Shylock Antisemitism

Essay by jfraimanCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2002

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Paper # 1- Topic (7)

"I am a Jew/ Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs/ dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with/ the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject/ to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means/ warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer/ as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?/ If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you/ poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" -Shylock, II.i.58.

Throughout history Jewish people have been persecuted and treated in a sub-human manner for their beliefs. Now, there is no way I can possibly talk about all the history in the next few pages. Therefore I have chosen to analyze the bigotry and other forms of mistreatment towards Shakespeare's Shylock, in The Merchant of Venice. These pages address a question that invariably arises in discussions of The Merchant of Venice: a question of anti-Semitism.

Specifically, these pages investigate whether there are anti-Semitic elements in The Merchant of Venice and, more specifically, whether Shylock is the embodiment or expression of some anti-Semitic attitude that is pervasive in Elizabethan society. It is necessary to look at a timeline, which will show how the Jewish people have

The English of the late sixteenth century believed that Christianity was the only true religion, and that God ordained the social order. The individual who set himself against the establishment could only be a source of disruption or, at worst, evil. Since Jews did not believe in Christianity, they were a threat to the social order. The character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice was no doubt drawn from literature, not real life. The Jewish villain was a stock character in...