The Tragedy of Shylock, a Critical essay on Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

2008 Words9 Pages
Raymond Schmit � PAGE * MERGEFORMAT �6�


The Tragedy of Shylock

I had not read the _Merchant of Venice_ before this class. All of my familiarity with the play was based on hearsay, and for some reason I got the idea in my heads that it was a tragedy. I thought that Shylock_did_ receive a pound of flesh from Antonio, but that it was just skin removed from his back. This gruesome image was what I was waiting for during my entire reading of the play. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case. Also, I found out 'Comedy' means 'Happy Ending.' And that 'Happy Ending' means 'No One Gets Their Skin Cut off for Defaulting on a Loan.'

But I found the work to be not as comedic and happy as that ending implies.
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He once more calls to light the numerous wrongs he has endured, thus explaining his actions. But most eloquently he reminds us all of the humanity inside, that this is not some vile monster, but a man driven to the edge as any man, Christian or Jew, would.

This treatment of Shylock, even allowing for there to be cause for a sympathetic reading of Shylock, is testament to Shakespeare's unwillingness to succumb to using stereotypes and caricatures. According to Fiedler, he was under a tremendous amount of pressure to create a Jewish scapegoat for the stage for the community to vent its frustrations over a court scandal involving a Jewish physician. The fact that he has no other Jewish characters in all of his plays raises a red flag to say that he did not want to create a monster out of Shylock, but by necessity, created half of one. Through his writing he gave the people what they wanted, an easy villain to hate, but also a way to look at this character without utter contempt. Shakespeare found a way to please his audience and also to leave room for a more charitable interpretation of Shylock.

If Shylock is to the hero, then, consequently, another character must be the villain. Because of the way the characters contrast with actual heroes, particularly when they cite Jason and the Argonauts and Troilus and Cressida, it is easy to see these 'heroes' as farcical play-acting villains. The non obstacles they must overcome for love and money contrast sharply with

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