Character Sketch of Characters from the Merchant of Venice

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Q 1. Sketch the character of Shylock.
Lord Lyttelton finds Shakespeare a dramatic genius par excellence. “He (Shakespeare) painted all chara cters, from kings down to peasants with equal truth and equal force”. “The Merchant Of Venice” shows that he is an astonishing artist and his deep insight into the human heart is par excellence. “The Merchant Of Venice” is famous, not only for the beauty of the language but also for the beauty of characterization. Shylock, the Jew is one of the inconceivable masterpieces of Shakespeare’s characterization. The critics hold two different views regarding the character of Shylock: (a) that Shylock is a master of wickedness – an absolute villain. (b) that he is a person “more sinned against than sinning”, i.e. a great and noble character and almost a martyr. The truth, however, lies somewhere between these two extremes. Shylock, as depicted in the play is a man with sharp intellect. Nobody in the play can match Shylock in intellect. Even Portia could not have outwitted him, had she not consulted Dr. Bellario. We get an example of Shylock’s intellect right from the time Bassanio approaches him for 3000 ducats, Shylock becomes sure of Bassanio’s necessity through repeated questions: “Three thousand ducats – well.

For three months – well.”
He conceives a foolproof trap and ensnares his sole enemy easily. Even during the trial he shows his understanding of law. His arguments are convincing. He is defeated only when he becomes unfuarded due to his fits of joy and confidence of victory. Shylock has always been viewed as a devil or villain. But he is a man with some moral sense. He never tells a lie. He doesn’t abuse Antonio or anybody. He does not rob or swindle anybody’s money. He is not addicted to wine, gambling, women or anyother vice. His only immorality as viewed by the Christian is lending money on high interest. But this was his profession and an act of charity for the Christian state if seen in pure economic terms. Shylock is true Jew. He wears Jewish clothes. He is a devout follower of his own religion. His language and culture are Jewish. He always swears by Jacob’s Staff by the holy Sabbath, etc. He defends usury by quoting the example of Jacob and his mother: “… mark what Jacob did

When Laban and himself were compromised”
Shylock has a strong lust for money. His enmity against Antonio is based on his commercial rivalry. Antonio’s act of gratis has been ruining Shylock’s business of money lending. He wants Antonio to be removed from this world for an unchallenged business interest. Shylock is revengeful but there is nothing unnatural about it. A person, who has been abused constantly for his bein a Jew has to react in this manner only. He is also accused of hypocrisy and monstrously inhuman and extremely suspicious. If we probe Shylock’s treated as a dog throughout his life. On the whole, the presence of Shylock can be felt throughout the play. His personality is so overpowering that we are tempted to treat him as hero of the play.

Word Meaning (As Per Oxford)
Vice: immoral conduct
Gratis: without charge
Swindle: cheat of money
Astonishing: surprising, amazing.
Usury: lending money on Interest.
Devout: earnestly religious or sincere.
Ensnare: a device used to catch small birds or animals.
Outwit: to gain an advantage over sb by doing sth clever
Martyr: a person who is killed because of what he/she believes. Inconceivable: impossible or very difficult to believe or imagine Intellect: a) faculty of reasoning , knowing and thinking b) understanding Par: (In golf) the standard no. of times a player shoud hit the ball in order to complete a particular hole or series of holes. IDM below par: (informal) not as good or as well as usual. On a par with sb/sth: of an equal level, standard, etc. to sb/sth else.

Q2. Sketch the character of Antonio.
Lord Lyttelton finds Shakespeare a dramatic genius par excellence. “He (Shakespeare) painted all characters from kings down...
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