The Merchant of Venice Shylock Villain or Victim

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Shylock, Villain or victim?
The Merchant of Venice

June 8th, 2011

In the play The Merchant of Venice Shylock is supposed to be the protagonist, the definition of protagonist is; the leading character or a major character in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text. But the way Shylock is portrayed is more along the lines of being both victim and villain. Shylock is out for one pound of Antonio’s flesh which will in the end kill Antonio and the flesh will do him no good anyway. But he also gets called cruel names and is pushed around and spit on in the public by Christians, Antonio and all of Antonio’s friends. And farther on into the play Shylock is betrayed by his own daughter who stole from her father and became a Christian. But as victimised as Shylock is, he is also out for revenge on all Christians and is willing to kill to get what he thinks everyone deserves. This makes him appear to be a villain.

Firstly, Shylock shows his villainous side when he fools Antonio into signing a bond for his best friend Bassanio, promising Shylock a pound of his flesh if he cannot repay the three-thousand ducats in three months. Shylock has found out in this act that Antonio’s ships might not return, and Antonio may be unable to pay back the bond in time. This shows that shylock is out for pure revenge, as he says, “To bait fish withal: if it feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.(3, 1, 47-48) He tells Salario that he will not use his flesh for anything but the purpose of having revenge upon Antonio and all Christians.

But Shylock is shown as a victim when he is making the bond with Antonio and Bassanio and Antonio says, “I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.” (1, 3, 125-126) Antonio is reminding Shylock that he is just a Jew who he has spit on and ridiculed and will not hesitate to do so again in front of people. This shows that Antonio along with other Christians think it is normal and appropriate to humiliate...
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