Critical Essay: ‘The Merchant of Venice’ - Shylock Character Study
Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ starts off in Venice with Shylock as a simple money lender. His intentions seem reasonable to begin with, he sounds a nice man then he does a soliloquy saying how much hatred he has for Antonio, the Christian who treated him disrespectfully. Shylock conflicts his emotions again and speaks to Antonio in a joking manner which in his mind turns out to be the truth. In the play Shylock is a Jewish usurer who lends money to Bassanio he can go to Belmont and win over Portia. Antonio agrees to pay back the three thousand ducats for Bassanio when his Merchant ships arrive back in Venice. Shylock agrees to this with the exception that if Antonio fails to repay Shylock, Shylock is allowed to cut a pound of flesh from anywhere on Antonio’s body. Antonio signs the bond. Later in the play Shylocks daughter, Jessica, runs away with the Christian boy, Lorenzo, taking some of her fathers precious gold and jewels including her mothers ring. In Venice, Antonio’s ships go bust and he has to go through trial for the bond. Portia, dressed as a lawyer, wins the trial for Antonio. In Act 1 Scene 3 Bassanio is asking for a lend of money off of Shylock. Shylock thinks about this and says that Antonio trustworthy man to receive a payment off of yet he still hates him for he is a Christian. He agrees to the bond. Antonio then enters the scene and speaks with Shylock. Both of them have different views on money lending and Antonio insults his religion making Shylock very annoyed. Eventually Antonio accepts the proposal and Shylock is willing to lend the money and take no interest but if he doesn’t repay the loan on time, Shylock is allowed to take a pound of flesh from anywhere he wants. Antonio accepts to this proposal while Bassanio doesn’t lie the sound of it:
‘Then meet me forthwith at the notary’s
Give him direction for this merry bond,
And I will go and purse the ducats straight’
Antonio accepts the bond as if Shylock is only joking about it. He treats it lightly as he is sure his ships will be back in Venice with plenty time to share. Of course Shylock is taking the in all seriousness and is using this as an excuse to get back at Antonio for all the torturous things he has put Shylock through.
Launcelot, Shylocks former servant was saying his goodbyes when Jessica handed him a note.
‘To be ashamed to be my fathers child!
But though I am a daughter to his blood
I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise I shall end his strife,
Become a Christian, and thy loving wife’
In this scene Jessica is planning to leave her father, Shylock, to run away with Christian, Lorenzo, she knows Shylock will be disappointed in her for leaving and stealing from him but she isn’t happy living there so she decides to leave with Lorenzo and get married.
After this, Launcelot heads to hand Lorenzo the letter from Jessica and to go back to Shylocks to invite him to dinner with Bassanio and Antonio, Shylock is uneasy about the idea of leaving Jessica herself when he hears about the masque but he decides to go and just gives Jessica stern orders:
‘What, are there masques? Hear you me, Jessica,
Lock up the doors, and when you hear the drum,
And the vile squealing of the wry-necked fife,
Clamber not you up to the casements then..’
Shylock is still unsure of going to dinner but he wants to make Bassanio and Antonio spend money on him so he is going in hate to waste their money.
Unaware of Jessica’s plans, Shylock goes to dinner and when he arrives homeshe is nowhere to be found. Some of his fortune is also gone, Shylock is furious that Jessica ran away with a Christian yet he seems to be more interested that his fortune is missing rather than his daughter. In Act 3 Scene 1, Shylock warns Solanio and Salerio that Antonio better think hard about the...
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