Essay about Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
1704 Words7 Pages
Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice contains an array of interesting and complex characters. From the alternately generous and grasping Antonio to the alternately love stricken and exploitative Bassanio to the vulnerable and manipulative Portia, this play has an abundance of multi-layered personalities.
However, one of the most intriguing characters is also the most oft-vilified and minimized in the work. This character, Shylock, is certainly just as compelling as any of the aforementioned—if not more so, because he acts as the catalyst for the majority of the interesting sections of the play (i.e. The flesh pact, the court scene etcetera). It is…show more content…
To prove this dichotomy, we will examine Shylock's statements to Salarino in Act 3, scene 1, lines 49-67. It can be said that, in regards to Antonio, greed and petty revenge are all that interest Shylock. The lines preceding Shylock's statement consist of a question posed by Salarino. Essentially, “why take Antonio's flesh?” Shylock responds with a predictably acerbic and inelegant answer: “To bait a fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.” Here, Shylock shows himself the consummate villain. He has absolutely no use for Antonio's flesh yet he demands it in a display of utmost sadism. He regards the man's flesh as nothing better than fish bait. He also admits that spiting Antonio will be the ultimate satisfaction; by saying that the flesh would feed his revenge, he likened his vengeance to the appetite of a creature—one that would consume the flesh the way a fish would consume bait...an extremely unsavory, yet telling, comparison. In lines 50 through 54, Shylock shares his motivations for seeking the death of Antonio (because, of course, removing pounds of flesh from any creature is bound to kill it): Antonio has “disgraced” and “hindered” Shylock (presumably from working his wiles on a would-be victim of his unfair lending practices), “laughed” at his financial losses, “mocked” his successes, “scorned” his people (the Jews),
Shylock in Merchant of Venice
- :: 4 Works Cited
- Length: 1694 words (4.8 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
The Character of Shylock in Merchant of Venice
Few characters created by Shakespeare embodies pure evil like the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is a usurer and a malevolent, blood-thirsty old man consumed with plotting the downfall of his enemies. He is a malignant, vengeful character, consumed with venomous malice1; a picture of callous, unmitigated villainy, deaf to every appeal of humanity2. Shylock is the antagonist opposite the naive, essentially good Antonio, the protagonist; who must defend himself against the "devil" Shylock. The evil he represents is one of the reasons Shakespeare chose to characterize Shylock as a Jew, as Jews of his time were seen as the children of the Devil, the crucifiers of Christ and stubborn rejecters of God's wisdom and Christianity.
However, when Shakespeare created Shylock, he did not insert him in as a purely flat character, consumed only with the villainy of his plot. One of the great talents that Shakespeare possessed, remarks Shakespeare analyst Harrold R. Walley, was his ability to make each key character act like a real, rational person. Walley said of all of Shakespeare's characters, hero or villain, that "Their conduct is always presented as logical and justifiable from their point of view3." To maintain the literary integrity of the play, "Shakespeare is under the necessity of making clear why a man like Shylock should be wrought to such a pitch of vindictive hatred as to contemplate murder4." His evil must have some profound motivation, and that motivation is the evil done to him. Shylock is not an ogre, letting lose harm and disaster without reason. He was wronged first; the fact that his revenge far outweighs that initial evil is what makes him a villain. Beneath Shylock' villainy, the concept of evil for evil runs as a significant theme through the play.
In order to understand the concept of evil for evil, one must examine the initial evil, aimed at Shylock, through Shylock's own eyes. Some may see the discrimination aimed at Shylock as justified, as he is a malicious usurer; certainly the Venetians thought so. However, the discrimination took its toll on Shylock, until he began to hate all Christians. Shylock saw himself as an outsider, alienated by his society. The evil he saw done to him took three major forms: hatred from Antonio, discrimination from Christian Venetians, and the marriage to a Christian of his daughter Jessica.
