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Shylock and Antonio in Merchant of Venice

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    A play I have studied is The Merchant of Venice. Two characters in the play who have a tense relationship are Shylock and Antonio. This tension stems firstly from religious differences. In Venice at this time the Christians looked down on the Jewish people because of their religion. Shylock cannot understand the hatred of the Jewish people on Antonio and the rest of the Christians part.

    Antonio treats Shylock like a dog and he even admits in the text Shylock: ‘Fair sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last, You spurn me such a day, another time You call’d me a dog: and for these courtesies I’ll lend you thus much moneys’? Antonio: ‘I am like to call thee so again. To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too. If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not as to thy friends, for when did friendship take A breed for barren metal of his friend?

    But lend it raher tho thine enemy, who if he break thou may’st with better face exct the penalty’. This shows that even after Shylock lends him the money he will not be any way different or kind to him he will just go back to the same thing of spitting on him and calling him a dog. I think that Shylock was trying to make friends with Antonio but he would not become his friends because of Shylocks religion. A second reason for the tense relationship is a difference of opinion in the matter of business.

    Shylock makes a living n lending out money to people for a certain lent of time and then if it goes over that time period then they have to pay him interest, this in Shakespearean time was called usary and Shylock was a usurer. Antonio did not like this because he felt that the people should only have to pay what they borrowed and many of time the people that borrowed the money off Shylock would come to Antonio and ask if he would give them the money to pay Shylock back and Shylock did not like this and he felt that Antonio was sticking his nose in his business.

    There is irony in the the play in that Antonio has to swallow his pride and go to Shylock to borrow the money as his ships are all out at sea and he has no hard cash ‘thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea, neither have I money, nor commodity to raise a present sum, therefore go forth try what my credit can in Venice do’. This is what Antonio says to Bassanio when he asks him for money and Antonio has to swallow his pride for his friend and go and ask Shylock for the money.

    It is no the fact tha he doesn’t have the money to pay it back because Antonio is sure that his ships are going to be back way before he has to pay the money back it is just that he doesn’t want to go to Shylock for the money because he charges interest, and Antonio does not agree with this. At several points in the play, Shylock refers to incidents of conflict between him and Antonio. Shylock cannot understand this hatred of the Jews on the Christians part.

    He believes that they are all the same ‘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, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled 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? – If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

    If a Jew wrong a Christian is his humility? Revenge! If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? – Why revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction’. In this speech Shylock makes a very good point, both the Jews and the Christians are the same the only tubing that is different is there religion. He also points out that the reason the Jews look for revenge Is because whenever the Jews do something wrong the Christians look for revenge.

    At the beginning of this speech Shylock also mentions a few of the things that Antonio has done to him ‘he hath disgrac’d me, and hind red me half a million, laugh’d at my losses, mock’d at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies’. The reason Antonio does this is because Shylock is a Jew and that is the ,ain reason. This tension comes to a head in Act iv. Sc. 1. Antonio fails to pay back the money he owes shylock and the case ends up in course.

    Antonio was unable to pay back the money because all of his ships have appeared too miscarried. Shylock now has the upper hand in this tense relationship and ever since he found out that Jessica, his only daughter had robbed him blind and run away with Lorenzo, a Christian, he has wanted to get revenge on the Christians and now he has a perfect chance to get back at the Christians and also to get back at Antonio, as the bond was that if Antonio did not pay back the loan of 3,000 ducats within 3 months Shylock could have a pound of flesh from whatever part of his body he pleased.

    When the scene gets to court it seems as if Shylock has the upper hand and he is getting ready to cut the pound of flesh from Antonio even after the duke and all the people of Venice have begged and pleaded with him and now even after Bassanio has offered him 9,000 ducats, which is triple the amount that had to be paid off has, Shylock still insists ‘I will have my bond, speak not of my bond, I will have my bond’ the scene is starting to get very tense as Shylock has 2 sweeps of the knife.

    Just as Shylock goes to get his pound of flesh does Portia, Bassanios newlywed wife, find a loophole in the bond ’this bond doth give thee here no jot of blood, the words expressly say ‘a pound of flesh’. ’ This means that if Shylock drip a drop of blood from Antonios body he shall be sentenced to death.

    And then it twists even more for Shylock because he has insisted that all he wants is his bond he now cannot go back and take the ducats that was offered to him, he has to stay to the bond and then Portia finds another loop hole ‘take thy pound of flesh, but just a pound: if thou tak’st more or less than a just pound, be it so much as makes it light or heavy in the substsance, or the division of the twentieth part of one poor scruple, nay if the scale do turn but in the estimation of a hair, thou diest, and all goods are confiscate. ’ This means that he can take the pound of flesh no more no less.

    Then as Shylock goes to leave Portia points out a new law ‘if it be proved against an alien that by direct, or indirect attempts he seek the life if any citizen, the party ‘gainst the which he doth contrive. Shall seize half of his goods and the other half comes to the privy coffer of the state and the offenders life lies in the mercy of the Duke only, against all other voices. ’ This means that because Shylock will not go through with the bond and he seeked the life of Antonio half of his possessions go to Antonio and the other half to the state. And Shylocks life depends on the mercy of the duke.

    In the end Shylock is forced by Antonio to covert his religion to Christianity and he has to surrender half of his ggods to Antonio and the other half has to be left to Lorenzo and Jessica after he dies. If I was doing a production of this play I would have a small crowd shouting and spitting at Shylock also I would have silence as Shylock sharpens the nice and dramatic music playing right until Portia announces the first loop hole. I would have the lighting going gradually darker as Shylock goes over to Antonio and as the Portia announces the loop hole I would have the lighting gradually become brighter to make it tenser.

    I would have It the same way as when Shylock is begging the duke for his life to the point that his life is spared. I would have tears running down Shylocks face as he agrees to covert religions. I would have Shylocks tone of voice as weak and shaky to make it seem as if he is sad. I would direct him to be huddled together on the ground before he would get up and exit. The most dramatic seen was in the court as you didn’t know what was going to happen and it was definitely dramatic as Portia found the loop hole and everything went wrong for Shylock.

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    Shylock and Antonio in Merchant of Venice. (2019, May 02). Retrieved from

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