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Shylock - Victim or Villain

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Shylock - Victim or Villain

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  • July 14, 2007
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It is questionable as to what the Jew, Shylock, can be regarded as - victim or villain? Many factors need to be contemplated when determining if Shylock is to be considered a victim or villain. Having been subject to racism and prejudice, losing his daughter and having been treated harshly by Christians, it is debatable as to whether or not Shylock is a victim or villain. It can be suggested that the Jew may have come to be a villain, from the prejudice that the minority of Venice suffers, but it is very hard to class Shylock as simply a victim or villain for he is a complex character who can be interpreted in many ways.

A Shakespearian audience would have regarded Shylock as a villain, as usury was condemned by the Christian religion in this period, and this means that he was portrayed unsympathetically. The play is a comedy, meaning that no one dies, and that the "good guys" always win and that justice is done to the "bad guys." Like all comedies there is a villain as: nasty, a law-breaker, a murderer, evil, vengeful, and greedy. Shylock is evil and vengeful, but he does not step outside the law. When he is ready to cut the flesh from Antonio, he is "allowed" to do this due to the bond that he made.

The audience knows that Shylock is a Jew, but all the time, no one recognises any other qualities. The modern audience wouldn't care at all about him, but he does have some good qualities. He works very hard for his money and he is an extremely religious Jew. He can say any quote from the Jewish bible, when talking, and refers to parts of the bible when trying to express something. It is very easy to see Shylock's devotion to his wife, who has already passed away, especially when he talks about the ring she gave him before they were married. He said that he would not give it up for a "wilderness of monkeys", meaning that he would not give it up for all the riches of the world. This really expresses how he is not materialistic and does have a heart. This heart...