In William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, the character Shylock is portrayed as an evil villain who insists for Antonio’s pound of flesh as the collateral for the inability to pay off his debt. While this punishment is extremely cruel and unusual, it was a legally binding pact that should have been upheld. However, through a loophole, Shylock ends up losing everything he holds dear and cherishes. Through the loss of his wealth and damage to his reputation as a money lender, his daughter Jessica running away to marry a Christian named Lorenzo, and Antonio’s requirement that he relinquishes his Jewish faith, Shylock has become a victim of the Venetian legal system and the hatred of others despite his insistence for obtaining the pound of flesh.
One of the unjust punishments rendered to Shylock at the trial was the forfeiture of half of his wealth and the absurd criticisms he received for his practices of charging interest on his loans as a money lender. Throughout his life Shylock had amassed sizable wealth through the interest he charged on his loans, yet was frequently criticized for doing so because the Christians felt it was sinful to do so. This unfairly singled out Shylock for doing a necessary service, and when he tried to justify his business practices by citing a biblical example of Jacob and the sheep, Antonio warns his friend Bassanio “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. / An evil soul producing holy witness / Is like a villain with a smiling check, / A goodly apple rotten at the heart” (Act I Scene iii: 95-99). Shylock is providing a necessary service to Venetian commerce because without the prospect of interest payments no one would ever lend money, but is scorned even as he is doing a favor for Antonio, the man who mocked him openly at the Rialto. This prejudice towards Shylock’s profession and wealth culminates in the trial, where Antonio acts as if he is being merciful towards Shylock by cancelling half of his wealth going...
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