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Merchant Of Venice Rhetorical Analysis

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Religious discrimination has been present for centuries. It was present at the time of Shakespeare, just as it is present today, centuries later. In Shakespeare's time, Jews were a typical target of discrimination by Christians. As a result of constant Christian torment and humiliation, many Jews spurned the Christians. If given the opportunity, many Jews would retaliate against Christians with the same treatment Christians submitted them to. In William Shakespeare's play, "The Merchant of Venice," this opportunity arises for one particular Jew, Shylock. Shylock stirs up a range of emotions in the audience, when giving a speech to support his claim that he is entitled to regard the Christians with the same ill-treatment they have shown him.

Shylock, the speaker, is a Jewish moneylender in Venice, who is depicted as greedy, self-centered, and aloof. He has been discriminated against his whole life by Christians for being a Jew, and his only daughter disgraced him by stealing from him and eloping with a Christian. In the play, Shylock had lent money to a Christian merchant by the name of Antonio, and there is news that Antonio's ships had wrecked, and he will no longer be able to pay his debt to Shylock. Shylock then demands his bond, a pound of Antonio's flesh.

Shylock speaks directly to Salarino and Solanio, two of Antonio's companions. However, because this speech is in a play, the spectators of the play create Shylock's mediated audience and more importantly, his intended audience. This audience, in the day and age of Shakespeare, was apt to be a predominantly Christian audience. Shylock's speech was more intended for these Christians to hear, because Shylock wanted to reveal to them that he was their equal, and if they treated him poorly he should be able to treat them the same. However, instead of blatantly stating that his actions of retaliation are uncivilized, Shylock incorporates pathos into his speech. He does this in order to make the audience have sympathy for him, in hopes that they will be more accepting of his view point on Christian treatment of Jews. In order to derive this emotion from his listeners, Shylock tries to prove to them that he too is human regardless of his faith, and that he suffers from the humiliation the Christians have caused him. Shylock lists all the ways in which Antonio had wronged him, "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."(I.i:53-57) This allows the audience to understand Shylock's abhorrence of Antonio, and to convince them that Shylock was simply an innocent victim of this torment. He had done nothing unkind to Antonio to deserve this treatment, and the only explanation Antonio has for acting this way is his dislike for Shylock's religion.

Shylock tries to remind the Venetians that all people are human and all people deserve to be treated humanely. "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? 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? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?" (I.i:57-65)After stating this to the audience, some might empathize with Shylock and understand why he wants revenge against Antonio. However, Antonio's tone changes with his next lines. "And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest,

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