The Way Shylock Is Presented In William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

2590 words - 10 pages

The Way Shylock is Presented in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is about the conflict between a Jew and a
Christian. This is not between one Jew and one Christian but between
Shylock, who stands as a representative of the Jewish tribe, and
between groups of Christians who greatly outnumber the Jew. The
conflict between Jews and Christians is a historical one. The
Christians hated the Jews because they made money from usury; this was
completely against the Christian beliefs of that time. However, this
hate was not one-sided as the Jews also hated the Christians because
the Christians treated them very badly; the Jews were "alien" to the
Venetian society and thus were treated as a second class race. This is
not exactly what the whole play is about, the play also involves
Antonio and his best friend, Bassanio as he goes to meet Portia his
future wife. Thus we can see that this play arouses many issues such
as prejudice, racism, law and the nature of love and friendship.

The first time we meet Shylock is in Act 1, Scene 3. Shylocks first
words are "three thousand ducats". From this we can see that
Shakespeare has already presented Shylocks character as a miser with a
callous and materialistic mind, as his first words are regarding his
money. As Bassanio goes over the facts of the "bond", Shylock answers
him in a way that repeats what has just been said and adding, "well"
at the end. This is as if he is mocking Bassanio, by repeating the
same blunt phrases, to express his narrow range of ideas. As he
doesn't say much this gives the effect that he is a miser with his
words and his "ducats". When Bassanio says that "Antonio shall be
bound" to the bond, Shylock states that Antonio is a good man.
However, this does not mean that Shylock sees Antonio as a respectable
man, but simply that his reputation is assured and his wealth is
sufficient for giving him a loan. Shylock is not completely assured in
giving his money to Bassanio until he has met with Antonio. Bassanio
offers Shylock to "dine with us", but Shylock says that he will never
eat where he can "smell pork". This begins to show Shylocks
perspective on religion; he is a man who is strict in guarding his
religion.

When Antonio enters the contrast between Jew and Christian becomes
perceptible, and the importance of their own religion becomes evident.
When Shylock sees Antonio he informs the audience in an Aside of the
two reasons why he hates him. The first is that Antonio lends money
for free and brings down the rate of interest, the other is more
pronounced and obvious, the fact being, that Antonio is a Christian,
and he hated Shylocks "sacred nation". Shylock has vowed revenge on
Antonio. At the beginning of this scene Shylock is reluctant to give
the Christians money because they have...

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