The Merchant of Venice and Shylock Essay

Submitted By ma12ir34a
Words: 2119
Pages: 9

With close reference to the text do you think that Shylock should have shown mercy to Antonio in the play
The Merchant of Venice?

In Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice, (which was influenced by the Jew of Malta, written by Christopher Marlowe in 1589), a Jew named Shylock has been insulted in many ways. Examples of these are, he was spat at, been called a dog, had his religion insulted, had disruptions in his business and have his only daughter kidnapped. To add to this, he had Jewels and ducats stolen, in which contained his late wife's turquoise ring. Moreover the differences between the Jews and Christians had continued for 16 centuries since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Because of all these examples Shylock has made a judgement whether or not to show mercy towards Antonio. Due to the Ancient Grudge his decision has been influenced, therefore is unlikely to show mercy.

The Merchant of Venice has been influenced by The Jew of Malta written in 1589 by Christopher Marlowe. Seven years later in 1596, Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice. Marlowe's play has had a big influence on Shakespeare's play. Both plays are based upon the anti-Semitism (so the play is anti-semantic) during the 1500's in Italy. For instance they are based on how the Jews were treated, (e.g. how their religion was insulted and how they were treated). Similarities between the two plays are, in The Merchant of Venice the character named Shylock is a money lender with a daughter and in the Jew of Malta the main character who is a Jew is a man named Barabas, who is a merchant with a daughter as well. So, when Shakespeare read the Jew of Malta his main character Shylock was influenced by Barabas. The main difference between these two characters are that Barabas is a fairytale devil of the medieval Miracle Plays who literally ends up in a boiling cauldron, whereas the Christians tortured Shylock which is a modern, also he is a mortal man whose life ends in humiliation and tragedy.

The reason why Shylock is not likely to show mercy is because he was spat at.
Act 1 scene 3, page 15, line 107, "And you spit upon my Jewish gabardine, and all for use of which is mine."
No one would want to show mercy towards someone if that same person would spit at them. Also this has a negative influence to Shylock's decision, as it's similar to showing revenge; as you're doing the same thing back to them. In addition even after Antonio signed the bond (without interest) he did not promise anything in return to Shylock, so this might influence his decision in a negative way, as it would want him to stick to his bond, as even after this everything will still be the same therefore nothing will change, for example life will be the same, so he would get spat at and still be forced to live in ghettos, as well as wearing a red hat.

Another reason why Shylock is unlikely to show mercy is because of the ancient grudge. "If if can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed far the Ancient Grudge I bear him."
The Ancient Grudge dates back to 1AD when Jesus Christ was crucified. 16 centuries back in Jerusalem Jesus was crucified. The history goes back to the time where Jesus and Barabbas were put forward to a crowd of people, (the majority of them Jewish) to choose who should be set free. On one side was Jesus who innocent and had not done anything, however he was imprisoned because of having protests and having many followers, yet the Jews hated him as well as the king, and on the other side was Barabbas who was a prisoner accused of committing many crimes, (e.g. murdering, raping, assaulting etc). When these two different men were confronted, because the people of Jerusalem were frightened of Christ, they chose to set Barabbas free. At that time, the Jewish king (because he was afraid of Christ) wanted Jesus to be killed and Barabbas to be set free. As a result Pontius Pilate, a roman governor of Judea declared to crucify him (even though he