Christian Prejudice and Racial Discrimination of Marginalized in the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

3691 Words Oct 21st, 2010 15 Pages
In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, there are quite a few cases in which the non-Christian characters are marginalized and victimized of Christian prejudice and absolute racism. The Christian prejudice and racial discrimination transpires through the use of language and terms of reference. In sixteenth-century Europe, Jews were a despised and persecuted minority. England, in fact, went beyond mere persecution and harassment by banning Jews from the country altogether. In theory at least, there were no Jews at all in England in Shakespeare’s time, and there had not been since the year 1290 when they were officially expelled by King Edward I. For some time it was thought that Shakespeare had never actually met a Jew and must have …show more content…
For instance, in Act III, Scene II, Salerio and Solanio are on a street in Venice. They are engaged in a talk on Shylock’s reaction to his daughter’s elopement. Salerio tells his friend that when Shylock will learn of Jessica’s elopement, he will go through the street in tears, ‘O my ducats! O my daughter!’ The meaning is that Shylock is a heartless man who thinks of his daughter as just another possession like his gold ducats. Here, Solanio attempts to suggest that Shylock ranks his wealth equal to that of the love of his family. In The Merchant of Venice, it doesn’t seem to matter who is making the racist comments since the fact remains that these statements are so apparent throughout the text that they cannot be put aside. The reader is not allowed to forget that Shylock is foreign and subject to stereotypes and only at rare moments we are allowed to see the humanity and great sympathy he is capable of. He seems to be aware of his status as an outsider and attempts to handle this. However, Shylock handles this quite differently. Instead of bowing to the social pressures that demand him to be more “Christian” in his lending business, he is angry at the slurs and treatment, therefore he seeks to enhance his difference by being cruel.

Shylock is seen as an exotic and desirable personage, mostly because of his status in society, but also