The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay

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The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The character Shylock was a stereotypical Jew of his time, and as Jews were generally unpopular, the audience would have been automatically prejudiced against him. In Shakespeare's time, Jews were not treated well at all. This was because they were a minority group, as they had been previously banned from the country by Edward I unless they were willing to become a Christian. But, in large European cities, like Venice there was a large Jewish population. As these cities relied on trade, the authorities encouraged Jews to become moneylenders. This was because the Christian law, which forbade money lending for profit, did not apply to them. Moneylenders
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But, only the Christians succeed, as they were at an advantage because Shylock was the only Jew and they were able to find a loophole in the law, which was in favour of the Christians.

When Shylock seeks revenge on Antonio, it is based on hatred;

"… a lodged hate and certain loathing

I bear Antonio,". He has many reasons to dislike Antonio. One is that Antonio lends out money to his friends at no interest, which could put Shylock out of business. Also, in the past he has treated Shylock badly;

"…wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?".

Shylock does not only want revenge from Antonio, but from all the Christians who have ever treated him badly for being a Jew or a moneylender. He is regarded as being less important than the Christians are, and wants to be equal, or better than them;

"… The villany

you teach me I will execute, and t shall go hard but

I will better the instruction."

He may feel that taking the life of a Christian could compensate for the way he has been treated by Christians.

But, the Christians also have valid reasons to hate Shylock. One is that he will not give a good reason for wanting to kill Antonio,

"… can I give no reason… more than… hate and … loathing".

Also, he treated Jessica badly, who described living with her
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