Merchant of Venice

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A play I have studied is The Merchant of Venice. Two characters in the play who have a tense relationship are Shylock and Antonio.

This tension stems firstly from religious differences. In Venice at this time the Christians looked down on the Jewish people because of their religion. Shylock cannot understand the hatred of the Jewish people on Antonio and the rest of the Christians part. Antonio treats Shylock like a dog and he even admits in the text Shylock: ‘Fair sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last, You spurn me such a day, another time You call’d me a dog: and for these courtesies I’ll lend you thus much moneys’? Antonio: ‘I am like to call thee so again. To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too. If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not as to thy friends, for when did friendship take A breed for barren metal of his friend? But lend it raher tho thine enemy, who if he break thou may’st with better face exct the penalty’. This shows that even after Shylock lends him the money he will not be any way different or kind to him he will just go back to the same thing of spitting on him and calling him a dog. I think that Shylock was trying to make friends with Antonio but he would not become his friends because of Shylocks religion.

A second reason for the tense relationship is a difference of opinion in the matter of business. Shylock makes a living n lending out money to people for a certain lent of time and then if it goes over that time period then they have to pay him interest, this in Shakespearean time was called usary and Shylock was a usurer. Antonio did not like this because he felt that the people should only have to pay what they borrowed and many of time the people that borrowed the money off Shylock would come to Antonio and ask if he would give them the money to pay Shylock back and Shylock did not like this and he felt that Antonio was sticking his nose in his business. There is irony in the the play in that Antonio has to swallow his pride...
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