The Merchant of Venice
Uploaded by Sxyclr on Sep 12, 2007
Shylock’s behaviour is wrong, but understandable. With close reference to at least two key scenes examine Shylock’s historical and social position and his personal experiences within the play. How far do these scenes go to justify his actions?
The main plot in ´The Merchant of Venice´ concludes in a court scene where a battle takes place between a Christian and a Jew. A loan of 3,000 ducats should have been repaid but now Shylock demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh taken from the area closest to his heart.
To understand Shylock’s behaviour and to learn why he would rather have a pound of Antonio’s flesh than to take double the amount he is owed in exchange for mercy on his life; we must study Shylock’s historical and social position and his personal experiences within the play, this may then bring the reader closer to understanding Shylock’s actions and deciding if they are justifiable or not.
At the beginning of the play a young man, who is rather careless with money, by the name of Bassanio approaches his merchant friend Antonio. Bassanio wishes to marry the beautiful, rich Portia whom he loves and will then enable him to pay off all his debts but Bassanio needs money for his trip to Belmont. Unfortunately, all Antonio’s money is tied up in his ships but he is willing to borrow the amount Bassanio needs and lend it to him.
Act 1, Scene 3 is the scene in which Antonio approaches Shylock, the money-lending Jew, for 3,000 ducats on behalf of Bassanio. In Shakespearian times Christians were forbidden from lending money with interest, they thought it was against God’s will but the Jews thought the opposite; so Shylock’s job, lending money with interest, is one of the few jobs that a Jew would have been permitted to have.
From the moment Antonio enters the room Shylock makes it clear that he does not like Antonio, but his hatred goes deeper than religious differences, as Shylock says in line 37´I hate him for he is a Christian, but more for that in low simplicity he lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice´. This line tells us that Shylock does hate Antonio for being a Christian, but he has a further hate for Antonio because he is affecting Shylock’s livelihood by lending ‘money gratis’ (without interest or free) and bringing...