Anti-Semitism in Merchant of Venice

Topics: The Merchant of Venice, Jews, Judaism Pages: 3 (1138 words) Published: May 8, 2006
Racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination have been serious global issues for hundreds of years. Anti-Semitism, a hateful or discriminatory outlook towards Jewish culture, is arguably racism in its worst form. For hundreds of years the Jewish culture has been looked down upon, disrespected and persecuted by other ethnicities. In Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, the character of Shylock reveals to us Shakespeare's attitude towards the Jewish people and anti-Semitism. Throughout the play Shylock is treated with a continuum of hostility and disrespect from the other characters. Many would argue that Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice condones anti-Semitism, but if a closer look is taken, Shakespeare's playwright actually supports an opposing point of view. We see this through character quotes and speeches, particularly Shylock and Antonio. This is noticeable as well in some of the Character's attitudes, developments and comparisons, as well as in the theme advancements involving both the Casket, and Shylock-Antonio sub-plots. It becomes clear that Shakespeare actually intended to assault the anti-Semitic attitude that has, and still does exist in certain societies.

The character dialog in particular parts of the play seem to serve the propose of challenging anti-Semitism, and promoting sympathy for Shylock's character. In one of the most memorable points of the play, Shylock speaks about the prejudice he has faced when he discusses equality.

"He hath disgraced me, and/ hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,/ mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted/ my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine/ enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath/ not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, / dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with/ the same food, hurt with the same weupon s, subject/ to the same diseases, healed by the same means,/ warmed and cooled by the same winter and/ Summer, as a Christian is? If you prick...
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