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The Christain characters in The Merchant of Venice displayed extreme prejudice towards Shylock and his daughter. The Venice society seemed to create separation between charistians and jews by calling the jews ‘others’ and by doing so it a shared bond that all of the christians had. This can be seen when even the clown Launcelot left Shylock to serve Bassanio.
I believe Shakespeare himself shares his characters’ certainty that the Jews are inferior to Christians because of Shylock’s refusal to show any mercy at all and then forcing him to convert to Christianity afterwards.
Shakespeare only portrayed Jessica as a good jewish person because she willingly left her religion behind and converted to Christainity.
However, one could argue that Shakespeare may be criticizing the racism of his characters. Shylock’s anger doesn’t come from his religion but as a result of years of persecution he had received . For example, When Antonio speaks to Shylock about the debt he owes him and how he needs mercy, Shylock replies ‘If a Jew wronged a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge.
If a Christian wronged a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christain example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute'(pg49) Shylock argues that all of the characters are the same, in terms of biology and under the law. This could be seen that Shakespeare made Shylock have more wisdom than the rest of society making this play less anti-semitic.
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