Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay

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Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Shylock is certainly an interesting character made even more intriguing by Shakespeare's portrayal of him. Much before the twentieth century, anti-Semitism was rife and The Merchant of Venice is a curious tale, as we are able to see how Jews were viewed in the late 1500s - especially as Shakespeare's depiction was at odds with the accepted anti-Jewish prejudiced views in that he considers both sides of the argument. This play is an insight into the general opinions of Jews, the daily hostility facing them Shakespeare's time and helps us understand why the hatred facing them through the ages…show more content…
Shylock may not like the people he is dealing with, but he adores the rewards of dealing with them. However, our opinion of Shylock drastically changes when Antonio enters. Before, he seemed like an unfairly persecuted Jew, hated only because of his race and usury. But, once the merchant arrives, Shylock states, "I hate him for he is a Christian," (I, iii, l. 35) and then rattles off a plethora of reasons why he dislikes him so. What strikes the reader is that, coming from someone often facing prejudice, Antonio is hated not for personal reasons or particular wrongs, but because of his profession and religion. Though, Shylock can be sympathised with a little later when confronted with Antonio's flagrant superciliousness and unfounded moral superiority. Shylock displays a deep-rooted enmity for Antonio because they have been long-standing enemies, while he is more civil and forthcoming toward Bassanio. However, his hostile and antagonistic attitude towards others does nothing to alleviate the disapprobation and antipathy he faces - Shylock would be much more easily accepted if he did not constantly refer to his Judaism and behave in such an élitist manner. In Act II, scene ii, we can understand Shylock from the angle of him as an employer. Launcelot clearly dislikes
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