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Merchant Of Venice

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In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare illustrates his feelings towards Jews in 17th century England through the use of a commonly known stereotype during the time, the racial tension between Jews and Christians. Shylock is the focal point of the play, and acts as the traditional stereotype of the Jew in Elizabethan times. He is comically pictured as a greedy Jew and wears a traditional "Jewish gabardine." He is a middle-aged man who has a keenness of observation, a memory for details, and a strong amount of energy. He is well versed in the Bible and is able to draw analogies from various Biblical stories, which relate to the different situations he finds himself in. He has a cold and calculating mind, reflective of his shallow thinking, i can see this because of his way of speaking. Shylock suffers from religious persecution, which is the main theme of the play. Antonio has reviled and despised this Jew, even humiliating him publicly because of his money lending and usury. Shylock believes that his profiteering is not a sin, which is contrary to the Christian belief, held by Antonio, that money should be lent for charity and not for profit. By his profession and his religion, Shylock is seen as the outsider in a happy and fun-loving Venetian society. His being an outsider causes him to be bitter and his humiliation makes him seek revenge. Antonio becomes the target of that revenge, and Shylock uses the letter of the law to try and take a pound of flesh from his enemy. His strict interpretation of the law backfires on him however, and he winds up losing his wealth and barely saving his life. Although he appears in only five scenes, Shylock is a very powerful character, whose love of money has destroyed any natural human feelings.

In Shylock's opening scene, the bad blood between Jew and Christian is presented. Shylock is developed as the accepted stereotype of a Jew in the seventeenth century; he is crafty, cruel, and a mercenary. Shylock is amused that Antonio, a man who spat on him, called him "cut-throat dog," and even kicked him, should now approach him for a loan without any show of shame. "I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too. If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not As to thy friends,-for when did friendship take A breed for barren metal of his friend?-But lend it rather to thine enemy; Who if he break thou mayst with better face Exact the penalty". These humiliations of Shylock and the Jew's resentment over being treated so badly are the reflections of the Jewish-Christian relationship of the times. Shylock speaks in a mechanical manner, which underlines Shakespeare's dehumanization of his character. It also implies cruelty and moral degeneration. Shylock says that Antonio is is a "good" man. For him, good refers to wealth and not to kindness or humanity. He stresses the fact that Antonio's wealth is all at sea and observes that "ships are but boards, sailors but men," suggesting that Antonio's money may well be at risk. Shylock represents all that is inhumane and cold. Shylock agrees to the loan. Despite his feelings, he will do business with a Christian, for it is profitable for him; but he will not eat, drink, or pray with them. Shylock, therefore, is portrayed as an intruder and an outsider. Shylock's side remarks reveal a deep hatred of Antonio and a lust for revenge. "O father Abram...Pray you, tell me this; If he should break his day, what should I gain By the exaction of the forfeiture? A pound of man's flesh, taken from a man, Is not so estimable, profitable neither, As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats...To buy his favour, I extend this friendship; If he will take it, so; if not, adieu...". He also resents Antonio because he lends money free, reducing the rate of interest, which he as a moneylender, can charge. Shylock reminds him of his professed superiority by saying, "oughts you said you neither lend nor borrow upon advantage." Shylock then uses Antonio's past insults to taunt him and now asks him how a dog could lend him three thousand ducats. Antonio suggests that Shylock should lend the money as he would "to thine enemy," imposing the usual terms of a loan. If the money is not repaid on time, Shylock can exact the penalty. Shylock, using the situation to his utmost advantage, pretends to agree with this idea of business, and suggests that no interest will be demanded out of "kindness." Pretending that it is a joke, "a merry sport," he suggests that if the loan is not repaid, he will cut off a pound of Antonio's flesh. Bassanio bridles at this bargain and says, "I like not fair terms and a villain's mind." Antonio reassures his friend about the improbability of losing all his ships. Antonio accepts Shylock's false act of open kindness.

Salarino and Salanio are amused at Shylock's outrage to his daughter's elopement, and portray him as a raving fool. They claim he cannot decide which to mourn more, the loss of his daughter or that of his ducats. Antonio is also contrasted once again with Shylock. Antonio, with no ounce of jealousy, is happy for Bassanio's love for Portia; but Shylock cannot take any pleasure at his daughter's romance. Antonio does not worry about money, freely borrowing from Shylock to help Bassanio in his pursuit of Portia; Shylock however is driven crazy by the fact that Jessica has stolen his wealth, and he seems to mourn its loss as much, if not more, than the loss of his own daughter. Antonio is as selfless as Shylock is selfish. Once again, information is gained through through the conversation of Salarino and Salanio when they report on the news of Antonio's wrecked ship and Shylock's state of mind. As Shylock himself enters, they call him and make fun of him. They tease him relentlessly about the loss of his daughter. When the crazed Shylock hears about the loss of Antonio's ship, he determines to take his pound of flesh from Antonio when he fails to repay his debt in a timely manner. He tells Salarino and Salanio that Antonio's flesh will "feed" his revenge. Shylock then lists the wrongs done to him by Antonio, all because he is a Jew. In this famous speech justifying his revenge, Shylock asks, "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? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrongs a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrongs



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