Is Shylock Tragic or Merely Evil?
This essay will discuss whether Shylock is seen as the victim or the perpetrator. Whether he is characterized as a feeble man who loses everything or just a sinister old loon. I am ambivalent. I believe that Shylock is all of these things. I think, in one sense, he is able to evoke the audience’s sympathy through a variety of instances yet he causes us to loathe him through his brutal need for revenge and therefore his character.
Shylock loathed Antonio, and for good reason, how can one be expected to like another when they are constantly dragged down by another’s condescending words. Antonio’s harsh remarks towards Shylock would have been seen as the norm for the Venetian audience of whom Shakespeare was aiming this play at. Although, for a more modern audience, these cruel comments that continuously bombard poor Shylock, as well as the vile actions such as Antonio spitting on Shylock, would evoke a sense of compassion for this oppressed Jewish man. In this instance, one would see Shylock as a beleaguering man of a society whose aim is to target anyone with a different belief system. He is regarded as a victim of inhumanity when introduced to this side of things
The play continues with Antonio and Shylock committing to a bond. The fact that Shylock is still willing to do business with Antonio even after Antonio’s disgusting treatment of him draws us even more into liking Shylock as a character. It shows his good sport like qualities and entices us into liking him.
The audience is also swayed into sympathising with Shylock when he is so blatantly mistreated. Both Antonio and Bassanio speak to Shylock, when he is in the room, in third person. This depicts their disregard for him as a person and shows their inhumanity towards him. It is later apparent again with Solanio and Solerio. When speaking to Shylock they either speak to him in the third person or refer to him as derogatory terms such as ‘Dog’ or ‘Jew’. This...
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