‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare is a play in which one of the main characters is portrayed as both a villain and a victim. The audience’s interpretation of Shylock oscillates throughout the play. We must also recognize that Shylock has most likely become a villain as a result of being unfairly victimized for having Jewish heritage.
During the sixteenth century, when the play was written, mistreatment towards Jews was common; especially in Venice as it was an anti-sematic city. Jewish people were stereotyped as greedy, deceitful individuals who were seen as outcasts in society. The Christian community therefore mistreated Shylock, for being apart of the Jewish minority. When he is first introduced, he is effective in engaging the audience’s sympathies as he is spat upon by Antonio. Shylock is mocked for his religion, taunted, spat upon and called cruel names by the Christians: ‘You call me misbeliever, cut throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gabardine’ describes the unfair abuse Shylock and other Jews in Venice have to undertake everyday in Venice. This discriminating mistreatment towards Shylock triggers his need to act revengeful and resulting Shylock being presented as a villain when, in fact, he would not be a villain if he wasn’t first victimized. Throughout the play Shylock is constantly referred to as “Jew” rather than “shylock”, which builds his grudge against the Christians.
However, Shylock’s choice of bond for Antonio reveals his villainous side. He is extremely vengeful, demanding a pound of Antonio’s flesh taken from whatever part that pleases him, if Antonio forfeits the bond. When asked why he requests the flesh he replies, "If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge,” this quote clearly portrays Shylock as a bloodthirsty, grudge-holding villain. In addition, many other characters, including his daughter Jessica, hate Shylock and have therefore wronged him. Jessica ran away with a Christian man, taking Shylock’s...
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