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Sympathising with Shylock Essay

As the story progresses, it becomes ever easier to sympathise with shylock. Shylock’s life is a hard one and just gets worse as he is introduced into the story. Shylock is a Jew and as a Jew at that time he was hated and discriminated against by Christians. ‘You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish garberdine.’ Before Antonio needed to borrow money from Shylock he had insulted him and spat on him out of hate because Shylock was also guilty of usury. While Shylock is lending money to Antonio, Shylock’s slaves are already planning on leaving him in favour of working for Bassanio instead. We then find out that not only that his slaves have left him for a Christian but also his daughter, Jessica, is planning on running away with a Christian boy, Lorenzo. Shylocks wife is dead and Jessica is the only person he has left.

Jessica runs away while he is at a dinner full of Christians. In the film we see Shylock, as the only Jew, alone rejected while everyone else is enjoying themselves. This particularly makes you feel sorry for him as the audience know that his daughter is running away and taking his wealth with her and he will have no friends to be supported by when she is gone. When Jessica leaves him he is racked with grief from his loss and realises that she has taken a lot of his wealth with her. We later learn that Jessica is seen swapping a ring belonging to Shylock’s wife for a monkey.

Although Shylock has been mistreated he is still hungry for revenge against Antonio, a Christian. Shylock suggests a pound of Antonio’s flesh as a forfeit and Antonio surprisingly accepts it. Although Jessica is planning on leaving him it was partly his own fault. We learnt that he had been locking Jessica in the house and won’t let her see Christian boys. When he realises that Jessica has run away and the amount of money she has stolen he seems to care more about the money than the fact that his daughter is gone. When he finds out that Jessica had switched his ring for a monkey he says something no father should ever say: ‘I wish my daughter was dead at my foot’.

When Antonio cannot pay back the money on time he will not accept anything accept a pound of Antonio’s flesh. This is disturbing makes you wonder about the sanity of Shylock and is hard to sympathise with him.

Shylock had been mocked, insulted and judged by Christians all his life so it is not surprising that he hates them. However he makes it clear that he wants revenge and the audience fear that he could get it. Although Shylock’s character is heavily sympathised with at the beginning of the story, it becomes very hard to understand his views at the time of the trial.


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