Hath Not a Jew Eyes? The Identity of Shylock and Purpose of Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice

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Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice continues to receive criticism because of the many controversial topics integrated within an already debatable plot. One such reproach is whether the play demonstrates factors of anti-Semitism or persists as a criticism of the anti-Sematic tendencies of Christians during Shakespeare’s time. The factor of genre plays an essential role in how the play is interpreted when regarding anti-Semitism, particularly when viewed as either a romantic comedy or a genre that better encompasses the financial, moral, and religious conflict that is so prominent throughout the play. For instance, when analyzed as a comedy, Shylock’s malevolence may not exactly be reviewed as comical, but nevertheless seems peculiar and…show more content…
Shylock distinctly chastises others and reveals he can be incredibly bigoted, such as when he proclaims towards Antonio: How like a fawning publican he looks! I hate him for he is a Christian, but more for that in low simplicity he lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice. If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him (Shakespeare 1.3.42-47) Shylock makes it clear that his hatred for the other characters is perpetuated by the sole fact that they are Christians. This vicious cycle of hatred between Shylock and the Christian characters is maintained by the alleged “ancient grudge” that has been established between the two religions. Likewise, for Shylock to request a pound of flesh as his bond from Antonio is a horror all in itself. Shylock does not attempt to make any reasonable request, such as receiving Antonio’s money and riches or a demand that results in the degradation of Antonio; rather, he desires the ultimate prize of taking Antonio’s life. Shylock is also considered to be quite greedy and selfish, as observed when he discovers his daughter has robbed him of his riches and stolen away with a Christian man: My daughter, O my ducats, O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! Justice, the law, my ducats, and my daughter, A sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats, Of double ducats, stol’n from me by my

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