Study of Shylock in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant Of Venice'

Essay by sammi22 September 2004

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In Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, a wealthy Jew is one of the main characters. During the play his merciless and uncompassionate nature is revealed. He seeks the life of another man because all he wants is revenge. I do not feel sorry for Shylock at all because of his selfishness and disregard for other people. One of the main themes of the play is anti-Semitism. Most of the main characters show some hostility towards Shylock because of his religion, including Antonio, the merchant of Venice, his Christian enemy. However this is balanced, to an extent, as Shylock frequently and openly admits that he hates Antonio, "For he is a Christian.'' Act 1, Scene 3, Line 39. He will not rest until Antonio is dead and in my opinion this is indefensible.

Shylock is presented with an ideal opportunity to kill Antonio when Bassanio goes to his friend Antonio for a loan of money.

He needs the money so that he can go to Belmont and try for the hand of Lady Portia, a wealthy and beautiful lady. Antonio has no money at present to lend to Bassanio, so he suggests that Bassanio borrows from Shylock. The three men meet and agree to a bond, which states that Bassanio will have a loan of 3000 ducats for three months, but if Antonio fails to repay Shylock, Shylock will claim a pound of his flesh.

Meanwhile in Belmont, Portia is complaining to Nerrisa - her maid - about the terms of her father's will. Any man who wishes to marry her must choose from caskets of gold, silver and lead as a test to make sure his intentions are honourable. Two men choose the gold and silver ones and are turned away. Bassanio and his friend...