William Shakespeare 's The Merchant Of Venice

2269 Words10 Pages
Samantha Hansen
ENG 314
Brother Brugger
12.15.14

The Question of Shylock

It is hard to read The Merchant of Venice without finding at least one character to sympathize with. The unforgettable villain Shylock as well as Portia, Shakespeare’s first and one of his most famous heroines are arguably some of this plays most beloved characters. But, is Shylock really the villain? Or is he a victim of circumstance? Shylock’s insistence for a pound of flesh has made him one of literatures most memorable villains, but many might be inclined to say he is a compelling and sympathetic figure, rather then a villainous figure. By applying multiculturalism to this play, one might be able to deduce that through the exploitation of Jewish stereotypes common during the time this play was written, as well as language and character development, Shakespeare creates a character for which we not only feel scorn and derision, but also pity and compassion. Jewish Stereotypes The Jewish community was treated horribly during the time of the Merchant of Venice. They were never really considered true citizens of the town and were never respected by Christians of the time who adopted a bigoted attitude towards Jews and even forced them to wear red hats that showed them that they were separate from the citizens (Birnbaum). When Solanio and Salerio, both Christians, refer to Shylock as “the dog Jew” that was just another way of Shakespeare saying that Jews were treated like Mutts, a comical way of
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