In Venice during the 1590s, Jews were really badly discriminated against; they had to wear a red cap whenever they went outside and they had to live in the ghetto. They were not allowed to own any business nor to interact with Christians. In the play, Shylock didn’t adhere to these and was obviously hated by Antonio and the other Christians. He was repeatedly called a ‘cur’ or a dog. In IIiii, Shakespeare prepares us for what is about to happen in IIv when both Jessica and her father Shylock are together.
The relationship between the two of them is not very good and therefore Jessica wants to elope with Lorenzo. She sends a letter to him via her father’s servant. Jessica is a Jew and her father would be extremely disappointed in her if he found out she wanted to become a Christian, his rival religion. In IIv Shylock leaves Jessica alone in the house while he goes out making sure she locks all the windows and doors so no-one can burgle the house and take the money. This is a bit ironic because that is exactly what happens. When he leaves Lorenzo comes via gondola and asks her to come with him.
She then takes her fathers money and elopes with the Christian. In this scene I believe Shakespeare displays Shylock as a man who was cheated on and deserted. I believe Shakespeare has caused the audience to be slightly sympathetic for Shylock. In IIIv and IVi Jessica starts to question herself about if it was a good choice to leave her rich father for the love of the not so rich, in comparison to the amount of money that Shylock has, Lorenzo. Shakespeare starts to turn the audience towards Shylock and the fact that his daughter doubts herself for deserting him.
This causes us to question ourselves as to whether we should feel sorry for him or not. In IIIi, Shakespeare displays Shylock as a caring person in two different ways, firstly by being a caring father and worrying about his daughter and that she has gone. This is shown when Shylock says, “I say my daughter is my flesh and my blood”. This emphasises the bond between he and his daughter but also relating back to his bond with Antonio which he also cares/worries about. Shakespeare displays Shylock as caring for his ducats, his money.
He says that he will use the pound of flesh to feed his revenge but also “to bait fish withal”. This shows that Shylock comes across as being sadistic and wanting Antonio to die. In this scene Shakespeare compares a Jew and a Christian by getting Shylock to rant on about how he is no different from a Christian so why should he be treated differently, “fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? f you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? “. Shakespeare uses the technique of opposites to attract the readers’ attention, also to try and differ the not so different Jew and Christian. Also, this scene’s theme is unfairness and discrimination against the Jews. Shakespeare’s lingual techniques help us to realise that we should feel sorry for the Jews, however not too strongly about shylocks, as he is no different (as detailed above).
In Iiii, Shylock is talking to Antonio and agreeing the details of the bond. Shakespeare’s representation of Shylock in this scene displays him as a cruel person who wants revenge on a man for calling him a “cur”, a dog, and for spitting on him. In Venice in the 1590s, Jews were usurers, money lenders, while the Christians despised this. Antonio hated Shylock because of this and therefore when he goes to Shylock for money. That is why Shakespeare shows Shylock as a cruel person as he wants to kill Antonio by taking a pound of flesh.
In IIIiii, Shakespeare conveys the theme of justice and mercy. This theme makes us feel sorry for both Antonio who is getting the verbal abuse yet also for Shylock. This is because Shakespeare originally portrays an image of a mean Jew who doesn’t abide by the laws, is suddenly the one who has everything taken away from him. Also, in the previous scene, Jessica talks about her father saying that he “would rather Antonio’s flesh than twenty times the value of the sum that he did owe him”. This gives us the impression of a cruel and sadistic person.
In IVi, the court scene, Shakespeare creates a tense moment between whether shylock is to be a villain or a victim. He is a villain because he demands his bond, a pound of Antonio’s flesh, and not taking the six thousand ducats of which he is presented, twice the amount that was owed. Yet, on the other hand, he is a victim because the advocate (Portia in disguise) discovers a flaw in the bond and this cause shylock to come away with nothing, even his religion. This is because Portia creates a new law in which shylock must leave Antonio alone, give all of his savings to Lorenzo and Jessica, and become a Christian.
Shakespeare’s use of language techniques in this scene consist mainly of repetition. He says “Why he cannot abide a gaping pig; Why he, a harmless necessary cat; Why he, a woolen bagpipe; but of force”. The repetition of why at the beginning of each line, gives us the impression that shylock is questioning the Duke, as if he has no respect for hierarchy. Also, he repeats six and ducats, “If every ducat in six thousand ducats were in six parts, and every part a ducat”. This repetition emphasizes the bond and that he would rather flesh than money, a villain in this case.
In conclusion, I think Shakespeare’s presentation of shylock affects our response about him because of one main reason, whether he is the victim or the villain. This causes us to question ourselves as to whether we should feel sorry for shylock because he has lost everything including his friends, money, daughter, servant and religion. However, should we feel merciless against him because he wanted to take the life of a Christian all because he was mistreated? All of these points have made me come to the decision that Shakespeare’s lingual techniques have made the presentation of shylock a mixed character.