“My deeds upon my head! I crave the law,
The penalty and forfeit of my bond.”
Good evening Ladies and Gentleman. I expect some of you will have recognised the quote I just presented as Shylock in Act 4 Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice. This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is one of the most powerful plays ever written. I am Liam Marshall and in my twenty years of experience acting with the Royal Shakespearean Company I have become acutely aware of the worth of William’s work. I am very honoured to have been asked to be here at this gathering of the most eminent literary minds in the English speaking world and even more excited to be presenting to you in the home of English literature, Stratford-upon-Avon. My brief is to provide an analysis of Shakespeare’s infamous, Shylock, a character as misunderstood in the western world as Judas Iscariot. This victim of Elizabethan anti-Semitism has come to represent the vilification of Judaism in the Christian world. BODY
I will be conducting an in-depth interpretation of the character, Shylock from The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is a Jew and a money lender, and traditionally he is presented as treacherous and greedy. He is linked to many of the play’s themes, such as justice, prejudice and revenge. He controls one of the important plot elements through the forfeiture of Antonio’s bond and his demand for a pound of flesh. Shylock is motivated by revenge against the Christians who have wronged him. He has been shunned by society and forced to live in a ghetto because of his faith and his profession. The loss of his daughter in Act 2 takes a large toll on Shylock and motivates him further to demand the justice Christian men denied him. In Act 1 scene 3 Shylock discusses the bitterness that has against Venetian society, in the speech to Antonio he outlines the wrongs done to him, “you call me misbeliever, cut throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine”. The court room scene in Act 4 scene 1 leaves the audience with...
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