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Anti-Semitism in the Merchant of Venice

Oct 08, 1999 511 Words
Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice

It is my strong belief that the play, "The Merchant of Venice", should be taught in classes. If this play was banned from schools it would most certainly be a form of censorship. While minors rights are somewhat limited when it comes to this right, I think that even Minors should not be censored from this writing.

The play teaches us about prejudice, and why it is wrong. People would see how everyone was hurt at one time or another by a prejudice, whether it was the Christians making fun of Shylock or Shylock showing his prejudice to the Christian's. I imagine that anyone watching, listening or reading this play would see how everyone was hurt, and would learn of racism's faulty basis's for judging someone.

Some people would have you think that the play itself is racist, and provides a forum in which racism can grow and become only a bigger problem. I think that this is a flawed way of looking at it. I see the play as a confrontation of a modern day problem which society still faces. Rather than providing a forum for racism to grow, the play provides a forum for anti-racism discussion, if all proper steps are taken. When I say if all proper steps are taken, I am referring to having this play taught by a teacher, who can explain the plays meaning in it's fullest so that the students do not miss any important points from it.

Another point that may have been missed when the presentation was made to the school board to ban the material from being taught inside the school system was that everyone is bad in the play. The Christians portrayal was just as bad as the Jewish man, Shylock's portrayal. In fact I think that the play gave a worse portrayal of the Christian's because they ended up being the most evil, through taking away everything that Shylock had and making him become Christian. While Shylock did want to kill someone, the punishment invoked on him was even worse.

As you can see, there are many reasons why "The Merchant of Venice" should be taught in classrooms. A. Whitney Griswold said in a speech (1952), "Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas." I think that this is particularly true in this case, the bad ideas of racism in the play can be attacked through positive reinforcement of anti-racism views and showing how wrong racism is. Suppose we were to censor "The Merchant of Venice" what happened if one day someone picked it up, read it, and followed the anti-Semitism in it. I think that if it will stop one person from being racist, by teaching them it is wrong by teaching everyone then it will all be worth it.

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