Despite giving some good lines to Shylock this is ultimately an Anti-Semitic play “Examine Shakespeare’s representation of Jewish people in the play”: Though “The Merchant of Venice” the reader finds Shakespeare’s representation of Shylock as a man who is hated by many, and he indeed has moments of extreme irrationality and inflexible assertion that make him a rather unattractive and even terrible character. Yet, there are many moments in which Shakespeare overcomes the reader to consider the different angles of this most interesting character.
We can say with certainty that Shylock is not without motivation. His treatment at the hands of the Christian merchants is decidedly un-Christian. They spit on him, call him a dog and finally take half of his money and force him to convert. Shakespeare presents Shylock sympathy at the beginning of the play, when Shylock claims a Jewish person is equality with a Christian. All this is in spite of Shylock’s famous plea for sympathy in Act III, Scene I: “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses…
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? ” Shylock begins by eloquently reminding the Venetians that all people, even those who are not part of the majority culture, are human. A Jew, he reasons, is equipped with the same faculties as a Christian, and is therefore subject to feeling the same pains, comforts and emotions. Shakespeare’s simple use of prose shows the force and real emotions of Shylock’s statements. The speech is significant in that it summons a range of emotional reactions to Shylock.
The language is powerful, persuasive and poetic. In the play, Shylock speaks in a mixture of verse and prose and in this passage he appears to be reciting a rehearsed speech, reeling off Antonio’s ‘crimes’ which Antonio fully admits he would repeat. It is hard not to feel sorry for Shylock. He has clearly, to a modern audience, been victimised. The rhetorical question proves Jew’s true rights in Venice society. Also it shows the power of language that transforms audience into Shakespeare’s world of the play. It seems that Shylock has the best lines.
“The Merchant of Venice” may portray anti-Semitic characters and attitudes, but the play effectively criticizes those attitudes. Part of the play in which Shakespeare accomplishes this critique is by highlighting Shylock’s character as a man rather than his identity as a Jew. So part of what the play reveals is how some Christians are bad men , as are some Jews. But the intelligence of “The Merchant of Venice”is that it allows us to see behind the gleam of religious identity that describes Shylock the Jew. Beyond that Shakespeare allows us to glimpse Shylock the man who hates and bleeds as does any Christian.
From the beginning of the story Shylock is who has the great impact on the audience because of the character’s attitude and strong beliefs. However at the end Shylock’s promise to behave as badly as Venetians, and, moreover, to “better the instruction,” casts him in a less sympathetic light. While we understand his motivation, we cannot excuse the endless maintenance of such villainy. I guess that Shakespeare drew his portrayal of Shylock from what he had heard or read about Jews, rather than his personal contact. So it is amazing that Shakespeare composed such a great speech expressing the common humanity of Jews and Christians.
William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” contains many examples that insult Jews because the authors’ time is based on anti-Semitic or religious grounds. The early Church believed that the Jews murdered Christ and were therefore in relationship with the Devil. Christianity convinced the public that anti-Semitism means that if a Jew converted to Christianity, as Shylock is forced to do in the play, then all will be forgiven as the repentant Jew is embarrassed by all merciful Christian God. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses examples of anti-Semitism.
For example later in the play Jessica is offended by Lancelot’s comment “sins are passed down to their children”. He also agrees that being Jewish is a sin “for truly I think you are damned”. He explains that she carries a sin for both her father and mother because they did not change their religion. But Jessica retaliates “I shall be saved by my husband. He has made me a Christian. ” This dialogue supports the idea that Jessica aimed since the beginning to betray her father and symbolically leaving the Jewish faith. Also this shows that she agrees to her husbands’ statement: Jews can only be saved by becoming Christians.
I also observed the heartiness and strength of the female characters. In this play attitudes and actions of the characters have main effects. Promises are extracted and promises are made that affect the lives of most of the major and minor characters. In particular, I concentrated on Portia’s emotional reactions to events. We seen both her complete faithfulness to her father’s demands and her intense desire for the right man to solve the riddle of the caskets so powerfully enacted she is the complete opposite of Jessica which has no respect for her father’s religion or nether her father.
If this play is about being honest and honoring one’s commitments, then Shylock was maybe the most faithful of the characters. He demanded strict loyalty to the rule of law, and possibly it was his stiffness that made his daughter run away. For centuries, Jewish and I am sure all parents in the world expected and required faithfulness from their children. Shakespeare may not have intended to note on this situation, but the play brings this matter to the forefront of my mind. However some readers have no doubt that Shakespeare intended Shylock to be the villain of the piece.
Others argue that Shylock does not have a single pleasant characteristic. He is unmerciful, mean, vengeful, and his quality of being careful and not wasteful with money and other resources is hardly to be distinguished from miserliness. “If every ducat in six thousand ducats / Were in six parts and every part a ducat, I would not draw them; I would have my bond” this quote supports some readers views. Shylock will not be discouraged from his revenge. With the use of strong language, Shylock wishes for his daughters death “were dead at my foot and the” “Jewels in her ear!
