Shakespeare’s play Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 01:48:09
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Category: William Shakespeare

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Shakespeare’s play, ‘The merchant of Venice’, is set in 16th century Venice, which was the time of Shakespeare. The play starts off with a deal made between Christian, Antonio, and a Jewish moneylender, Shylock. A pound of flesh was to be owed if Antonio didn’t repay the money back in time. There was a massive separation between Jews and Christians, where Christians held dominance over the Jews. Antonio gives this money to his best friend, Bassanio, so that he could appear rich and to create hope of winning a lady called Portia. He eventually wins Portia through a trial of three caskets, through a will left from Portia’s father.
Meanwhile a Christian friend of Antonio and Bassanio, called Lorenzo, runs away with Shylocks daughter, Jessica. Shylock’s loss affects him deeply, with the need for revenge. Shylock then requires his pound of flesh from Antonio, whom had not repaid him. Taken to court, Shylock rejects large sums of money and insists that he has his pound of flesh. A disguised Portia solves the argument and tells Shylock to take his pound of flesh, without blood being drawn. This leads to defeat of Shylock, who is stripped of his belongings and is forced to become a Christian. Throught the play Shylock is persecuted by most non – Jews he knows. He is a strong character in the play, through the unfortunate dominance of Christians; he won’t tolerate nor give up his perseverance to earn his own rights.
Shakespeare’s audience in the Elizabethan era would see the play as a reality, from being set in the same era. 16th centaury Venice was full of fashion, culture, trade and sophistication. The Christian leaders were keen to quell the activities of the Jews, and so created one of the first Jewish ghettos, forcing Jews to live in a particular area. In my opinion, Shakespeare’s audience would have portrayed Shylock as a villain. This is because the play was written in their period of time; the culture didn’t come as a shock, therefore seeing racial prejudice as normal. In their era, Jews were put below Christians, they were even seen as a different species compared to Christians. The audience would have seen Shylock as scum and a disgrace, taking more notice of his selfishness and greed, “I am right loath to go; there is some ill a brewing towards my rest, for I did dream of money bags tonight. Shylock was very determined to have justice for how the Christians had previously treated him, which the audience would have disliked, as Christians were above everyone else.
Shakespeare showed how Shylock and his daughter, Jessica, had a rocky relationship. Shylock was shown not to treat Jessica very well, “Alack, what heinous sin is it in me to be asham’d to be my father’s child!” An audience in Shakespeare’s time, would have found this a disgrace, and would hold sympathy for Jessica.
Because of the massive difference between our culture and the culture in the Elizabethan era, we would see Shylock from a completely different perspective. We would see Shylock as a man persecuted because of his religion. This is because we take more notice how people act towards Shylock, through being prejudice, “I am like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too”, seeing through his selfishness and greed. The quote also shows how stubborn Christians were and how they could get away with spitting on the Jews, or verbally abusing them. We show It is also seen throughout the play that Shylock receives no sympathy from any of the other characters in the play, every one hates him, so we would want to be sympathetic towards Shylock. Shylock is treated badly by Christians and can’t do anything about it, so instead he shows his anger through revenge. We would show sympathy here, as in our modern day culture all religions are generally accepted, we also we see his vicious actions as a response for being victimised by Christians.
“Thou call’dst me dog before thou hadst a cause, but since I am a dog, beware my fangs. The duke shall grant me justice.” This quote shows Shylock’s determination t not give up.
However, it is hard to notice some of Shylock’s cruel acts towards the Christians he comes cross, but we see that Shylock has only become a villain through being a victim, “The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
In my own opinion, I would portray Shylock as a victim more than a villain. This is based on the way Shylock was treated, and how he wasn’t accepted because he was a Jew. I see that the only way he was villainous was because Christians treated him unfairly. I therefore see expectable excuses for the way Shylock acted, but I see no excuse for Christians to push Jews out of their society, and treat them like scum. If Christians didn’t separate the Jews from themselves in the first place, then there wouldn’t be so much anger and disagreement.

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