Anti-Semitism and Racism in the Merchant of Venice

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Anti-Semitism and racism in The Merchant Of Venice.

Anti-Semitism and the desecration of the Jewish population have been in existence for nearly five thousand years. In William Shakespeare's “The Merchant of Venice”, we find that one of the characters is the subject and expression of anti-Semitic attitude that is persistent in Elizabethan society.

William Shakespeare's “The Merchant of Venice” contains many examples that insult Jewish heritage because they were the minority in London in Shakespearean time. Although many parts of the play could be interpreted as offensive in modern times, Elizabethan audiences found them comical. The majority of London's population at the time was anti-Semitic because there were very few Jews living there. Shakespeare's “The Merchant of Venice” supports anti-Semitism actions and thoughts and therefore proves that Shakespeare was an anti-Semite. Antonio and Shylock, two similar businessmen of Venice, are viewed differently and are treated oppositely because Shylock is not a Christian but a Jew. One example of this is the way Launcelot treats Shylock in Act 2.

In act 2, Launcelot is debating with himself whether or not he should seek a new master. Launcelot's problem is that he works for Shylock, who is Jewish. Launcelot persuades himself that, "Certainly the Jew [Shylock] is the very devil incarnation." Eventually, Launcelot convinces himself that he would much rather run away than be ruled by a Jew. Launcelot presents this argument to his father: "I am a Jew if I serve the Jew any longer." Before Launcelot accepts a new job with Bassanio as his master, he is reminded that Bassanio is much poorer than Shylock. His reply to Bassanio was, "You have the grace of God, sir, and he [Shylock] hath enough."

Lorenzo also insults Shylock behind his back when he tells Jessica that if Shylock ever makes it to heaven, it is only because Jessica converted to Christianity. Lorenzo said, "If e'er the Jew her father come to heaven, / It...
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