Essay William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice


The three versions of the Merchant of Venice which I have watched are:

1. Channel 4 television version for their Schools Broadcasting Programmes

2. Trevor Nunn's version

3. National Theatre Company version directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Laurence Olivier as Shylock

Act IV scene 1 is an intense scene in the play where we see many of the play's main themes such as justice and mercy, money and status, revenge, loyalty, love and prejudice and tolerance.

Shakespeare presents a harsh character in Shylock the Jew, but the fact that he also gives him the chance to speak more than any other European playwright
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This would suggest that Shakespeare is using Shylock as more than a symbol of 'Jewishness'. In this piece of coursework I will be examining mainly how sympathetic or unsympathetic the various versions seem to be and how each Director has succeeded in making the character of Shylock worthy of Shakespeare's realism.

Jews were traditionally viewed as outsiders and were not citizens. Christians as far back as the 11th century could not lend money without interest and many Jews earned a living from this 'profession' as they could not join the artisan guilds. As they became their own debt collectors they soon became the target of resentment. A myth was born; with which Shakespeare's audience would have been familiar, of ritual murder or 'blood libel' that Jews would kill adult Christians. It is to this myth to which Shakespeare seems to allude in the 'pound of flesh' incident in this scene. Shakespeare is original in showing us the extent to which Shylock is oppressed by Christians surrounding him and it is through this that Shakespeare succeeds in drawing out sympathy from his audience.

Analysis of Act IV scene 1

In the text of Act IV scene 1 before we meet Shylock he is described as "a stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, incapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy". Antonio describes Shylock's spirit as being full of "tyranny and rage". When Shylock enters
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