Theme of Discrimination in Merchant of Venice

“The tragic feeling is invoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing, his sense of personal dignity” – Arthur Miller. Leading up to Shylock’s trial he undergoes a lot of struggle with regards to his bond with Antonio where. Antonio deceives Shylock when he doesn’t pay him and escapes the clause of the bond (pound of flesh).


At the same time Shylock loses his daughter, whom he loves very much, to a Christian man.

Shylock was betrayed by his daughter and deceived by Antonio and the rest of the Christians.

“I would my daughter were dead at my feet, and jewels in her ear! Would she were hearsed at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin!”

Therefore it is tragic when Shylock is stripped of his money and forced to convert religion. Against all his struggles he was just conducting his way of business and has to suffer so much.

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This story is also tragic for the Jewish communities:

  • They were mocked and scorned by the Christians and perceived as “different” from other people (personality and physical attributes)
  • They were forced to live all together in a separate part of the city known as “ghettos”
  • When they exited the “ghettos” and went to different areas amongst Christians they had to wear red hats (this is a sign of the segregation of religions)
  • They could not engage in any other jobs except merchandise.

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    This is why the Jews were mostly known as ‘usurers’.

  • Revenge is a theme of tragedy Revenge is dark and hateful and particularly in this play Shylock is consumed with it.
  • He wants revenge with his daughter because he feels betrayed and hard one by. She disobeyed him and their religion and stole money from him.
  • He is consumed with revenge towards Antonio and his Christian friends because of the way Antonio deceived him where he did not pay off his bond and the way the Christian friends mocked him. This was emphasised in his famous monologue “hath not a Jew eyes” where he describes the way he is treated.
  • The way the director personifies the characters
  • In most renditions of the play, especially in the most modern movie, the main characters (Bassanio, Antonio and Shylock) are very serious characters and this adds to the tragic mood of the play
  • When dealing with problems these characters do not seem to be in a light-hearted or joyous mood, they are more dull and serious.
  • At the time tragic characters had to be very static and weren’t versatile and this is evident, mostly in the characters of Antonio, Bassanio and Shylock.

Cite this page

Theme of Discrimination in Merchant of Venice. (2016, Sep 20). Retrieved from

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