Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice Essay, Is Shylock a Victim or Villain? Grade a

Topics: The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, Portia Pages: 5 (1878 words) Published: September 24, 2010
In The Merchant of Venice how does Shakespeare present both Shylock as both victim and villain?
Throughout the play, ‘The Merchant of Venice’, Shylock reveals many personalities; therefore making him such an emotionally complex and detailed character that shows elements of being both a victim and villain; and to come to my decision to whether Shylock is either of the two, other characters language towards him and his reactions will perceive different ideas from different era’s in time to determine my answer.

The first time Shylock is introduced into the play is in Act 1 Scene 3 where Antonio is to lend Bassanio 3,000 ducats to allow him to meet his love, Portia, in Belmont. However Antonio’s money is tied up at sea; which is why Shylock is asked to borrow money for him. The first sign of Shylock liking money is when talking to Bassanio about the bond. Also in this era Jews were to make profit when lending out money and Shylock saw this as a perfect opportunity to do so now. Shylock always seems a step ahead of everyone throughout the play as he knows correctly where Antonio’s money is tied up, while talking to Bassanio about Antonio he states: “he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies; I understand moreover upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth at England and other ventures...”.This tells us that Shylock can be a greedy person as he seems to know pretty much everything about the bond. Furthermore as Shylock is a very intelligent man; his ideas that Antonio’s boats may not make it back within 3 months gives him an incentive to carry on with the deal. He knows that if he is to accept the bond, he has a very good chance of making a profit, and with different problems such as: “land-thieves and water-thieves” as he knows about in this time, he will go about this bond with confidence and the bound that he has put on Antonio that he truly wants, and one he will get.

During the play there is a lot of evidence showing how Shylock is a victim; due to how the characters refer to him. They rarely use his real name and Solanio showing an example here by regularly using: “villain Jew”; “dog Jew” as a reference to Shylock. Antonio is perhaps the guiltiest in Shylock’s eyes for the abuse he causes: “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat, dog, /And spet upon my Jewish gabardine”. As a gabardine is a Jewish coat; this is an atrocious sin committed towards Shylock, giving him more reason to hate him. The fact he is described as an animal shows he thinks less of him than he does an animal. Afterwards in the play though in Act 4 scene 1 in the courtroom, Antonio presents powerful imagery showing himself as poor and helpless, as the lamb, and Shylock as the beg devil wolf. This is arguably the most important scene in the play as it shows contrasting ideas to whether he’s a victim or villain. When Antonio says this he’s at his most vulnerable, tied in the chair trapped and says: “You may as well use question with the wolf/ Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb”. This quote really enforcing that Shylock is the villain here, and that Antonio isn’t guilty of anything. Although again presenting that Shylock is a victim is in the courtroom as he isn’t treated correctly or with any respect; as the judge says: “call the Jew into court”. This injustice is displayed throughout the play and this anger must be built inside of him which is why he is so desperate to carry out the bond. In some ways this shows why Shylock can be perceived as a villain; he treats people the same way he gets treated.

Within Act 3 scene 1 Shylock arguably says the most important speech throughout. It also perhaps sums up whether Shylock is a victim or villain. It shows great emotion abd really speaks from the heart, and during this time, most Jews would feel the same way Shylock does. He takes great harm from what Antonio has done to him when he states: “ He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses...”....
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