Racism in "The Merchant of Venice"

Topics: Antisemitism, Judaism, Jews Pages: 2 (601 words) Published: September 20, 2012
Racism In The Merchant of Venice
In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice he does not just include racism, but he also includes prejudice towards religious beliefs. The play consisted of mostly anti-Semitism; however, there was one part where Portia was being racist to an African man. Shakespeare uses the conflict between a Jewish man and a Christian man to showcase the distinct theme of anti-Semitism throughout the play. He additionally incorporates the prince of Morocco to show racism. A key reason why Antonio and Shylock do not get along is because Shylock is of the Jewish race and Antonio is a Christian. In act 1, scene 3 on page 16, line 39, Shylock blatantly states “I hate him for he is a Christian.” This supports that Shylock loathes Antonio for his religion. Another account of racism is clearly exemplified when Shylock tells Antonio “you call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine” and Antonio responds with “I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.” In this passage Shylock plainly points out the racist remarks Antonio says about him, but still Antonio intents that he will never change his behavior for Shylock is a Jew. Shylock acknowledges the anti-Semitic views of the play when he talks to Salarino on page 49 (lines 55-67). Shylock states, “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, Song 2

senses, affections, passions? – fed with the same food, hurt with the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?” (pg. 49 lines 55-67). In this quote Shylock expresses that just because he is of the Jewish race, he is no different from a Christian. Shylock knows that he should be getting the same rights as Antonio, but because he is Jewish he has a disadvantage. This is shown in the trial. Shylock had every right to be angry with Antonio, for Antonio constantly insulted him and did not pay him back. But in the end the Jewish man had to...

Cited: Shakespeare, William, and A. R. Braunmuller. The merchant of Venice. New York: Penguin Books, 2000. Print.
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