In Shakespeare’s edgy and suspenseful play, “The Merchant of Venice”, the character of Shylock may evoke complex feelings within the reader. Shylock is clearly a villain in the sense that he takes repeatedly takes advantage of people in vulnerable economic situations and makes a handsome living in this way. He is not an inherently likeable character throughout “The Merchant of Venice” by Shakespeare; he avoids friendships, he is cranky, and he is steadfast in his beliefs to the point of being rigid.
Any character analysis of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” should note his tendency for selfish behavior and thinking. Shylock is also a man who is unreasonable and self-thinking, demanding, as one of the important quotes in “The Merchant of Venice” goes, “a weight of carrion flesh” (IV.i.41) from a man he suspects will not be able to repay him simply because it is his “humour” to do so (IV.i.43). Because he is the villain of this play, justice can only be served if Shakespeare’s Shylock is punished in a manner that is congruent with his violations of social norms and laws. At the same time, though, his punishment is problematic for it seems to mimic the very crime of which Shylock is really being accused, and that crime is absolutism. By insisting that Shylock must be punished in the way that he is in ‘The Merchant of Venice”, Shakespeare raises doubts about the purity of Christian love and mercy, which certainly creates implications for the very notions of both punishment and villainy. Shylock is a man who is hardly likeable in all aspects throughout “The Merchant of Venice”. Already a marginalized member of Venetian society because he is a Jew and occupies the stereotypical profession of the money-grubbing guarantor, Shylock ensures that his peers and the audience will not like him because of his unreasonableness and unwillingness to let go of his tendencies to be greedy, even in a situation that seems to warrant mercy and pity. In several instances in...
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