The context in which William Shakespeare wrote the Merchant of Venice in 1597 was racist and prejudiced against different religions in the society that existed then.
At that time England was a protestant country that had recently been under threat from catholic Spain and before that the Jews had been exiled from the country. Therefore Jews, coloured people and Catholics were generally hated and very rarely seen except in ports around the coast, nevertheless, Shakespeare makes fun of other races and religions in the play.
It can be argued that the Merchant of Venice is a racist play by modern standards but this is because nowadays England is populated by many different religions and races so prejudice is not only frowned upon, but also is against the law because all human beings are seen as equal whereas in the 16th century there were no different races or religions unless they were practiced in secret, and also against the law.
While in view of the condemnation of racism against the play, I will study three scenes in detail. Beginning with Act one Scene three.
In this scene Bassanio, Antonio and shylock enter into the bond of which so much of the play is based. This scene I feel has a highly controversial content.
It commences with Bassanio (the merchant Antonio's destitute friend) asking Shylock (the Jewish money-lender) for money to go see the woman he wants to marry (Portia). Bassanio requires 3000 ducats (Venetian money) for three months. After these three months on the due date Antonio's (the rich Venetian merchant) ships will have returned and so Antonio shall pay back the money, Bassanio needs to borrow money as Antonio's ship carry all of his money and they are at sea.
Shylock has been pestered and assaulted by Antonio and he...