In the historic play “The Merchant of Venice” written by William Shakespeare, Shylock is one of the main characters who I have great pity for. Therefore I agree with the above statement that Shylock should be more pitied than condemned. Throughout the play we see Shylock involved in many different incidences and it is unknown whether he is a victim or a villain in most cases. Shakespeare leads me to make a final conclusion by showing me different incidents that Shylock is involved in the play.
Shakespeare helps me to gather this conclusion through the use of many different literary devices and emotive writing. I think that Shylock should be more pitied because he loses his only daughter; he is seen being lower than other characters because he is a Jew, and he loses most of his private possessions and most of all his religion.
One of the major reasons I feel sorry for Shylock is because he is complicated yet wise and often gets tormented, mocked and humiliated in front of everyone.
The first sign of victimization is seen in the theme of prejudice outlined by Shakespeare. This is first evident in Act one. Act one Scene three is one of the main scenes in which Shylock could be seen more as a victim than a villain. Mistreatment of others can become very addictive for many abusers and sometimes it seems as if everyone wants be a part of the mistreatment of Shylock. As the play progresses, Shylock is insulted in public, spat on and called rapacious names such as “cut throat dog”, especially from Antonio.
We clearly see this when Shylock says, “You call me ‘misbeliever’, ‘cut-throat dog’ and spit upon my Jewish gabardine” and Antonio replies “I am as like to call thee so, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too”. Antonio and many other merchants frequently criticize and belittle Shylock and his business and insult his culture and religion. This is one of the major reason I felt pity for Shylock, because he is not accepted into society and I would hate to be in his shoes. And I’m pretty sure that it will be horrible experience to have individuals torment, mock, humiliate and spit on you repeatedly and this is why Shylock should be pitied.
Shakespeare also uses emotive language in one of Shylock’s speeches to draw feelings of sympathy from the reader towards Shylock. In an argument Shylock exclaims to Antonio and Bassanio, “You come to me, and you say, Shylock, we would have moneys’; you say so; you that void your rheum upon my beard, and foot me as you spurn a stranger cur over your threshold”. Here we can clearly see that Shylock is badly hurt and upset from what Antonio and Bassanio has done to him. It’s clear that he is afraid of them and fear is powerful. Shylock has to live with the fear of physical and verbal abuse every day, words are one thing but the physical abuse is much more powerful. Shakespeare depicts a message to his reader showing that being prejudice doesn’t get anyone anywhere because Antionio’s prejudice almost got him killed.
Shylock was the victim of prejudice sincerely because he was Jewish and because he loaned money on interest for a living. Jews were forbidden to hold many regular jobs, but they were allowed to lend money, as this was a job Christians were forbidden. There’s no reason Shylock should be abused and disrespected just for trying to make a living. So how can we blame him for trying to make a living for his self and his daughter? It’s like no one accepts him or wants to be around him just because he is a Jew and a business man. As a human and a person trying to earn a living we can see this as very unfair and this is why I pity Shylock.
In addition to how Shylock is treated another major reason why I feel sorry for Shylock is because he suffers a deep betrayal from his own flesh and blood. Shakespeare introduces a theme of betrayal when Shylock’s daughter Jessica meets secretly with Lorenzo and allows him to court her, steals from him, lies to her father and abandons him. Jessica is not the obedient daughter that Shylocks take her for. In Act two Scene three, Jessica is seen talking to Launcelot, secretly telling him that she plans to become a Christian like Lorenzo and will become Lorenzo’s wife. This is very disrespectful to me because it’s a horrible thing to go behind your fathe’rs back. I find this to be very harsh because Shylock invested all that he had in her so wonder how he felt when he had found this out. Although her diction reveals that, she feels some type of guilt, “Alack, what heinous sin is it in me to be ashamed to be my father’s child”, Jessica rejects her father, his way of life, his religion and stole a great deal of his wealth.
Once again let’s think about the pain that Shylock must have went through. In Act two Scene five we see Jessica giving a final goodbye to her father as she speaks to herself, “Farewell, and if my fortune be not crossed, I have a father, you a daughter lost”. Here Jessica sadly says these words of betrayal to the back of her father who had just gave her orders to close up the house. Jessica also took Shylock’s most valuable possession, his late wife turquoise ring, and bought a monkey, Shylock was hurt by this the most,” Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.” The image of a broken Shylock walking the streets of Venice crying out loud, “Oh my daughter, Oh my ducats” is etched in the reader’s mind and it certainly evokes sympathy for a hard working man who had been robbed and betrayed by his own daughter.
Not only was Shylock pitied for the way he was treated around Venice and the betrayal of his daughter but also at the end of the play in the courtroom. In the courtroom scene of Act four Scene one I perceive Shylock as a victim because of the criticism and insults of the Duke, “Go one and call the Jew into the courtroom”. Here we can clearly see that the Duke refers to Shylock as a Jew and I find this very ignorant. Why can’t Shylock be called by his name like everyone else, this gives me an impression that the Duke’s opinion of Shylock is very low. From the beginning it is obvious that the Duke is on Antonio’s side. “I am sorry for thee. Thou art come to answer a stony adversary, an inhumane wretch”. From this we know that they would put Shylock down and try to cancel his bond with any little chance that they’ll get. At the end of Act 4 Scene 1 Shakespeare deploys an unexpected and dramatic twist having Shylock fall into a trap. Portia manipulated Shylock so he couldn’t kill Antonio.
While we might not agree with Shylock insistency on his pound of flesh we need to remember that Shylock’s bond is binding and perfectly legal meaning he had every right to take his pound of flesh and indeed he was going to if he wasn’t cheated on. Conditional bonds were the basis for the most common kind of lawsuit in the English courts for hundreds of years before and after Shakespeare’s time. A bond was an acknowledgment of indebtedness under seal and Antonio agreed to the rules of the bond. No one forced him to; he was self confident enough to believe that some of his ships will return from abroad and he will be able to repay the loan three times over. Shylock was perfectly entitled to a pound of flesh from Antonio, as Antonio defaulted in his contractual commitment. It is totally Antonio’s fault that he entered into such a foolish agreement. A moralistic spin placed on the supposed motives of Shylock got the better of the hapless moneylender. Portia tricked Shylock thus giving the audience the perception that Shylock should be pitied.
My general opinion is that Shylock should be pitied. One reason why I think this is because he lives in a society, where Jews are simply rejected. Therefore any Jew in Shylock’s position would have done the same thing. Overall I personally think this because he gets treated terribly just because he is a Jew. He is also very badly treated by his daughter; she disowned him and stole from him. Not only did he lose the money owed to him by Antonio, he also lost half of his fortune and worst of all for Shylock, he lost his religion.
In conclusion Shylock is interpreted as an unfortunate victim yet a vindictive villain but still deserves to be pitied than condemned. Personally I think that people were so overwhelmed by how Jews were treated back in the those times that they didn’t get the chance to learn that there is a sensitive caring side of Shylock, as we can see from his reaction to loosing his late wife’s ring. Shylock is a passionate person who has been hidden by a toughened exterior, which has grown harder due to the racial attacks from people like Antonio, who has been made out as the supposed victim in “The Merchant of Venice.”
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