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Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of Shylock Essay

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Shakespeare has presented Shylock as an interesting character, he appears in only 5 scenes yet to many people he is the center of the plays interest. The audience’s feelings and reactions towards Shylock are mixed throughout the play. On the one hand he is hard to like as he is a cruel and miserable villainous man, he is obsessed with money and uses his wealth to overpower people. He is strict and controlling towards his daughter and servant. Although, on the other hand he is a victim as he is treated like dirt for being a Jew, he is spat on in the street and is called a ‘dog’.

He lives in a society where Jews are lower than Christians and so he is a victim of racial hatred but he is also racist towards Christians himself. These mixed feelings of sympathy and hatred toward Shylock make him a difficult character to deal with. As Shylock is a Jew he is restricted with what professions he can have. One job he can have is to be a money lender, which he does. Through this Shylock has developed an unhealthy obsession with money, ‘I dream of money tonight’. Shylock uses his money to ensnare the needy.

He charges high interest in the form of bonds which is not right. If you are Jewish you have to wear a red hat when out you also have to live in a certain area of the town called a ‘ghetto’. All the Jewish people who live in the ghetto have a curfew and the gates are locked at a certain time. These reasons make us feel sympathetic towards Shylock and this shows he is victimized because of his religion. For theses reasons Shylock hates the Christians. Although Shylock hates Christians he is always happy to deal with them financially.

One Christian in particular he hates is a man called Antonio, shylock explains ‘I hates him for he is a Christian,’ but he also hates him because ‘he lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of usance. ‘ Shylock charges Christians high interest in the form of bonds. One Christian he forms a bond with is Antonio Shylock says if he doesn’t pay back the money in time he must take a pound of his flesh. ‘If you repay me not on such a day in such a place…… Be nominated for an equal pound of your fair flesh.

This is a horrible thing to even think of doing and changes our feelings yet again towards Shylock. This makes us feel he is a cruel and sick villain. Antonio’s reaction to this is that Shylock is ‘the devil’, and has an ‘evil soul’ also that he is ‘like a villain with a smiling cheek. ‘ Shylock lives with his daughter Jessica and Christian servant Lancelot. It is strange he has a Christian servant as Christians are more respected than the Jews. Shylock is perceived by his daughter as a ‘devil’ and she explains that ‘our house is hell. Shylock is controlling towards Jessica and overpowers her and Lancelot. Shylock locks the doors so his daughter can not go out.

When Shylock is going out he gives Jessica strict orders to behave ‘Thou shalt not gormandize as thou hast done with me – What Jessica! And sleep and snore and rend apparel out’. Another example of how controlling and strict Shylock is is when Lancelot shouts ‘Why Jessica’ Shylock replies by saying ‘who bids thee call, I do not bid the call! This is nasty as he is only talking to Jessica he should not need permission.

Lancelot can not put up with Shylock any more and so decides to leave ‘I will go before sir, mistress, look out a window, for all this; there will be a Christian by, Will be worth a Jewess’ eye. ‘ Lancelot also explains he is ‘famished in his service. ‘ I think Lancelot feels he is treated badly by Shylock and he makes him feel worthless and he doesn’t want to be treated like that any more. Lancelot is not the only person to leave Shylock, Jessica leaves too.

She leaves because she wants to be with Lorenzo a Christian man, Jessica has fallen in love with him and wants to be with him, ‘love is blind and lovers can not see the pretty follies. ‘ She knows that her father would not approve of her being with a Christian so she has no choice but to leave to be with him. She leaves when Shylock is not in and she robs him blind taking all of his savings, ‘here, take this casket; it is worth the pains. ‘ In a way this makes us feel sorry for shylock as he has lost his money and his daughter, but it also makes you think from the way he has acted he deserves it.

Shylock is not very good at socializing with people, when invited to dinner he thinks they only want him to go because they want something ‘but I will not eat with you or pray with you. ‘ I get the impression he doesn’t really like having friends as when he goes out it is only usually on business, and he only talks to people when dealing financially with them. Shylock doesn’t seem to be popular or have any friends and I think he likes to keep it that way as he is a sad and miserable old man, but it also seems he does it for sympathy. Even though Shylock treats Jessica badly he clearly misses her.

But it seems he doesn’t know what he misses more his daughter or his money ‘Oh my daughter, My Ducats! ‘ he shouts in the street. Shylock has lost his daughter to a Christian and has lost his money to a Christian probably the thing he would hate most in the world has happened. Shylock seems to have a desire for revenge and for his bond to happen. Shylock says ‘Let him look to his bond! He was want to call me the usurer. Let him look to his bond! ‘ shylock also explains that Jews are the same as Christians and ‘if a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility?

