top-rated free essay

Character Comparisons - -Shylock vs. Antonio

Sep 28, 2008 930 Words
Since antiquity, Christians and Jews were seen as the antitheses of each other. The differences between the two religions were extensive and the people of the time were keen to exploit them. However, beneath the varying practices, Christians and Jews had many subtle similarities. This concept is portrayed in Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” where the conflict between the characters Antonio, a Christian and Shylock, a Jew reveals a likeness never seen before in a play of that time.

Shakespeare first introduces Antonio with the line “In sooth I know not why I am so sad.” (Act 1, Scene 1). Antonio’s melancholy is profound as his most beloved friend, a younger man named Bassanio, is preparing to leave him. The love Antonio holds for Bassanio is so deep such that he provides Bassanio, then in debt and in need of three thousand ducats, with all the credit he can offer to set him on his way without any hesitation. He goes so far to even sign a contract that could lead to the potential loss of his flesh order to help his friend. The love Antonio felt for Bassanio was so intense that not even the possibility of mutilation and death could stop him. As a result of such a generous and selfless nature, Antonio is well respected in the community at the time and loved by all his friends. But his life is far from perfect. His first line which begins the play is a line that evidently reveals the pain he suffers in his loneliness.

Antonio’s generous and selfless nature is a sharp contrast to the vindictive and greedy mindset of the play’s antagonist, Shylock. His attitude towards people is so detestable that even his own daughter eventually leaves him. Whether Shylock is the villain or victim can be shown in both ways; the humiliation he suffers at the hands of Christians who mock his Jewish ancestry makes him the victim of the Christians’ ridicules. Shylock suffers the brute of this abuse through Antonio, who, despite his generosity and selflessness is capable of racist cruelty. Shylock thus develops a profound hatred towards Christians that intensifies when his only child steals from him to elope with a Christian man. The play also shows the uncertainty that Shylock had regarding whether he was more pained at the loss of his daughter, or the money she stole from him. His delirious ramblings of “My daughter…my ducats,” (Act 2, Scene 8) seem to place the two at an equal footing—although that is not surprising. If there is one love Shylock processes, it is his obsession with money. This fills every missing piece in his heart as he works for money and lives for money. Yet even money cannot fill the loneliness caused by a missing daughter.

Although Antonio and Shylock are born enemies and develop an extreme hatred to each other during the play, there are underlying similarities between the two. Their resemblance can be observed in their positions in life where one is a successful merchant while the other, a wealthy Jewish moneylender. Their likeness is further amplified by the intensity in which they love: Antonio with his devotion to Bassanio and Shylock with his obsessive love of money. Yet even as they are similar in love they are similar in hate; Antonio has shown in his dealing with Shylock that he is capable of cruelty and Shylock in turn, is only too eager to reciprocate this hatred. What is perhaps the most striking similarity between the two is their loneliness. Both Antonio and Shylock lose the closest person in their lives but even before their loss there was something incomplete and missing from their lives. Antonio’s weariness of the world and Shylock’s detest for it isolates both these characters from the Venetian society. Their detest of each other is evident on the surface but beneath the hate lies a striking parallel in wealth, love, hate and loneliness.

If one can be convinced of the similarities between Antonio and Shylock, one can most definitely be convinced of their differences. Although both these men are plenty in wealth, one spends his fortune freely, while the other takes meticulous care to maintain it. Antonio is well loved for how generous he is to his friends, especially how liberally he lends them money. Shylock on the other hand makes a living out of providing loans for profit. Their different outlooks on money leaves one loved and respected while the other is hated and humiliated. Due to the different perceptions the Venetian society has on both these men, Antonio develops his sociality while Shylock remains taciturn.

Although Christians and Jews have not had a peaceful coexistence in recorded history due to their apparent differences in religious practices, they share many similarities as all humans do. Such a concept, not openly expressed in the seventeenth century is a surprisingly prominent theme within Shakespeare’s 1605 play “The Merchant of Venice.” The play’s archenemies, Antonio, a Christian and Shylock, a Jew share many differences in how they are perceived by society. Nevertheless, as humans we are all equal in what we are capable of doing. Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” passes on to the audience the message that by disregarding the differences between people, one can see the true equity in human beings. As centuries and eras pass by, one reads “The Merchant of Venice” with hope that some day such a conflict between religions would only be existent in past history and that equity will prevail among all of humankind.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • A Closer Look at Shylock vs. Antonio

    ...A Closer Look at Shylock vs. Antonio The play is set in Venice, Italy. During this time, Venice was full of wealth, royal merchants, luxuriously dressed people, and distinguished culture. An example of this description would be Antonio. Even though the society seemed perfect, there was also a downside to them. The play revealed prejudices of ...

    Read More
  • The Character of Shylock in Merchant of Venice

    ...The Character of Shylock in Merchant of Venice Few characters created by Shakespeare embodies pure evil like the character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is a usurer and a malevolent, blood-thirsty old man consumed with plotting the downfall of his enemies. He is a malignant, vengeful character, consumed with venomous m...

    Read More
  • Why Shylock Is a Complex Character

    ...way a character gets its reputation is affected by the way the reader and other characters view them, and that perspective can change at any point throughout the storyline. In Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is presented as the most developed character. Shakespeare purposely creates both an antagonist and protagonist in Shyl...

    Read More
  • Shylock

    ...Shylock Deserves Sympathy and is not to blame for his own downfall. Shylock is a complex character and he has suffered, still suffers and is one of a people who have suffered over centuries. However, to what extent should Shylock suffer and does he deserve our sympathy or hostility. Although anti-Semitism is totally unacceptable today, it was qu...

    Read More
  • shylock & antonio

    ...throughout American history, all whites were considered citizens of the United States; however, most aspects of participatory citizenship, especially political participation, have generally been restricted to white men. Participatory citizenship has historically included the ability to vote and enter politics, the right and duty to sit on jur...

    Read More
  • Merchant of Venice - Antonio and Shylock

    ...love. They seek a loan from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender in Antonio's name. The contract is for three times the value of the bond in three months or else Shylock cuts off a pound of flesh from Antonio. While all this is happening, there are love plots going on. One of which is for Shylock's daughter to elope with Lorenzo, a Christian. Later on,...

    Read More
  • Merchant of venice; Shylock character Study

    ...How Does the Language and Stagecraft in Acts IV.i and V Reveal a sympathetic Portrayal of Shylock? Is this consistent with Elizabethan attitudes towards Jews? The anti Semitic message which plagued Europe throughout the Middle Ages has spawned many thought provoking, controversial plays. Its complex main character, the unforgettable Shyloc...

    Read More
  • The Effects of Money and Religion on Shylock and Antonio

    ...The Affects of Money and Religion on Antonio and Shylock In The Merchant of Venice money plays a huge role in the lives many of its characters, especially the main protagonists Antonio and Shylock. Antonio is shown as the stereotypical generous Christian and Shylock as a stereotypical moneylending Jew, being greedy and living in isolation. In...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.