Character Study of Shylock and Portia in Merchant of Venice

Pages: 5 (1837 words) Published: October 6, 2014
Character Study of Shylock and our feelings for him as the play progresses 1) He is seen as a mercenary money-lender approached by Bassanio for the loan of 3000 ducats with Antonio as the guarantor. The money is to finance Bassanio on his trip to Belmont to woo Portia whom he is in love with. He keeps debating on whether he should lend the money. Even when Antonio is a “good” man meaning he is financially sound, yet his money is invested in goods which are in ships overseas. Therefore, his ventures are risky. How do you feel about Shylock here? Are you uncomfortable that he places so much importance on money?

2)Shylock is portrayed as a villain when he displays his unforgiving and vengeful nature. He has a deep-seated hatred for Antonio. He says,”Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him!”
Shylock is a villain here to say that he hates Antonio so much that he could swear on the name of his tribe.

3)Shylock is crafty and pretentious. To exact his revenge, he tricks Antonio to sign a bond in return for the loan of 3000 ducats to help Bassanio. He uses words like a bond signed “in a merry sport” and “This is kind I offer.” He agrees not to charge interest but prefers a pound of Antonio’s flesh if Antonio is not able to repay the loan. He pretends that he is not serious about the pound of flesh by saying: “If he should break his day, what should I gain By the exaction of his forfeiture?”

Shylock goes on to say,“…To buy his favour I extend this friendship.” Antonio, being confident about the return of his investments in ships agrees to the terms of the bond. Do you see more of the villain in Shylock here? How are your feelings for Shylock here? Do you dislike him for being a schemer, for being so crafty yet so good at pretending to be friendly?

Moreover, how are your feelings for him intensified at the Trial Scene when he insists on nothing but the forfeit of his bond even when Bassanio is ready to pay him thrice the amount of money as stated in the bond? Do you see the villain at his worst here? Earlier on, Shylock is seen sharpening his knife to cut the flesh of Antonio and Bassanio gets so worked up that he calls Shylock a “damned, inexecrable dog”. Do you feel so disgusted with Shylock at this stage as to hate him for being so cruel as to want a pound of flesh from a fellow human being? In other words, he wants Antonio dead. Quote the relevant lines spoken by Shylock from the scene and what he does to cause you to feel disgusted and even hate Shylock.

4)Yet, in some ways, Shylock is also seen as a victim when he recounts the unkind way Antonio has treated him, does Shylock pose himself to be a victim?

After Portia has cleverly quibbled on the words used in the bond to turn the situation in Antonio’s favour, do you think Shylock is now a sympathetic character and deserves some pity from us? Describe how the events have turned against Shylock. Do you see him a victim here? 1)Since Shylock has attempted to take Antonio’s life, Antonio has the power to seize half of Shylock’s wealth, while the rest of the possessions will be handed over to the state treasury. 2)Shylock will be condemned to death unless the Duke officially cancels the punishment. 3)Shylock is told to fall on his knees and beg for mercy. This is a blow for someone who has so much pride in his own nation, calling his own nation “sacred”. He has lost all the dignity he had. 4)Shylock has nothing left for himself. He has lost his entire wealth and would rather die. He says: “You take my life

When you take the means whereby I live.”

The Duke says that the half of his possessions which should go to the state can be reduced to a fine if Shylock is truly repentant. 5)Antonio adds that the fine can be abolished but the half of Shylock’s possessions which should go to Antonio will be kept by Antonio until the death of Shylock on two conditions: 6)Shylock has to become a Christian, a religion he detests. Professing a religion should be a...
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