Shylock's Tragedy

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For much of the play, a group of friends vie to marry the beautiful and wealthy Portia. Shylock the money lending Jew transforms this play from a simple comedy to a complex story of tragedy. Enter Shylock, a witty man that makes jokes at the Christian’s expense that surround him. These jokes come from a long line of discrimination for the Jews. He resents that Antonio lends to his friends without charging interest, this takes money and profit from Shylock’s business. When Antonio requests a loan, Shylock clearly feels he at last has an upper hand in his dealings with Antonio. He takes full advantage of his edge, asking not for his standard fee, but rather for a pound of flesh should the debt not be repaid in three months' time. Since Antonio is sure his ships will return by then, he is not afraid to make the deal. Therein lies the pivoting point of the story. What follows for several scenes is amusing entertainment. Bassanio solves the riddle and wins Portia; Gratiano is smitten with Portia's servant, Nerissa, and woos her successfully; Shylock's daughter, Jessica, flees from her father's house to marry the Christian Lorenzo, albeit stealing her father's money and goods for her beloved. All of these characteristics are the necessary ingredients for a Shakespearean comedy. Then the trial scene appears. Antonio erred in his confidence. Three months have passed and no ships have returned. In fact, he has received word they are wrecked. Shylock is owed his bond. In court, the judge concurs that there is no law that can prevent Shylock from extracting the pound of flesh he was promised in the deal. "Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause/ But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs...", Shylock warns, driven by revenge as the Christians are robbing his dignity, and now his daughter (3:3:7-8). Portia and Nerissa appear in court dressed as male lawyers, determined to be part of the proceedings. Portia invokes her verbal agility to tell...
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