William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice
In many ways, shylock is a more difficult character for a modern
audience than for an Elizabethan audience. With close reference to Act
1 scene 3, Act 3 scene 1 and Act 4 scene 1 show how an actor might
reveal the human being behind the stereotype.
The merchant of Venice is a play written in Elizabethan times by
William Shakespeare. The play is set in Elizabethan Venice. The play
starts with Antonio, a rich merchant, who is depressed without any
obvious reason. He denies that he is worried about his merchant ships
or that he is in love.
Antonio has lent money to his friend Bassanio in the past, but this
time Bassanio wants to borrow some money so that he can try for the
hand of Portia, who is a wealthy and beautiful heiress. In order to
lend Bassanio the money, Antonio himself must borrow money as all of
his moneys are on his merchant ships, which are trading to distant
Meanwhile, in Belmont, Portia is irritated. This is because of the
terms laid down in her father's will. His will says that everyone who
wishes to marry her must choose between a casket of gold, silver or
lead. Portia must accept the man who chooses the "correct" casket.
Also, the suitors must take an oath never to marry if they fail in
this contest. Half a dozen totally unsuitable young men leave rather
than taking their chances. The next candidate up to choose a casket is
the prince of Morocco.
Back in Venice, Bassanio has approached a wealthy Jew named Shylock.
Shylock is a money lender, who lends money in return for interest and
at this time Christians were not allowed to do this. Shylock and
Antonio were already enemies. Each of them hates the other person and
what they stand for. Antonio admits that he has spat on Shylock "to
spit on thee again". He has also rescued people who were heavily in
Debt to Shylock. This affects Shylock. Shylock agrees to lend Antonio
3000 Ducats. He also tries to persuade Antonio that usury is
sanctioned in the Bible. Shylock suggests an unusual bond; he says
that, instead of charging Antonio interest, he will have a pound of
his flesh if he is not able to pay it back in time. Antonio accepts
this "bond" against Bassanio's pleading.
Launcelot Gobbo is a servant of Shylock's who wishes to leave his
service but he is battling with his conscience. He and his Father
decide to ask Bassanio to take Launcelot on as his servant. Shylock's
daughter Jessica is also planning to run away from her father, and
uses Launcelot to carry messages from her to Lorenzo, her lover who
she is going to "elope" with.
Before Bassanio is to leave for Belmont, he decides to have a party,
which he invites Shylock to. This gives Lorenzo and Jessica their
chance. Jessica dresses as a page and escapes with her father's money