How to Cite this Page
|Merchant Of Venice - Antonio And Shylock Essay examples - William Shakespeare shows how two tradesmen can have completely different lives when others view them differently in the play The Merchant of Venice. In the play, Bassanio, Antonio’s friend, needs money to pursue his love. They seek a loan from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender in Antonio’s name. The contract is for three times the value of the bond in three months or else Shylock cuts off a pound of flesh from Antonio. While all this is happening, there are love plots going on. One of which is for Shylock’s daughter to elope with Lorenzo, a Christian.... [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]||808 words|
|Essay on The Character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice - The Character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice Victim or villain. These two words are the total opposites of each other. A victim is someone that 'we' in general should, or may, feel sorry for and attempt to sympathise or empathise with. But a villain is the one person that people love to hate. The best example of this I feel is pantomime. The victims or heroes are clear-cut and the audience willingly cheers them. But as soon as the villain walks on stage he is hissed and booed, unfortunately it is not as simple as this in 'The Merchant of Venice' and how the audience react to the characters is all important in making the distinction between victim or vill... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]||3195 words|
| Shylock in Merchant of Venice Essay - The Character of Shylock in Merchant of Venice Few characters created by Shakespeare embodies pure evil like the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is a usurer and a malevolent, blood-thirsty old man consumed with plotting the downfall of his enemies. He is a malignant, vengeful character, consumed with venomous malice1; a picture of callous, unmitigated villainy, deaf to every appeal of humanity2. Shylock is the antagonist opposite the naive, essentially good Antonio, the protagonist; who must defend himself against the "devil" Shylock.... [tags: Merchant Venice Essays]|
:: 4 Works Cited
|Essay about Merchant Of Venice Shylock Stu - This character sketch will be on Shylock, describing his physical and personality traits. Shylock is an older, Jewish money lender who has one daughter named Jessica. Shylock is introduced into the novel when Antonio’s friend, Gratiano needs money in order to impress a girl. Antonio at the time does not have any money and sends Gratiano to Shylock to borrow money from him. Shylock does not like Antonio because of past experiences where Antonio made fun of him publically. This leads to an interesting bond that Antonio must agree to in order for Gratiano to get money.... [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]||448 words|
|The Merchant Of Venice - Shylock: Villain Or Victim? Essay - Many people are villainous in the way they behave. Their villainous acts may be attributed to their desire to destroy others and in turn elevate themselves to a higher financial or social level. However, the root cause of their villainy may be a response to the treatment they have endured at the hands of others. In short, they have been taught villainy, rather than it being an integral part of their personality. In such instances, revenge can be a key motivator in inspiring them to act in a villainous way.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]||1770 words|
|The Characters of Shylock and Bassanio in A Merchant of Venice Essay - First let me start of by explaining the common stereotype of a hero and of a villain: A hero is associated as being brave, generous, warm hearted and an all round good person. A villain is normally thought of as cruel, deceiving, hurtful and evil. The characters in A Merchant of Venice can all fit into one of these catagories but especially those of Shylock and Bassanio. Shylock's job is as a moneylender. Insists on a lot of interest back, selfish when Antonio approaches him for money to borrow.... [tags: A Merchant of Venice]||297 words|
|Essay about Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice In every play or story, you need a villain, someone you can hate - in Cinderella you have the evil stepmother, in Harry Potter you have Lord Voldermort, and in the Merchant of Venice you have Shylock. In this scene, I see Shylock not as the comical buffoon or villain but as the outsider. The scene opens with a conversation between Basanio and Shylock. Basanio wants to borrow three thousand ducats from Shylock for three months, but Shylock is reluctant.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]||464 words|
|Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice Essay - Shakespeare's Presentation of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice In the Merchant of Venice, Shylock is continually involved in the bond plot. This plot is probably the most intense story-line in this Shakespeare play. Bassanio borrows money from Shylock in Antonio's name in order to impress Portia, however after a tragic incident involving all of Antonio's ships crashing; the money has failed to be returned. According to their bargain Antonio must now give Shylock a pound of his flesh.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]||1465 words|
|Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay example - Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare 'The Merchant of Venice' is a play written by William Shakespeare. In this play I will be analysing whether the character of Shylock is classed as a villain or victim. His character is unclear, as he can be seen as an orthodox Jew, where he is vicious and cunning, or he can be seen as a nice and caring person. I will begin by explaining the ways in which he can be seen as a villain. Shylock is seen as a villain because of the way he acts towards other people.... [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]||1126 words|
|Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay - Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Shylock is certainly an interesting character made even more intriguing by Shakespeare's portrayal of him. Much before the twentieth century, anti-Semitism was rife and The Merchant of Venice is a curious tale, as we are able to see how Jews were viewed in the late 1500s - especially as Shakespeare's depiction was at odds with the accepted anti-Jewish prejudiced views in that he considers both sides of the argument.... [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]||1048 words|
Merchant Of Venice Shylock Pure Evil Vengeful Analyst Antagonist Pitch Talents
Shylock's main reason for making the bond was, of course, his hatred of Antonio. Antonio, a "good" Christian who lends without interest, constantly preaches about the sin of usury and publicly denounces Shylock for practicing it. In addition, Shylock hate Antonio for an economic, even petty reason, and remarks that
He lends out money gratis and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice. [I. iii. 44-45].
Antonio also spit on him in public and called him a "cut-throat dog."
Shylock also recognizes Antonio's anti-Semitism, calling him an enemy of "our sacred nation" [I. iii. 48]. Antonio was always trying to coerce Shylock to convert to Christianity, he even remarks to that effect to Bassanio after the bond is made, and Shylock can sense this and it further fuels his hatred. Shakespearean critic D.A. Traversi finds an additional thought plaguing Shylock. Tied in with his anti-Semitism is an apparent supremacy Antonio feels over Shylock, expressed in his ruthlessly complacent expression of superiority,
I am as like to call thee so again,
To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too; [I. iii. 130-131]
so that we may even feel that, when he explicitly tells Shylock:
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friends; for when did friendship take
A breed for barren metal of his friend?
