Plot Vs. Character In many literary works, such as Things Fall Apart, the strict rigid character and tragic situation of the protagonist makes the audience sympathize with the protagonist like Okonkwo. Even with the audience's desire to sympathize, the protagonist's drive to uphold his belief creates conflict with both the audience and other characters. By developing an individualistic and hubristic character Shylock, Shakespeare allows his idiosyncrasies dictate the trial scene and ending. Shylock's desire for revenge prevents him to see reality; instead, he creates an illusion that only hinders Shylock from developing emotionally in the play because Shylock denies being true to himself and others. Therefore, his denial only leads to pain and suffering.
Shakespeare creates realistic character Shylock to dictate the trial scene by through his limited roles in the play. Constantly mocked and insulted by Antonio's and others' diatribes, Shakespeare immediately identifies Shylock as a villain.
Establishing Shylock's personality through his description that "hath not a Jew hands, Ã¢ÂÂ¦ affections, passions" shows that Shylock becomes limited by those descriptions (MV 3.1.56-8). Hence, Shylock conforms "no more than an opportunity for bringing him to life" because Shylock like the other characters, once created, determines the plot and the plot determines them (Palmer 114). With a great importance of first impression or lines of a character in Shakespeare's plays, Shakespeare reveals Shylock's personality through his economy of works and actions. Living in every word that he utters, Shylock's distinct language denotes his lack of warmth. Instead, his phrases "three thousand ducats" and "for three months" and "Antonio shall become bound" shows little variety in his speech because Shylock's mind is "concentrated, obsessed, focused upon a narrow range of fixed ideas," which is revenge against Antonio for his insults (1.3.1-10). This obsessive characteristics cause Shylock to seek revenge in the trial. Also, even in the diction of periodic and short sentences shows Shylock's unmistakably emotionless and stubborn quality. Shakespeare makes this character alive by matching diction with the personality. This becomes apart when contrasting with similar statements by Salerio about Antonio's ship: "But I show think of shallows and of flats, And see my wealthy Andrew docked in sand" (1.1.26-7). The warm and easy flow of words create a sharp contrast to Shylock's plain, broken, and surly sentences; therefore, the diction and under toning means influence the character's personality and plot of the play.
Shakespeare portrays a dichotomy in Shylock's character: he says one thing but thinks another because Shakespeare wants to further the concept of Shylock's mischievous quality. This villainous quality causes the audience to lose their sympathy for Shylock at the end; therefore, his hamartia prevents Shylock from seeing the truth and thinking rationally. By making Shylock obsessed with his revenge, the emotional angst against religious abuse and insults became irrelevant. Instead, his suffering pride from the insults causing him to seek retribution seems important and expected due to Shylock's vile nature. Because Shylock's unreasonable desire for revenge becomes his tragic flaw, this desire blinds Shylock from accepting the reality of the situation that his zealous obsession with Antonio has made lose contact with what matters such as his daughter. Refusing to see the destructive nature of his obsession, his hamartia causes him to lose his wealth and daughter by the end of the play: "When it [pound of flesh] is paid, according to the tenureÃ¢ÂÂ¦I swear there is no power in the tongue of man to alter me" (MV 4.1.234-41). Blinding himself from the truth in the trial scene, Shylock's stiff refusal to accept defeat causes instead Shylock to be punished for his continuing desire to pursue the penalty of a pound of flesh. In addition to the punishment, the reader is left with little sorrow for Shylock because of Shylock's continuous complaining and duplicitous nature.
In the Merchant of Venice, his material in the trial scene limits Shakespeare's writing; therefore, the characters' personality and behavior dictates the outcome and situation. For example, Shylock's complex personality forces one to see that Shylock is "the kind of man who will later come into court with his knife and scales" because of Shylock's sinister style (Palmer 119). The seeking of revenge and the importance of friendship are key issues being weighted in the trial scene. With life and death at the crossbeam, Shylock's pushy nature causes Shylock to lose his bond; therefore, Shylock's zeal for blood instead results in his own downfall. Limited by Shylock's inability to see his own narrow-mindedness, Shylock locks himself into this tragic ending. This obsession and thirst for revenge becomes one of the key themes of the play: Shakespeare shows the audience that blind obsession can only lead someone to the wrong path.
Looking at Shylock's characteristics, Shylock represents a universal quality that many people share-blind obsession. Shylock is used as a tool to show the audience how this negative quality can blind someone from reality, which can only prevent the person from knowing the truth. The discovery of truth is an important theme in Merchant because all the characters try to find what is their personal truth. Therefore, Shakespeare shows that by denying himself to find his truth, Shylock is destroyed in society, as he realizes that his cherished beliefs were based on false assumptions. Blinding himself from the truth, Shylock only follows the path of a tragic character, and that is once own destruction at the end.
Work Cited Shakespeare, William. Merchant of Venice. Ed. Kenneth Myrick. New York, Signet, 1987.
Stoll, E. E. "Shylock." Modern Critical Interpretations: The Merchant of Venice.
Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsa, 1986. 15-25.
Palmer, John. "Shylock." Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice. Ed. John Wilders. Macmillan, 1969. 114-31.