March 25, 2013
Pride in Being Prejudice and Lawful Vengeance
Shylock was the antagonist in The Merchant of Venice. He was a Jewish moneylender who was hated by most of the other characters in the play. Shylock loaned money to Bassanio under Antonio’s name and secured their bond with the condition that he would cut off a pound of Antonio’s ﬂesh if the bond was not repaid within three months. There are many different opinions about Shylock; he is mainly portrayed as a villain, although it is not that black and white. William Shakespeare, the writer of this play, was able to give Shylock in-depth characteristics that make him a complex and important character. While appearing evil and villainous, there are explanations for these reasons. Even though Shylock’s morals may not be right, there should be a chance given to him, which will be explored further in depth. Throughout the play,
Shylock proved to be very vengeful, prejudice towards Christians, and a law-abiding citizen. To start, Shylock proved to be a very vengeful human being. This was seen various times throughout the play. For example, when Antonio could not pay back the bond, Shylock wanted his penalty to be exacted onto Antonio - cutting off a pound of his ﬂesh - and he would not have it any other way. This was observed from Shylock’s quote,
“The pound of ﬂesh which I demand of him / Is dearly bought; ‘tis mine, and I will have it” (IV, i, 99-100). Following Shylock’s statement, it was seen just how bent on revenge that Shylock was. When the chance was offered to him, he would not even consider taking double, triple, or more the value of the bond owed. This was seen through a statement by Shylock, “If every ducat in six thousand ducats / Were in six parts, and every part a ducat, / I would not draw them; I would have my bond” (IV, i, 85-87). Prior to
Shylock demanding Antonio’s ﬂesh, Shylock recalls all of the bad things that Antonio had done to him, “If it will feed nothing else, it will feed / My revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hindered me / Half a million, laughed at my / Gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled / My friends, heated mine enemies” (III, i, 47-51). Shylock wanted Antonio murdered and seeked this revenge through death. It can also be considered that Shylock’s crave for revenge came from his hatred of Christians.
Next, Shylock proved to be very prejudice towards Christians. His prejudicial actions were seen in many asides. For example, in the play, when Bassanio introduced
Antonio to Shylock in Act 1 Scene 3, Shylock slipped into an aside and shared with the audience his hate for Antonio, “I hate him for he is a Christian;” (I, iii, 37). He has stated many times that he wanted Antonio dead because of the fact that he is a Christian.
However, he also openly confessed his hate for Christians to their faces. Shylock had no problem telling others about his feelings of hate or calling the Christians names. “To gaze on Christian fools with varnish’d faces;” (II, v, 32) is an example of this such name calling. Throughout much of the play, Shylock was blamed for being prejudice, which he
completely was. Yet, the Christians went almost unnoticed, but they still showed a great deal of prejudice towards Shylock and the other Jews. While Shylock appeared to be evil, he might not have been all that bad.
Lastly, although Shylock was villainous, he was not entirely, as he did appear to be a law-abiding citizen. This was