But lend it rather to thine enemy; [I. iii. 132-33, 135]
he puts down Shylock as someone who can never be his friend or equal5. In addition to evil from Antonio, Shylock is despised by the Christians. He himself attributes his woes to the fact that "[He is] a Jew" [III. i. 58]6. He says he hates Antonio because "he is a Christian" [I. iii. 42], and he sees Christians as his oppressors. His thrift is condemned as miserly blood-sucking7, when it is just his own means of survival, based on his own separate standards8. His own insistence on the pound of flesh becomes the direct result of renewed insult9.
The final insult Shylock receives at the hands of Christians is the marriage of his daughter Jessica to a Christian. Walley examines Shylock's feelings at that moment, that "[Shylock] has been betrayed by his own flesh and blood, and robbed to boot. He now takes on the dual roles of grief-stricken father and duped-miser, though it is almost entirely the latter10." Either way, Shylock has once again been dealt evil by the Christians who segregate him. While it is clear that he was an oppressed man, no reader of Shakespeare would shed a single tear for poor Shylock. The evil he returns far outweighs the measure received, even if one would judge the Christians' discrimination by today's standards. Shylock is the villain of the play, and he is far from innocent.
The most outright demonstration of evil by Shylock is his insistence on the pound of flesh at the trial scene. Shylock had in the past been seen as evil for his miserly love of money, but now he insists on much more. He is willing to give up three times the loan in exchange for a pound of Antonio's flesh. This tenacious pursuit of homicidal intentions toward Antonio is representative of Shylock's character. He is completely devoid of mercy; that and other positive virtues are beyond his comprehension11. Traversi characterizes Shylock's personality as being full of "blind spots," basic human limitations, that when persisted in, "make a balanced human life unattainable12." The evil Shylock commits is further compounded by the helplessness of Antonio's situation.
When one examines the signing of the bond, further duplicitous treachery on Shylock's part becomes evident. Shylock puts Antonio in a situation where he cannot say no to the apparently innocuous but potentially dangerous bond. When Antonio approaches Shylock, he asks for the money, yet insists that Shylock lend it "to thine enemy," an implicit, unstated rebuke of usury. Shylock then pounces on this opportunity, and offers a proposal that seems to act upon Antonio's teaching, slipping in his seemingly ridiculous contingency of a pound of flesh, which Antonio would never dream could be taken seriously. This puts Antonio in a precarious position: he must agree, as to reject reformation is to nullify censure13. Further duplicity on Shylock's part is seen in the fact that he himself acts as if he does not take the pound of flesh seriously, when he imparts to Antonio the perfectly reasonable contention, "If he should break this day, what should I gain?" [I. iii. 163]14.
Literary critic James E. Siemon, finds further evidence to point out the profound evil Shylock exudes in Shakespeare's setup of the trial scene. By that point it is obvious to all that Shylock is consumed with evil and will stop at nothing to have his revenge, and the trial is both a condemnation of Shylock and a hope of reform for him. The Duke, a figure of authority and supreme judgement, speaks true when he calls Shylock a "stony adversary, an inhuman wretch / Uncapable of pity" [IV, i. 4-5]15. The audience is meant to realize, if they have not already, that a man cannot live without the qualities of mercy and pity, and it is the lack of these that makes him commit evil deeds. Siemon remarks that Portia's plea is essentially a plea for Shylock rather than for Antonio. She is pleading with him to throw off his stony, inhuman nature and to take his place as a man among men, to acknowledge...that he is a man and that all men live by mercy.16
The audience is meant to understand that Shylock must change his very nature in order to be a member of society. The fact that Shylock does not respond to Portia is further proof that Shylock is a complete villain. Siemon opens his essay on The Merchant of Venice with the following statement: "The Merchant of Venice is the first of Shakespeare's comedies to attempt a full-scale depiction of evil.17" Indeed, evil is a major theme of the play, and certainly one of the most profound characteristics of Shylock. He represents the tormented receiver of evil from society, the evil villain plotting to destroy the hero, and most importantly, a man fueled by others' evil to exhibit his own.
Kerr, Walter, 1960, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991), volume 12
Siemon, James E., 1970, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991), volume 4
Shakespeare, William, The Merchant of Venice
Traversi, D.A., 1968, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991), volume 4
Walley, Harrold R., 1935, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991),
1Harrold R. Walley, 1935, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991),
v. 4, p. 244
2 Ibid., p. 245
3 Ibid., p. 245
4Ibid., p. 245
5 D. A. Traversi, 1968, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991), v.
4, pp. 316-317
6Walley, p. 247
7 Ibid., p. 247
8Traversi, p. 316
9 Walter Kerr, 1960, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991), v.
12, p. 124
10 Walley., p. 247
11 Traversi, p. 316
12 Ibid., p. 316
13 Walley, p. 245
14 Ibid., p. 245
15 James E. Siemon, 1970, from Shakespeare Criticism, Sandra L. Williamson and James E. Person, Jr., editors, (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1991),
v. 4, p. 320
16 Ibid., p. 320
17 Ibid., p. 319