How Is Xenophobia Expressed in This Play?

Topics: The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, Judaism Pages: 4 (1495 words) Published: February 8, 2011
In the merchant of Venice written by William Shakespeare, a Christian named Antonio asks to borrow money from the Jewish money-lender shylock. Bassanio is the Christian that asks Antonio to borrow the money from shylock so he could marry the fair, rich, maiden Portia. Jews were treated with racial discrimination by the Christians, simply because of their religion. In Shakespearean Venice the jews were forced to live in the “ghetto” part of Venice. They were also forced to wear a red hat whenever they left the “ghetto”, so the Christians would recognize them as Jewish. And at night the gates to the “ghetto” were closed, locked and guarded by Christians. I intend to explain both the Christian and Jewish side of the story, and to show where and how xenophobia ties in with the play.

In act 4 scene 1 (the courtroom scene) Portia disguises herself as a male lawyer, but she acts sarcastic and hypocritical towards the jew (Shylock). “Do you confess to the bond? Then must the Jew be merciful.” Portia asks Antonio to admit he agreed to the bond. When Antonio confesses she asks him if he expects Shylock to be merciful, in a joking, hypocritical way. I think Shakespeare did this so you can see how the Christians thought it was so funny and unusual for a jew to go to court to get his justice.

Although Shylock has lost his daughter and half his gold and jewels he seems very determined to kill Antonio. Portia “Are there balance here to weigh the flesh?” Shylock “I have them ready.”
Portia “Have by some surgeon Shylock, on your charge, to stop his, wounds, lest he do bleed to death.” Shylock “Is it so nominated in the bond?” It sounds almost like Shylock was planning to kill Antonio all along. I think Shakespeare did this to show how extreme jews were willing to go, to get revenge on Christians at any opportunity they got. Shylock acts like he only cares about getting his payment even if it means the death of Antonio. Shylock’s character speaks in a sinister unmerciful...
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