Essay on Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice, a tragic- comedy written in the late 16th century by the greatest known English author, William Shakespeare. This is a tale set in the heart of Venice, amongst the Venetian Christians and Jews. The history of the Jews is marked by terrible hardship and atrocities; Jewish people kept up their customs and religion formed tight knit communities and became known for their intelligent hard work and business expertise. These qualities sometimes led to them being mistrusted and resented in the community of Venice in those times. This was especially the case in Christian countries, where there were strong anti- Semitic
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In relationship to the Merchant of Venice and Shylock’s character, is another partially similar play otherwise known as the ‘Jew of Malta.’ Written by Christopher Marlowe, (produced in the 1590 and published in 1633) it is a play filled with blood and murder, also favourite topics of the Elizabethan audience, who embraced the bloody revenge tragedies. The image of the Jew ‘Barabas’ in the play is a greedy usurer, who would rather be a hated, envied and ill-treated Jew than a poor Christian. This was a common image to be portrayed in the English theatre of a Jewish person.

The play starts with, Bassanio, a Venetian nobleman who seems to have financial difficulties; however he wishes to compete for the hand of Portia, a wealthy heiress of Belmont, in order to restore his fortune. He asks his best friend Antonio, a successful merchant of Venice, to loan him the money necessary to undertake such an attempt. Antonio agrees, but, as all of his assets are tied up at sea, he has to use his credit in order to obtain the money for his friend. They both go to Shylock, who is a rich Jewish moneylender but also an enemy of Antonio’s. Shylock agrees to lend them 3000 ducats, but only if Antonio will sign a bond that says if Antonio isn’t able
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