Treatment Of Shylock By The Christians In William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

2726 words - 11 pages

Treatment of Shylock by the Christians in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

Two thousand years ago Jews were known as Hebrews or Israelites and
lived in Israel. At the time their land was occupied by Romans who
tried to crush the Jewish faith and culture. Due to this, Jewish
people fled Israel to make new lives and Jewish communities in other
countries. In these communities Jews were known for their intelligence
and business sense which led to them being mistrusted and resented.
This was especially the case in Christian terms; where anti-Semitic
feelings were very strong. This is shown in a Merchant of Venice by
Shylock who constantly suffers verbal abuse and gives a vivid account
of Antonio’s racist bullying. Shylock is also shown in the play to be
a villain and could be seen as a miserly money lender who delights in
the prospect of cutting a pound of flesh from the noble merchant who
has exposed his corrupt ways and also as a father who cares more for
his money than his daughter. In this essay I am going to show how
Shylock was treated by the Christians and whether his reactions were
justified.

In Act 1, Scene 3 Shakespeare clearly shows the audience how Bassanio
and Antonio are abusive towards Shylock. Antonio is abusive to Shylock
in front of others and refers to him as ‘an evil soul’ and ‘the devil’
when asking for the loan. Shylock reacts to this by keeping Antonio
and Bassanio waiting for an answer and seems to ignore their insults.
‘Three thousand ducats is a good round sum’. Shylock also says how he
and other Jews have been mistreated in the past. ‘For sufferance is
the badge of our tribe. You call me misbeliever, cut throat dog, and
spit upon my Jewish gaberdine’. Shylock is sarcastic about lending
money to Antonio as he has been abused by him and is now needed to
help Antonio. ‘Hath a dog money? If it is possible a cur can lend
three thousand ducats’. Bassanio doesn’t trust Shylock and shows this
by saying ‘I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind. In this scene
Christians are seen to be very judgemental of Jews and anti-semitic by
treating Shylock badly by abusing him which is perhaps used to get
sympathy for Shylock from the audience. Shylock is always polite to
Antonio and Bassanio in this scene but is quite sarcastic throughout
the scene which is a bit disrespectful.

In Act 2, Scene 2-3 the audience see a totally different picture of
Shylock from what they have seen so far in the play and the audience
sees how he is very nasty. In scene 2 the evidence is shown how
Lancelot is mistreated by Shylock and even starved. ‘I am famished in
his service; you may tell every finger I have with my ribs. Lancelot
says how he wants to run away as he is so badly treated. ‘Use your
legs; take the start, run away’. As Lancelot knows how mean Shylock
is, he...

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