Shylock's character sketch in merchant of venice
Shylock is a focal point of the play. A traditional stereotype of the Jew in Elizabethan times, he is comically caricatured as a greedy miser. He wears a traditional "Jewish gabardine." He is a middle- aged man between fifty and fifty-five, who has a keenness of observation, a memory for details, and a strong amount of energy. He is well versed in the Bible and is able to draw analogies from various Biblical sources and stories, which are relevant to the situations in which he finds himself. His manner of speaking reveals an authoritative tone with frequent references to the great and ancient names from Scriptures, which he uses to justify his own practices. His speech reveals a cold and calculating mind, reflective of his narrow thinking. He is also literal-minded and pragmatic and has quick and agile thought processes, which help him in his business dealings.
Shylock suffers from religious persecution, which plays an important part in the play. Antonio has reviled and despised this Jew, even humiliating him publicly because of his money lending and usury. Shylock believes that his profiteering is not a sin. This is contrary to the Christian belief, held by Antonio, that money should be lent for charity and not for profit. By his profession and his religion, Shylock is marked as the alien in a happy and fun- loving Venetian society. His alienation causes his bitterness and his humiliation makes him seek revenge. Antonio becomes the target of that revenge, and Shylock uses the letter of the law to try and exact a pound of flesh from his enemy. His strict interpretation of the law backfires on him, and he winds up losing his wealth and barely saving his life. Although he appears in only five scenes, Shylock is a very powerful personality, whose love of money has destroyed any natural human feelings.
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