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Anti-Semitism In Merchant Of Venice

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Racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination have been serious global issues for hundreds of years. Anti-Semitism, a hateful or discriminatory outlook towards Jewish culture, is arguably racism in its worst form. For hundreds of years the Jewish culture has been looked down upon, disrespected and persecuted by other ethnicities. In Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, the character of Shylock reveals to us Shakespeare's attitude towards the Jewish people and anti-Semitism. Throughout the play Shylock is treated with a continuum of hostility and disrespect from the other characters. Many would argue that Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice condones anti-Semitism, but if a closer look is taken, Shakespeare's playwright actually supports an opposing point of view. We see this through character quotes and speeches, particularly Shylock and Antonio. This is noticeable as well in some of the Character's attitudes, developments and comparisons, as well as in the theme advancements involving both the Casket, and Shylock-Antonio sub-plots. It becomes clear that Shakespeare actually intended to assault the anti-Semitic attitude that has, and still does exist in certain societies.

The character dialog in particular parts of the play seem to serve the propose of challenging anti-Semitism, and promoting sympathy for Shylock's character. In one of the most memorable points of the play, Shylock speaks about the prejudice he has faced when he discusses equality.

"He hath disgraced me, and/ hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,/ mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted/ my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine/ enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath/ not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, / dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with/ the same food, hurt with the same weupon

s, subject/ to the same diseases, healed by the same means,/ warmed and cooled by the same winter and/ Summer, as a Christian is? If 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?"(III, i , 55-63).

Shylock's wanting of revenge is well deserved, as it results from the ill treatment he has received from Antonio and other Christians.

"Fair sir you spat on me Wednesday last; / You spurn'd me such a day: another time you called me dog - and for these courtesies / I'll lend you thus much money" ( I, iii,122-125). Despite the Antonio's actions in the past, Shylock reveals that he would have forgave Antonio if not for his following outbreak. "I am as like to call thee so again,/ To spit on thee again, to spurn thee to."(I, iii, 126-127).

To which Shylock responds:

"Why, look you, how you storm! / I would be friends with you, and have your love, /

Forget the shames that you have stain'd me with, / Supply your present wants, and take no doit / of usance for my moneys, and you'll not hear me." (I, iii, 133-137).

These elements of the play are focused at the viewer to sympathize with Shylock and to see the injustice of bigotry and racism.

The thematic elements of the play, when examined more closely also acknowledge the ignorance of anti-Semitism. During the play the theme of appearance vs. reality is constantly mentioned and than re-approached on numerous occasions in the duration of the play . Unlike Shakespeare's other methods, this suggestion is pursued in a much more subtle manor. Shakespeare calls his reader to look beyond the surface of something. This is accomplished using the two plot lines, the Casket plot line and the Shylock/Antonio conflict plot line. We first take notice of the appearance vs. reality theme when Antonio mentions "The devil can site scripture for his purpose" (I, iii, 94-95) When Shylock uses the bible to support his money lending Antonio strikes back saying that shylock is evil at heart, and not to be fooled by his wise comments. Antonio's harsh remarks simply prove his



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