Merchant Of Venice: Shylock The Antagonist?


?
In The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, there appears Shylock.
He is a Jew, that much we are told in the cast list. But, as the play
unfolds Shylock is seen to be the villian. He is protrayed as being cold,
unbending, and evil. But is he? Is Shylock really the antagonist in this
play or can he also be viewed as persecuted individual who resorts to
revenge only after he has been pushed too far.

To fully understand the character of Shylock we must first look at
Elizabeathen attitudes towards Jews. In the sixteenth century Jews were
rarely if ever seen in England. In the Middle Ages Jews had fled to
England to escape persecution in France under the Normans. They ...

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3-4) Jews
were also viewed as devils by Elizabeathan audiences. Old stories
portrayed them as "blood-thirsty murders" that poisoned wells and killed
Christian children for their bizarre Passover ritu! als. (Stirling 2:1)
These were the stereotypes which Shakespeare's audience held in regard to
Jews. Shakespeare himself had never seen a Jew but he goes to great
lengths to humanize Shylock even while perpetuating the stereotype.

In Act 1:3, before Shylock ever says a word to Antonio, he lets the
audience know in an aside that he hates Antonio. He hates him for having
hindered him in business and for having humiliated him in public by
spitting on him and calling him names such as "dog" and "cutthroat Jew".
Shylock tells the audience he hopes to exact revenge on Antonio both for
his own humiliation and for the persecution that the Jews have long
suffered at the hands of the Christians. I hate him for he is a Christian;.
. . If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat ...

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PAPER DETAILS
Added: 7/26/2004 04:14:07 AM
Category: Arts
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 972
Pages: 4

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