Shylock: Villian or Victim
Uploaded by chaz123123 on Sep 05, 2007
Shylock: Villain or Victim?
People who are seen as villainous usually show the characteristics of greed and selfishness, Shylock does indeed contain these characteristics but and so many people have immediately classed him as the villain of Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’ especially in the 1600’s where almost all of the plays viewers would have been Christian and therefore would of hated Shylock purely for the fact that he was a Jew, although some argue that Shylock is actually a victim of racism and prejudice and has been turned into this selfish man by his terrible treatment by the Christians, in this essay I will explore both sides of this debate and finally chose which a agree with and my reasons for it.
We are first introduced to Shylock in Act I Scene iii, interestingly the first thing Shylock mentions its money ‘three thousand ducats, well’, this is obviously Shakespeare playing on the idea of the Jewish stereotype that are Jews obsessed with money and also shows that Shylock is a usurer, which is a sin in Christianity so the audience would of automatically seen Shylock as a villain. Also in this scene we discover Shylock’s hatred for Antonio and the Christians: ‘ how like a fawning publican he looks’ ‘I hate him for he is a Christian; ’ Shylock also displays attributed of his personality that make him out as a villain in his refusal to ever forgive the Christians. We also learn of his intent regarding Antonio’s life: ‘ if I can catch him once upon the hip’ ‘I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.’ And we also learn of his intent to kill Antonio by taking one pound of his flesh ‘if the bond cannot be repaid with ducats let the forfeit be nominated for a equal pound of fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me.’ but Antonio interprets this as a offering of friendship ‘The Hebrew will turn Christian, he grows kind.’ And so he accepts this offer, this behaviour cannot be interrupted any other way than an act of villainy from Shylock, though it can be argued that the treatment Shylock has received from the Christians has forced him into hating them, it is seen throughout the entire play that the Christians are intolerant of the Jews and Shylock forming this plan to kill Antonio is...