Shylock Analysis

Essay by MadiMili93High School, 10th gradeA-, October 2014

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"Look Here, upon This Picture, and on This"

The cry of Hamlet to his mother in the closet-scene, "Look here, upon this picture, and on this," rises easily to the lips of one busied with the literature of comment on The Merchant of Venice. For interpreters of the play differ greatly in their attitude toward Shylock - and their attitude toward Shylock influences greatly, as a matter of course, their attitude toward the other characters of the play. Shylock is, indeed, according to the exposition of many learned judges, in reality the hero of the play - as he is, for example, to the editor of the great English Dictionary of National Biography, who has of late written, "For Shylock (not the merchant Antonio) is the hero of the play, and the main interest culminates in the Jew's trial and discomfiture." [1]

While, on the contrary, Gervinus, in his Shakespeare Commentaries, has entered a vigorous protest against the 'lowness' and 'madness' that have gone so far as "to make on the stage a martyr and hero out of this outcast of humanity."

So also to the most honored of Shakespearean scholars, of whose worth the wide world is not ignorant, Shylock is (up to a certain point) "simply a cruel and vindictive creditor." And this incomparable Shakespeare scholar is clearly convinced that "this is not a 'tendenz-drama,' wherein is infused a subtle plea of toleration for the Jews." [2]

So opposite, then, are the points of view from which the characters of the play are at times presented, both in literary criticism and upon the stage, that the reader - before making for himself a final choice, before declaring precipitately,

"Deliver me the key:

Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!"...