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The Character of Shylock as a Victim or Villain in The Merchant of Venice

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The Character of Shylock as a Victim or Villain in The Merchant of Venice


Do you consider the character of shylock to be a victim or villain in
the play The Merchant of Venice?

Shylock is one of the most interesting, memorable and debated
characters in the play “The Merchant of Venice”. In many ways this is
because he is both a victim and a villain.

Shylock was made a laughing stock of and is ridiculed by the
Christians because he was Jewish. The Jewish community in Venice was
treated very poorly at the time that the play was written. The Jews in
Venice were not classified as citizens. They were ridiculed in public,
not allowed to do any Christian jobs and had to live in the ghetto (a
place just for the Jewish community) with walls around it. The ghetto
was locked at night so the Jewish people could not get out. Shylock
was also ridiculed about his job as a money lender, or “usurer” which
was one of the few jobs Jews could do. Since lending money was their
only way to make a living, they had to charge interest. The church
prohibited Christians from lending money, and called it the sin of
usury, but they often needed loans despite this.

The play is set in the trading capital of Venice, Italy because it was
one of the trading capitals of the world at the time. It is in a prime
location for trading, located at the head of the Adriatic Sea, next to
the Balkans and below the mountain paths to Germany. In Venice the
main form of trade and transportation is by sea. Venice has a
spectacular harbour where huge trading ships could exchange gifts and
goods. Trade needs capital, and only the Jews could provide it. The
Jews made the l...


... middle of paper ...


...him. He contrasts
his “sober” house, with their outlandish clothes and foolish
behaviour. He orders Jessica around as if she were a slave, treating
her as the Christians treated him. Shylock was taking out his
frustration and pain on his daughter, so she had a good reason to
leave.

As you can see, there is a lot of evidence to support each of the two
sides of the argument, ‘Do you consider the character of Shylock to be
a victim or villain in the play The Merchant of Venice?’ I believe
that Shylock was victimised by the Christians, and therefore a victim
of racial abuse and ridicule. The case that Shylock is a victim is a
stronger one than him being a villain. In the end, in my opinion it
was the prejudice and oppression of Venetian society that caused his
villainy. It even denied him the satisfaction of revenge.


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