Would she were hears’d at … “” My foot and the ducats in her coffin! ” in (act3 scene 1). This wish for his daughter’s death certainly repeals the sympathy that was created by the Shakespeare earlier appeal for the approval of Shylock’s humanity. In the moment of this outbreak, Shakespeare again portrays an image a spiteful, fatal Jew who, in this case is prepared to kill his own daughter for the sake a few ducats. But The Christians portrayal was just as bad as the Jewish man Shylock’s portrayal.
In truth I think that the play gave a worse portrayal of the Christian’s because they ended up being the most evil through taking away everything that Shylock had and making him become Christian. While Shylock did want to kill someone the punishment to be carried out on him was even worse. In this situation Christians had to play the role of God’s instruments. This must help people to go on the right track. But because of their ignorance and aristocratic trait characters metaphorically misinterpreted their scrip and eventually incorrectly played the role of God.
Just because we don’t like history doesn’t mean we can ignore the bad parts of history and just change them. This led to a very cruel final in the play. His daughter, Jessica and his servants, Lancelot dislike him as well. Jessica sees her home as a hell. She tells Launcelot that “Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil”. But we can look at the play as “the tragedy of Shylock” in positive terms. The reader can see two views of every character and situation. Thus, through Shylock, Shakespeare gives his message that we are all equal in God’s sight, “Which is the merchant here and which the Jew?
” But therefore we equally can be evil too, and here Shakespeare really puts everyone in their place, with Shylock’s words: “You have among you many a purchas’d slave, Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules, You use in abject and in slavish parts, Because you bought them; shall I say to you ‘Let them be free, marry them to your heirs – Why sweat they under burdens? – let their beds Be made as soft as yours … ” This monolog must be aimed at the Christians. It should be notable that in Shakespeare’s time the English were operating abroad as slave traders.
Shylock’s or Shakespeare’s charge might also have applied to Jews, who had owned or were trading slaves from Biblical times. Shylock’s circumstances have been the theme of much comment. Shakespeare setting of his characteristic powers and intuitions lead to a humanized Shylock. I think Shakespeare never was an anti-Semite, although “The Merchant of Venice” is an anti-Semitic play. So it was written by an author who has been willing to use the cruel stereotypes of that ideology for mercenary and artistic purposes.
In my assumption of Shakespeare’s text, I find that “The Merchant of Venice” list elements of the abuse of the Jew that is combined with the Christian religious bias, one by one, and increasingly stacks them up in order to define the character of Shylock less as a man and more as a cultural image of the evil-intentioned Jew. Although the play might be offensive in modern times, an Elizabethan audience most probably found the play comical, and we should do the same. At the end off the day hopefully Jessica will end up happily married same as other two Christian ladies Portia and Nerrisa.
A close reading of the text must recognize that Shylock is a stereotypical caricature of a cruel, money obsessed medieval Jew, but it also proposes that Shakespeare’s objectives in Merchant were not primarily anti-Semitic. Indeed, the dominant in producing a theme or themes in “The Merchant of Venice” is much more universal than specific religious or racial hatred. It goes around the division between the surface magnetism of gold and the Christian qualities of mercy and kindness that lie beneath the flesh. Possibly “The Merchant of Venice” is not a racist comedy, but a comedy about racism.
Just when we let ourselves take a look at the world with some lack of pride or modesty and humor are we ready to make the vital changes to make the world a better place. The Merchant of Venice is surely a confusing and ironic play. At first look, the audience hates Shylock and adores Antonio, Bassanio, and Portia. At second look, the audience understands with Shylock and disdainfully shuns the hypocritical Christians. At third look, the audience is not sure which illustration is the right one. Shakespeare achieves in making the audience to discover controversial matters.
The representation of the two religious groups, Jews and Christians, is the focus. Shakespeare leaves us with two different ideas, irony and displacement. But Shylock has lost his livelihood, his property, his self-respect, and his identity. Shakespeare was making an effort to show people that Jews were people too. So again I don’t think Shakespeare is anti-Semitic, I suppose he wrote a play about anti-Semitism. Although back in Shakespeare’s time racism, prejudice against different religions and other issues dealt with in “The Merchant of Venice” were all acceptable.
Back then, ‘racism and cruelty’ was considered a comedy. But may be this was interpreted wrong. I found myself wondering why it was called a comedy when it wasn’t funny. However, perhaps this comedy does not apply to Jews or any other religions may be the humorous part was based on any random people relationships between each other and the poor construction of law, which even unprofessional woman like Portia or Nerrisa is able to manipulate in Shakespeare’s time. In anyway this humiliation certainly does not apply to all Jews in the past, present or future.