Merchant of Venice: Stereotypes, Shakespeare, and You

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Merchant of Venice: Stereotypes, Shakespeare, and You

By | March 2013
Page 1 of 3
Merchant of Venice: Stereotypes, Shakespeare, and You

In the play The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare uses a variety of examples to show stereotypes. These examples are both shown for and against the specific stereotype, whatever it may be. This can range from how women were treated, how jews were treated, and how christians were treated. These were humorous at the time, but now our society has grown out of that and “matured” itself. Shakespeare reinforces and also critiques the stereotypes of the time in the play, which is one of the reasons it had became so popular.

The Jewish community was not treated well in the time of The Merchant of Venice. They were never considered to be citizens of a town, in this case florence, they were never respected by christians, and they were forced to wear red hats that showed them that they were separate from the citizens. They are forced to live in the Ghetto, which is just a group of building where only Jews live. Solanio and Salerio, both Christians, refer to Shylock as “the dog jew” which is just Shakespeare saying that they are treated like mutts, which in turn supports the stereotype that jews were animals (2.8.14). Another stereotype was that jews were greedy. When Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, runs away with all of Shylock’s money, he is reported to have been running down the street shouting “O my ducats! O my daughter!” (2.8.15). This means that he cares about his money equally as he loves his daughter. Then when you look at Jessica, she too is exemplifying stereotypes of thievery, deceit, and of not being sincere. She changes her religion as though she’s changing a flat tire, she steals the ring and the money of her father, and she lies to her dad as well!

Now, although Shakespeare does put quite a bit of negative content into his writing, he also antagonizes it by challenging those stereotypes. For example, when Shylock found out that Jessica had stolen his ring and heard news that she may have had sold it, he...