In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare portrays Shylock as a covetous Jew. Shylock charges interest to those who borrow money from him when they are in need. Shylock is mercenary. Shylock’s love for objects overweighs his love for his own daughter. This character trait shows that in Venetian times, it was a time of greed and selfishness. In The Merchant of Venice, Antonio discriminates against Shylock because he is a Jew.
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Shylock shows us his human moments –this embodies that he is as much of a human as any Christian in the play. Shylock is vengeful because of his past with Antonio. Shylock’s vengeful attitude shows us that back in Venetian times, it was a time of prejudice and intolerance. William Shakespeare also portrays Shylock as a merciless Jew. This shows us that back in Venetian times, Shylock being merciless is a reflection of the values of Venice of the day.
Shylock’s thirst for revenge is evident. Shylock learns that his rebellious daughter runs away and elopes with a Christian. He is furious. Shylock’s determination to call in the bond is strengthened by Jessica’s departure. After hearing that Antonio’s ship has been wrecked, Salarino says to Shylock he is sure he wouldn’t actually insist on taking Antonio’s pound of flesh. When Salarino asks what it’s good for, Shylock replies: To bait fish withal. If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. … If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge! If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction (Shylock III.i.50)
Shylock’s vengeful attitude towards Antonio in a time of prejudice and intolerance helps us navigate our way through the play. Shylock’s impulsive decisions are what drives the plot and makes the events happen in the course of the play. The Merchant of Venice depends heavily upon laws and rules. Shylock craves the law. In the play, Shylock states that the bond isthe law –he shall have nothing less than Antonio’s pound of flesh.
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Throughout the scene, Shylock continuously denies offers of ten times the amount of ducats he lent to Antonio. Shylock says, “If every ducat in six thousand ducats were in six parts, and every part a ducat, I wouldnot draw them. I would have my bond” (Shylock IV.i.85). Shylock’s craving for the law and the forfeiture of the bond plays an essential role in generating the play’s plot –thus revealing the theme of greed and generosity.
Shakespeare establishes Shylock as a merciless character. Shylock denies the ducats he is being offered and the countless pleas to break the bond. Portia tries to persuade Shylock, begging for mercy: The quality of mercy is not strained;
…It is an attribute of God himself and earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice. Therefore Jew, though justice be thy plea, consider this: that in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation (Portia IV.i.83)
Shylock refuses Portia’s plea and he shows little mercy. This is in strong contrast to the generosity of Antonio –who is willing to die for his friend and thus symbolizing the Christian ideal of love. In the end, Portia manipulates the law, breaks the bond, and frees Antonio of his forfeiture. Indirectly, Shylock breaks the law after putting a Venetian’s life in danger. Shylock is in a predicament and must beg the Duke for his life. The Duke shows mercy to Shylock. Shylock is a merciless usurer. Merciless is reflection of the values of Venice of the day.
It is very clear that Shylock plays an important role in The Merchant of Venice. Shylock is mercenary and merciless with a vengeful attitude. These traits are essential in the plot development of the play. Shylock’s attitude generates the plot and helps reveal the various themes. He is portrayed as a mean and greedy Jewish man, and also makes William Shakespeare’s classic a very intriguing and captivating play.See More on Literature, Shakespeare