Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, to what extent do you agree with the statement "Shylock is a two-dimensional villain who does not deserve our sympathy".

Essay by forextonsJunior High, 8th grade September 2008

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There are two assumptions made within this one statement. The first assumption is that Shylock is assumed as a two-dimensional villian who does not have any real motives for his actions and the second assumption is that he does not deserve our sympathy. Therefore, in this essay, we will explore how much of a villain Shylock really is, whether or not his actions call for our sympathy and if he has motives for his actions.

Firstly, is Shylock a two-dimensional villain. Allow us to first clarify if Shylock is really a villain just as many portray him to be; Shylock may be the villain in collecting hefty amounts of taxes and cruelly wanting to claim the pound of flesh from Antonio but however, Shylock is also a victim to the Christians. This can be seen from Act 1 Scene 3, line 129, "to spet on thee again, to spurn thee too".

You see, Venice in the context was a very racist society, Christians despised Jews and vice-versa. That particular statement was quoted from when Antonio was borrowing money from Shylock which goes to show that Shylock is a victim to their insults et cetera.

Secondly, is Shylock undeserving of our sympathy? Being the one Jew in Venice, he is subject to a lot of racism. Sure, he may be despised because of his actions but does that give us a reason not to give sympathy for the state he is in? It is not often that people call Shylock by name, he is mostly addressed as "The Jew", which further brings out the racism present in their society towards the Jews by stressing on his religion. From Act 4 scene 1, line 14, "Go, one, and call the Jew into court". Even the Duke himself is biased towards Shylock.