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Shylock can be seen as cunning and deceitful character, this can be seen all the way through between Antonio and Shylock. When Antonio asks Shylock for a loan. “But lend it rather thine enemy, who, if he break, thou mayst with better face exact the penalty” It is clear that Antonio has abused Shylock for a long time due to the list of insults Antonio has called Shylock. “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish Gaberdine”. This is one of the first times we see Shylock as the victim in the play.
The bitterness between Antonio and Shylock almost makes the two characters look like representatives of their cultures and religions. Shylock comes across bloodthirsty from the beginning. ‘If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him’. This means he doesn’t want his money back, not even the profit! He does this because he hopes something awful will happen to Antonio so he can carry out his bond.
Shakespeare also tried to capture the passionate side of Shylock, the audience learn that Leah, Shylock’s wife had died, leaving Shylock a wifeless, single parent and heartbroken man.
Shylock is bereft with sorrow when Jessica steals from him, especially because she takes a ring from him, which she sells for a monkey. ‘I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor: I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys. ‘ Obviously the ring has a lot of sentimental value, and Shylock admires the ring, as it is a memory of Leah.
He feels almost betrayed and stabbed in the back by Jessica, as she would have known how much the ring meant to him. Selling it for a monkey is almost mocking him.
At this point the audience have a lot of sympathy for Shylock, it would appear that Shylock’s only memory of Leah has been lost, and all that is left are his memories. In act three, scene two, is the only time in the whole play do we see a powerful passionate side of Shylock. We have only seen a merciless, bitter and vengeful man. By adding this very confined side of Shylock makes him an even more intuitive character. I shall now go on to talk about Shylock’s relationship with Jessica. Shylock is a strict and very committed Jew. You would expect Shylock to have been brought up, similarly to how he intended on bringing up Jessica.
It appears that Jessica is an only child. Like her father she is very independent. ‘Farewell; and if my fortune be not crost, I have a father, you a daughter lost’. Shylock is very independent as he is self-employed due to the Venetian job crisis. Due to the information that Shakespeare supplies us about Shylock, it would appear that he has no family, nor friends. He lives within the slums of Venice with Jessica with many servants, it is clear that he is a very wealthy man due to having these servants, and a factor for why he is so despised the extreme price rates he puts upon his loans.
It is not surprising that Shylock would disown his only daughter because she had fallen in love with a Christian and intended to marry him. Shylock also feels betrayed by Jessica, as when she leaves, she steals from him 2000 ducats and precious jewels. “I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear”. Shylock is starting to have to act as if Jessica is dead. Once a Jew marries another Non-Jew or lives a way of life that is not Jewish, their family and friends shut away from them, and are treated as if they no longer exist.
This is how Shylock had begun to act towards Jessica. Shylock allows Jessica little freedom, and no social life, it was predictable she would rebel against her father’s strict ways. ‘Our house is hell’. This shows Jessica’s feeling to the constant conflict between her and her father. Jessica is ashamed of her Fathers ways ‘Alack, what heinous sin is it in me to be ashamed to be my fathers child! ‘ This is for numerous reasons, Shylock’s orthodox religion, controlling his and Jessica’s lives. Not allowing Jessica to have a social life meeting people.
Nor allowing Jessica to see or hear any Christian festivities. Jessica announces she is Shylock’s daughter, but does not have his way of seeing life. ‘I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners’. This is because she can see and hear what the public thinks of her father. She also resents his methodology and does not want to be despised like Shylock. The only person that is still alive that he loves is lost to him, it is not surprising that a man with so much sorrow would want to take out his ferocity and pain on his enemy, Antonio. This is a valuable quality of the character Shylock.
When Shakespeare wrote the play ‘The Merchant Of Venice’, Shakespeare intended on Shylock being laughed at. Shylock was created for a captive audience, but also for the audience to be questioned by their prejudice minds. Should Shylock deserve their laughter, or their contempt or sympathy? Jews were considered to be the greediest people, and the worst of those who lent money. Shylock is one of the great pieces of work from Shakespeare due to the very reason of stereotype. Antonio has no idea what wretchedness occurs within Shylocks pitiful life.
Shakespeare is like a modern day journalist, writing an article about Shylock, throwing him to the dogs for an audience to see the anguish of Shylock’s life, but underneath lies Shakespeare’s real message of prejudice and guilt. Shakespeare lured the audience into a false pretence by ridiculing Shylocks Jewish faith but then turns it round to make the audience feel empathy for Shylock. This is one of the many effective qualities of Shylock. Elements of comedy were added to the ‘Merchant of Venice’. When Portia questions Shylock, ‘Have by some surgeon, Shylock on your charge, to stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death?
‘ For when Antonio loses a pound of flesh, Shylock turns to the bond and points at it with a knife ‘I cannot find it, ’tis not in the bond’. This macabre humour also adds another layer to the character’s personality. We see Shylock’s bloodthirsty side, we learn about how he has been the victim of racist remarks from other character’s such as Antonio. But by adding this clever sense of humour, gets the audience out of the habit of thinking they know the character. The audience creates a bond with Shylock. But the manner, in which Shylock delivers the quote, is not expected by such a serious man whose passion lies within money.
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