In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is a Jew who struggles to adjust to a Christian society that belittles him. Antonio is a devout Christian. Shylock’s relationship with Antonio reveals that he is biased against Christians, and in this way both Shylock and Antonio exhibit similarities in how each perceive "the other." Both Shylock and Antonio are racially biased and they both put down each other. Shylock claims to be victimized by Christians; however, he exploits Christians in business matters. Antonio persecutes Shylock because he is a Jew. Shylock wants to take revenge against Antonio and despises him for being a Christian: "If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction." (3.1. 64-69).
Both Antonio and Shylock attempt to rationalize their actions through racial discrimination. Shylock feels discriminated against for being a Jew and he attempts to expose the harsh treatment against Jews: "He hath disgraced me...and what's his reason? I am a Jew. (3.1.51-55). Antonio's resentment towards Shylock is a product of a Christian society in which Jews were widely discriminated against at the time. Antonio appears before the court since he is unable to repay Shylock's loan. The duke advises Shylock to show mercy on Antonio, but Shylock refuses because he wants to punish him. Shylock refuses to conform to Venetian law as he acknowledges that his hatred for Antonio is based on racial discrimination rather than a desire for the law's application of justice. Shylock's hatred of Christians shows that it is the fundamental inequalities between Christians and Jews which is the basis for that hatred: "I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,...
Cited: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. A Bantam Book; New York, New York, USA. 2005.
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