William Shakespeare 's The Merchant Of Venice Essay

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William Shakespeare 's comedy The Merchant of Venice uses contrasting religions to draw out major themes through the ethnic divides that are exemplified. The play expresses the extreme cultural divide between the Jews and Christians through a legal contract between two men. The rivalry between the two men, Shylock and Antonio is clear from the beginning of the play and only intensifies as it continues on. Modern day readers most likely take away a slightly different message from the play than what was originally intended. However, his intended message is also further strengthened with the post World War II influences on the reader 's thinking. Shakespeare’s play uses these ethnic rivalries to express thematic elements such as sacrifice and loss which are further impactful with the post holocaust lens that twentieth century readers use. Shakespeare begins by creating a very stereotypical, for the time, Jewish character. Shylock is a money lender, who, in the stereotypical Christian eye is seen as greedy for his policy of charging interest. He is criticized numerous times for this act of charging interest, and yet he responds with a clear conscience when Antonio berates him for it, saying,“You call me a misbeliever, cutthroat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, and all for use of that which is mine own” (1.3.108-110) In this scene, Shylock expresses the conflict between Christians and Jews on a very personal level. The belief that the charging of interest is out of
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