Shakespeare’s main character, Shylock, is central to constant discrimination simply because he is a Jew. This is demonstrated in Act 1, Scene 3 when Antonio borrows money from Shylock. This scene is the first time the audience is introduced to Shylock and he quickly speaks of how he has been mistreated by Antonio because of his religion “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gabardine”. Shakespeare then reinforces this when Salarino is attempting to convince Shylock not to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh by questioning what good it would do. Shylock explains that “if nothing else it will feed my revenge” and how “He hath disgraced me…and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.” (3,1).
Shylock continues his monologue in Act 3, Scene 1, with 10 rhetorical questions one after another to convey the sheer amount of pain he has endured and how it is always constant. Shakespeare deliberately uses very strong emotives to grab the audience’s attention and to involve them in the action and in Shylock’s feelings “If you poison us, do we not die?” By ending on “die” (arguably one of the strongest emotives) it engages the audience by shocking them, therefore they can’t just ignore what is being said; they must take some involvement and feel sympathetic towards Shylock. Possibly the most powerful question is “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” It implies that Jews are human too as they have blood running through their veins, however it suggests that Jews have not been treated like humans and have instead been treated more like machines, with no blood, and more importantly no feelings.
Towards the end of Shylock’s monologue he speaks of revenge “And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”, this foreshadows what is yet to come and gives the audience the impression that he will take Antonio’s pound of flesh, particularly as he has been using such strong emotives before such as “die” and “bleed”. It also leaves the audience wondering whether Shylock is intending to make Antonio bleed and die especially as Shylock ends his monologue with “The villainy you teach me I will execute..” (3,1) and execute can also mean to kill.
This changes when Antonio is in debt to him and suddenly Shylock asserts his power and becomes extremely dominant, to the point of him attempting to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Shylock, however, is a very contrasting character, he is portrayed as a villain yet he has been victimised throughout his life. The build-up of pain and the constant oppression he has endured throughout his life has made him crave revenge and therefore made his actions far more extreme than the audience would otherwise expect. Shylock is victimized by others around him because he is Jewish and he speaks of how he is offended by Christians and the names he is called by them (particularly in 3,1). Shylocks’ daughter Jessica, then elopes with Lorenzo and takes his money and jewels, this throws Shylock into a state of rage, “She is damned for it.” “My own flesh and blood to rebel!” (3,1), which makes Shylock start to act out on his...