOf your fair flesh, to be cut off and takenIn what of your body pleaseth me."(I iii) L 143-149)This is an interesting speech as it tells us that anything Antonio gets into from now on is his own fault. Shakespeare refers back to the "evil Jew" stereotype all through the play. Even his servant Lancelot says: "I am famished in hisservice;" (II ii) L...

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