Why, Revenge! If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge! ‘ This quote seems to be in a sarcastic style but at the same time an angry serious way. I thing this passage clearly shows Shylock wants revenge and wants the bond to go thorough. Shakespeare repeatedly refers to Jewish and Christians because he is trying to show that Shylock is upset about the way Jews get treated inhumanly and less than Christians he is trying to win the audiences sympathy. When Tubal says ‘Yes, other men have ill luck too.

Antonio, as I heard Genoa -‘ shylock wants to hear more ‘what, what, what? Ill luck? Ill luck? ‘ When Shylock hears Antonio ‘Hath an argosy cast away, coming from Tripolis. ‘ Shylock is ecstatic ‘I thank god, I thank god! ‘ he seems to be gloating over his danger maybe he thinks that if Antonio is in trouble he is more likely to have the bond. Also I think Shylocks pleasure in this is equal to the pain he suffers in the loss of Jessica. Shylock says he will ‘Plague him; Ill torture him: I am glad of it. This makes us realize maybe just how much he hates Antonio.

I think Shylock wants revenge on Antonio for all the wrongs he has done to him such as spitting on him in the street, calling him a ‘dog’, borrowing money and giving it out free and for being Christian. I feel these reasons are valid enough for him to dislike him. When shylock sees Antonio he threatens him and reminds him of the bond. ‘Ill have my bond; speak not against my bond, and therefore speak no more. ‘ Shylock knows it is worrying him as he doesn’t want to die.

I think Shylock wants to see justice happen as Antonio has agreed to the ‘terms and conditions’ of the bond and must follow though with them as he has said he will. Shylock walks in to court with a set of scales and a Knife showing how serious he really is. The duke asks Shylock to show mercy to Antonio, Shylock refuses and insists on having his pound of flesh ‘to have due and forfeit of my bond: If you deny it let the danger light. ‘ Antonio is preparing to die and Shylock is preparing his tools. It is surprising how Shylock is willing to just take a pound of his flesh off with no doctor and he feels he can do it correctly.

It is quite sick that he can do it without even thinking twice. Although people are shouting at him he just keeps repeating he has ‘the bond’. A young lawyer then enters the court and says that in the bond it clearly says a pound of flesh. But the lawyer then says ‘ This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood; The words expressly are ‘a pound of flesh’: Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh; But in the cutting of it if thou dost shed one drop of blood, thy lands and goods are, by in the laws of Venice, confiscate. There is nothing that Shylock can do and so he says let Antonio free but the lawyer still says he must loose everything to the courts. Shylock pleads with the Lawyer but it gets him nowhere. I don’t think this was fair as Shylock agreed to let him go in the end and it makes us feel really sorry for him as there was nothing he could do and he must have felt really helpless. So our feelings are really mixed at the end of this scene. Although we are happy for Antonio as his life is spared.

We are also happy about the fact that Shylock has got what was coming to him but when you put yourself in his position you realize how he must feel. This incident made Shylock an isolated victim of racial hatred even the duke and Judge are biased towards him and Shylock has spoken with great dignity for equality. So yet again our feelings of sympathy and hatred towards Shylock are mixed. When Shylock was outwitted in court his behavior changed immediately he says ‘I take this offer then: pay the bond thrice, and let the Christian go. Which is what he defiantly would not have wanted to do as he was really set on going threw with the bond.

Shylock’s final punishment is that he has to give half of everything he owns to the courts of Venice. I don’t feel it was a fair or just punishment for Shylock as in the end he let Antonio free and he was still punished by loosing his home and money. Shylock is not given any mercy as the judge says ‘Why doth the Jew pause? Take thy forfeiture. ‘ Shylock prays ‘Give me principal, and let me go. He is humiliated and harassed in front of the whole court for being a Jew.

When Shylock exits the stage he says ‘I am not well’ this line is very powerful because is makes you wonder what is going to happen and it makes you imagine how the story might end (cliffhanger. ) I think Shylock means he is not physically ill he is mentally ill, and may possibly be thinking of committing suicide. I think he may be planning to do this because he has not really got a lot going for him he has lost his home, his money, his daughter and he has no friends.

I have been able to establish many different aspects about Shylocks character throughout the play, he is a bitter man and loves money but has had many problems in his life that make us feel sympathetic for him. He is not just an average stage villain he is more complex and you can really understand how he feels in parts of the play. Although he is a cruel man who treats people horribly including his daughter and he uses his money to his advantage to overpower people. Also we feel sorry for him because he looses his daughter and in the end he looses everything his home and money.

So throughout the play we feel sympathetic but at the same time we think he deserves it. Shylock is a very memorable character as he has such an impact on many characters and is a main part of the plays interest. Shylock provokes many issues in the play and causes many problems with people. Shakespeare has displayed Shylock as a powerful character as when he enters the stage he does it in an impacting way and controls the conversations. I think I will always remember Shylock as the character who I didn’t really understand and he had many issues.

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Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of Shylock Essay. (2017, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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