Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Essay

1228 Words 5 Pages
Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
Works Cited Missing At the time the play was set Jews were considered 'second class' citizens in Venice despite the fact that Venice was famous for its quality of justice.

There was a lot of prejudice against the Jewish minority and they were even forced by the Venetian government to obey special laws. These consisted of wearing distinctive clothing such as coloured arm bands, not being able to be involved in trades such as the military, the government and guilds and most of all they were forbidden to retaliate in any
…show more content…
The fact that he is a Jew means he is subjected to prejudice from the Christians that live in Venice giving him a very low status in society. It is very clear that the most important aspect of Shylock's life (apart from his wealth) is his religion. Throughout the book we see how proud Shylock is to be a Jew and is humiliated and ashamed by his daughter when she denounces her Jewish faith, 'she is dammed for it, my own flesh and blood to rebel'. We also know that Judaism descends through the mother line so when Jessica converts to Christianity she denies her father of an heir.

Attitudes to Shylock have changed dramatically over time, a seventeenth century audience would feel almost no sympathy towards Shylock as they were used to prejudice against Jews and probably took part in it themselves. However in today's society people are more inclined to feel sorry for this naïve, misguided soul driven to revenge by mindless persecution.

I am going to explore both sides of Shylock's diverse character then come to a conclusion as to whether he is a victim or a villain.

In the very first scene Shylock features in (Act 1 scene 3) Shakespeare presents his as a victim of the society he lives in. Shakespeare gives the audience an insight into the effect such

Related Documents