Shylock, one of the most well-known characters from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, is a Jew and an Usurer, who is generally disliked within the play, and because of this he has his own distinctive way of speaking, and is addressed unusually by others.
Shylock is addressed both politely and impolitely by other characters in The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio and Antonio both speak politely to Shylock at the beginning for example ‘If it please you to dine with us’ but this is because they are asking for money and not because they are particularly sincere. In fact after Shylock speaks angrily towards them, Antonio’s feelings start to show through, when he says ‘I am as like to call thee so again’ showing a more impolite tone. Therefore their feelings are exposed by the way that they address Shylock because they are very courteous and then rude.
Shylock is often referred to in a bad way, alot of metaphorical language is used about Shylock like when he gets called a ‘misbelieve’ and a ‘cut-throat dog’ he is compared to an unpleasant, violent animal like ‘you may well as question with the wolf.’ This use of imagery suggests that Shylock behaves without thinking about others. The issue of Shylock being Jewish is mentioned often, for example ‘lest the devil cross my prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew’ and is usually used in predujudice terms. He is also considered a villain, ‘I like not fair terms and a villains mind’. There are two characters who are not against Shylock, the Duke and Portia but they still make it clear that they are disgusted with his actions when she says, ‘Shylock, there’s thrice thy money offered thee’.
Shylock replies bitterly to the insults thrown at him and manipulates his tormentors with his words to gain vengance. When the case reaches court, it becomes clear that Shylock has now decided that the pound of flesh will come from ‘Nearest the merchant’s heart’. He also shows his cunning tricks when he trys to relax Bassanio and Antonio when he says ‘I had forgot, three months, you told me so’ when it is extremely unlikely that a usurer and merchant would forget any details of a monetary contract. When Shylock’s language is not manipulative it is forceful and insistent.
Revenge seems to control Shylocks life like when he talks of the pound of flesh ‘To bait fish withal, if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge’ he appears consumed by revenge.
Shylock is addressed and speaks in several different ways. People around him openly show their dislike and disapproval by using the unpleasant imagery. Shylock shows his own personality and attitude by choosing his words carefully. Repetition ensures he is seen as a forceful character and also the constant theme of revenge and recalling his enemies words show his dominance.